Stallions hold off Pirates

September 16, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

SHREVEPORT, La. -- The Baltimore Stallions won their fifth straight game last night, although they had to survive an impressive fourth-quarter comeback by Shreveport before defeating the Pirates, 24-17, before 12,455 at Independence Stadium.

Baltimore (10-3) moved within one victory of clinching a playoff spot, but not before the Pirates, who trailed 24-3 after three quarters, made the Stallions squirm.

Shreveport (4-9), which lost quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver temporarily to a finger injury on his throwing hand, cut the Stallions' lead to 24-17 with 3:03 left. Wide receiver Wayne Walker took an end-around pitch from backup quarterback Mike Pawlawski and raced around the right side untouched for a 38-yard touchdown.

After a botched kickoff return forced the Stallions to take over at their 11, quarterback Tracy Ham directed Baltimore to three critical first downs. Ham ran 12 yards for the first. Then, on second-and-13 from the Baltimore 32, Ham ducked blitzing safety Anthony Shelton before stepping up to complete a 26-yard pass to Chris Armstrong over the middle.

Ham gained another first down with a short one, after which the Stallions ran out the clock.

The Stallions entered the game having forced 17 more turnovers than they had committed, and they added to that total to set up the game's first score.

Shreveport took the opening kickoff, then waited only two plays to do the Stallions a favor. Tolliver dropped back to pass, failed to recognize linebacker Matt Goodwin in Baltimore's zone defense, then threw an interception to him, giving the Stallions their first possession at the Shreveport 28.

A 10-yard pass completion from Ham to Reggie Perry and a pass interference penalty in the end zone against the Pirates brought the ball to the Shreveport 1. Pringle then scored his 11th touchdown of the season to give Baltimore a 7-0 lead with 11:32 left in the quarter.

After the Pirates failed to get a first down on their next two possessions, Baltimore extended its lead to 8-0 when punter Josh Miller sent a 52-yard punt into Shreveport's end zone, where it was downed for a single.

Miller and Goodwin were just getting warmed up. Early in the second quarter, not long after Shreveport had picked up its initial first down, the Pirates put together their first promising drive, beginning near midfield. Tolliver, after throwing six straight incompletions to start the game, hit running back Norman Bradford for 14 yards. That was followed by a 29-yard run by Patton off left tackle to the Baltimore 11.

But on the next play, Goodwin knocked the ball loose from Bradford at the 5. Charles Anthony recovered, and the Stallions took over at the 3, from where they went nowhere.

Miller, who had a 57-yard punt earlier, then took away what could have been outstanding field position for the Pirates by hitting a 74-yarder from the Stallions' end zone. The Pirates took over at their 40, where things turned ugly for them.

On a second-and-nine from the Shreveport 53, Baltimore nose tackle Jearld Baylis sacked Tolliver and knocked him out of the game with an injury to the pinky on his throwing hand.

Not be outdone by Baylis, Goodwin produced his third big play of the half by blocking Robbie Keen's punt. Brian White scooped up the ball at the 20 and ran in untouched for the touchdown that put the Stallions on top 15-0 with 8:57 left in the half.

It was the eighth time Goodwin had blocked a kick in his two years with Baltimore.

The Pirates turned to backup quarterback Mike Pawlawski, who directed Shreveport to one first down the rest of the half.

On the Stallions' next-to-last possession of the half, Ham connected with Armstrong on the first play for 47 yards over the middle to the Pirates 18. A holding penalty against the Stallions pushed them back 10 yards, but kicker Carlos Huerta salvaged the drive by hitting a 32-yard field goal with 3:11 left, as Baltimore took an 18-0 halftime lead.

The Pirates wasted a big play that could have changed the game's momentum early in the second half. After the Stallions had opened by driving 30 yards, Ham's pass deflected off the hands of Culver and was picked off by Shreveport safety Anthony Shelton. However, after a 15-yard return, Shelton fumbled the ball back to the Stallions, who took over at the Pirates 47.

Baltimore quickly took advantage. Two plays later, Ham connected with wide receiver Robert Clark for 24 yards. Ham was then flagged for an illegal forward pass, but Huerta made it 21-0 with a 40-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.

Tolliver returned to direct Shreveport on its first scoring drive, with some big help from Patton. On first down, Patton's pass reception netted 17 yards. He later had runs of 8 and 13 yards to set up Bjorn Nittmo's 43-yard field goal with 4:45 left in the quarter, trimming Baltimore's lead to 21-3.

On Baltimore's next possession, Ham's 13-yard scramble and 28-yard completion to Reggie Perry set up Huerta's 24-yard field goal on the quarter's last play, as the Stallions extended their lead to 24-3.

Shreveport got its crowd back into the game early in the fourth quarter. Chris Wright lost a fumble while returning a punt, and the Pirates took over at the Baltimore 46.

On first down, Tolliver hit Freeman Baysinger for 18 yards. On the next play, Bradford took a handoff, bounced outside to the left and raced 28 yards for a touchdown that cut the Stallions lead to 24-10 with 12:12 left.

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