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Philadelphia Ink Crier, September 20, 2009
Lakers Hold Off Albany, 13-7, for 2nd Straight
Survive When Baskett Can’t Hold Last-Second Pass in End Zone
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Harrisburg Pay and Rot Ooze, September 20, 2009
Portis TD Gives Hershey Bars 28-21 Win Over Charleston
Emerge Victorious Despite Giving Up 484 Yards
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Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, September 20, 2009
Tomlinson, Cherries Befuddle and Blank Richmond, 20-0
38-Yard 4th Down Draw Play Keys Dominating 1st Half
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Hartford Crude Rant, September 20, 2009
Comets Lose to New York, 33-27, in OT Despite Huge Rally
Blitz Backfires as Toomer Beats Ross for 56-Yard Game-Winner
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Syracuse Posed Standee, September 20, 2009
Crush Can’t Shake Washington, Fall 20-17 in Overtime
Thomas Recovers Rodgers’ Fumble to Set Up Winning Crosby FG
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Baltimore Sunk, September 21, 2009
Bolts Hold Off Fumble-Prone Providence, 23-20
Workhorse Williams Runs for 107 Yards, 2 TDs
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Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, September 20, 2009

Rip Snorter

Whitewashing Defense Pulls Together to Prevent Late Score

Brian Dawkins, Ray Lewis and the Cherries defense weren’t satisified. When comfortably in front in recent wins, they had allowed fourth down conversions, each followed by touchdowns narrowing their winning margins:

Last night in Richmond the Cherries, seeking to keep their hosts off the scoreboard, forced the Rebels into a 4th and 4 situation at the Delaware 22 with 9:02 to go. Behind 20‑0, Richmond coach John Dillard passed up a Matt Stover field goal opportunity in favor of trying to keep his team in the game. Ryan Grant took a handoff from Donovan McNabb with Madison Hedgecock leading the way around left end. Hedgecock shunted aside Julius Peppers, but Dawkins knifed through and dragged Grant down 2 yards short of the first down marker.

The Cherries would get their shutout — 20‑0. It was their first shutout since a 35‑0 thrashing of the New York Empires on opening night of the 2005 season.

Dawkins said, “A shutout is always the goal going into a game. We knew it was four-down territory for [the Rebels]. When you get the opportunity to make a stop in that situation, you know you gotta make the most of it.” Lewis added, “Later in the season when the playoffs are on the line, we’ll be in critical situations late in games all the time. Tonight helps our confidence in our ability to make plays when everything is on the line.”

While Lewis led the Delaware defense against Richmond with 8 tackles, tying him for the team lead for the season with LaMarr Woodley at 40, it is Dawkins who is having a truly extraordinary season. Early in the 4th quarter, he wrestled a McNabb pass away from Steve Smith for his 6th pick. Dawkins is on a pace to obliterate the Cherries record of 10 set by Eric Allen in 1994. In addition to the critical stop on Grant, Dawkins had 6 more tackles.

“I’ve developed a lot of smarts over the years. I like to hit hard — and I do. But there’s more to the game than hard hitting,” he said.

Amen.

On offense, the Cherries fired on all cylinders in the first half, especially the second quarter, before easing up on the gas in the second half. By the break they had 254 yards and 17 points. As was the case in their win over Hershey last week, their attack was balanced. They finished with 165 yards on the ground and 189 through the air, with 10 receivers making catches. The resurgent LaDainian Tomlinson had 122 yards on 20 carries, and league-leading receiver Lee Evans contributed 67 yards on 6 receptions.

While Tomlinson’s 38-yard run for the first Delaware touchdown on a 4th and 3 draw play was a momentary thing of beauty, the long-form offensive highlight came in the second quarter after Rebels punter Donnie Jones pinned the Cherries at their own 4. They shrugged it off with style in the form of a 10-play, 96-yard scoring drive that showcased their offensive depth. The drive went like this:

Bravo!

Their next possession — 66 yards on 8 plays with the first half clock running down for a 37-yard John Kasay field goal — was almost as impressive.

With their 4th straight victory — and 16th in a row on the road — the Cherries reach the season’s halfway point in first place in the Central Division with a 5‑2 record. The Empires are nipping at their heels a game back as has typically been the case in recent seasons. All 3 division rivals won last night. In the first divisional round-robin, the Cherries had an unblemished record with winning margins of 24, 17, and 19 points. Should they repeat that performance in the second round-robin — no small feat — they should be able to bring home their 4th consecutive division title.

But first they face a formidable test this Saturday as their road trip continues with their first ever visit to Charleston. Cannons quarterback Eli Manning feasted on the Delaware secondary with four touchdown passes when the teams faced off in the 2008 season opener at Delaware Stadium, a contest won by the visitors, 37‑31. This season Manning has a dangerous new target, Bernard Berrian, whom the Cannons acquired from Chicago of the RBFL. Berrian has 5 receving touchdowns thus far, and against Richmond in a nationally-televised game on opening weekend, he took a Jones punt 91 yards to the house.