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Blackjacks survive late surge by Baltimore 48-41

Kicking off a three-game home stand at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, the Atlantic City Blackjacks welcomed in the Baltimore Brigade on Saturday night. In front of a home crowd of 4,054 the Blackjacks started with a flourish racing out to an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Coming into the contest, Atlantic City quarterback Randy Hippeard had thrown 10 touchdowns and added to that total connecting on scoring passes to Lamark Brown and Rashad Still who caught his first AFL touchdown pass.

Meanwhile, Atlantic City defensive back Kiante Northington helped keep Baltimore out of the end zone in the first quarter picking off Brigade quarterback Shane Boyd twice including one in the end zone. Baltimore finally got on the scoreboard in the second quarter. After converting a fourth down play, fullback Rory Nixon plowed ahead for a one-yard touchdown run.

However, the Blackjacks offense responded on the ensuing series with Hippeard completing a pass to Brown deep inside Baltimore territory. Brigade defensive managed to knock the ball out of Brown’s hands only to see Kendrick Ings in the perfect spot falling on top of the football in the end zone for the score. Looking to build on the 20-7 margin, Atlantic City attempted an onside kick only to see Baltimore recover the ball. It took Boyd just four plays to toss a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joe Hills in the right corner of the end zone with 3:36 remaining.

With the Brigade receiving the second half kickoff, the Blackjacks defense came up with a huge play as linebacker Nick Haag sacked Boyd thus forcing the ball out with defensive lineman Donte Rumph recovering the ball. Despite throwing a couple of incomplete passes, Hippeard caught a break on fourth and six at the Brigade 10-yard line with a pass interference penalty. Facing another fourth down play at the one-yard line, Hippeard threw the Baltimore defense a curve ball pitching the ball to Antwane Grant who strolled into the end zone.

The back and forth action continued with Boyd needed just three plays to toss his second touchdown pass of the night to Brandon Collins who made a sensational catch falling back into the end zone while extending his hands to reel in the football. Once again the extra point proved to be an Achilles heel for the Brigade on this night missing their second one.

Early in the fourth quarter it appeared Baltimore had found some momentum with Nias Martin picking off a Hippeard pass only to be wiped out by an offside penalty. After Hippeard completed a 14-yard pass to Brown, the Brigade defense committed another costly penalty with a roughing the passer call. The Blackjacks cashed in on the outstanding field position with Brown stepping deep in the backfield and sprinting at full speed taking the handoff and barreling ahead for the score with 10:20 remaining.

Holding a commanding advantage, it seemed Atlantic City was on its way to a win but Boyd pumped those breaks in a flash, heaving a 45-yard touchdown pass to Collins who rolled into the end zone. The deficit would get further trimmed down as Nias Martin intercepted a Hippeard pass and returned it 26 yards for the score. With all the momentum on their side, Baltimore decided to roll the dice and attempt the onside kick but they would not cash in as the Blackjacks recovered the ball and took over at the four-yard line.

On second and goal, Hippeard lofted a perfect thrown ball to Ings in the right corner of the end zone. Clinging to a 41-33 lead with five and half minutes left, the Atlantic City defense stymied Boyd forcing four incomplete passes leading to a turnover on downs. Tensions ran high towards the end of the game as several scuffles broke out the field after Lamark Brown tallying his third touchdown of the game with 1:20 remaining. The Brigade refused to throw in the towel with Boyd connecting with Hills for a second time and completing a two-point conversion pass to Collins but the clock ran out on Baltimore as the Blackjacks evened up their overall record at 2-2.

Hippeard completed 20 of 32 passes for 192 and four touchdowns while Ings caught 10 passes for 91 yards. Boyd finished 22 for 33, 236 yards and four touchdowns. Atlantic City returns to action on Saturday May 25, facing off against the first place Albany Empire who are undefeated at 4:00 with kickoff set for  7:00 p.m.

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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