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Trenton Freedom Defense Dominates Erie Explosion

QB Steve Panasuk leads Freedom offense.

Freedom linebacker Jerome Hayes Sr. closing in for the sack on Erie Explosion quarterback  Mason Espinosa. (Photo Credit: Steve Hoffman)

Freedom linebacker Jerome Hayes Sr. closing in for the sack on Erie Explosion quarterback
Mason Espinosa. (Photo Credit: Steve Hoffman)


TRENTON (NJ) – Talk about a bounce back performance. A week after the Trenton Freedom surrendered 70 points in a home loss, the defense reverted to their usual punishing style of play and totally shut down the Erie Explosion enroute to a 75-23 shellacking Saturday night at the Sun National Bank Center.

After last week’s debacle Freedom Head Coach Kevin O’Hanlon spoke about possible roster moves and improving the secondary play. One such move was the addition on defensive back Boubacar Cissoko.

“Boubacar came to us from the New Orleans VooDoo (AFL) where he was penciled in as their top corner,” O’Hanlon said after the game. “We’re honored that he made this decision and he gave us exactly what we expected when he signed.”

Cissoko (4 pass break ups) solidified the secondary with tight man coverage that forced Erie’s quarterbacks into holding the ball for an extra second. That extra second was all the defensive line needed to get their pressure game going. The initial beneficiary of the defensive line exploits was Tevan Ferguson. Ferguson recorded 2 and-a-half sacks in the game and set the tone early.

“We just worked on pressure lanes and contain lanes,” Ferguson stated. “Our ends did an excellent job this week it made it easy for me to press the pocket and we all got sacks, so it was a fun game.”

Ferguson had help as Jerome Hayes Sr. and Morkeith Brown each collected a par of sacks. In all the Freedom sacked Erie’s quarterbacks Mason Espinosa and Jeff Sinclair ten times. The Freedom picked up on a little thing on the film and worked at attacking it.

“We watched film on them and their tight end and guard likes to quick set (jump out) so we set back and welcomed it and went underneath,” O’Hanlon said describing his defensive scheme. ”Once they adjusted, we just overwhelmed them with our speed.”

Here are some defensive stats from the game:

103 total yards allowed

10 sacks

Two forced turnovers

Two defensive touchdowns (Kwaheem Smith returned a blocked kick for a touchdown and Jerome Williams returned a fumble for a touchdown)

In his first start, quarterback Steve Panasuk played a near perfect game completing 13 of 14 passes for 190 yards and six touchdowns. The lone incompletion came on a near touchdown to Antione Rivera.

“Antione came up to me and said Kentucky didn’t go undefeated either so it’s alright,” Panasuk deadpanned after the game. “On that play Antonio Allen came open and I missed him I had a little too much confidence in my arm and tried to force it elsewhere into double coverage.”

Coach O’Hanlon spoke on why he made the switch at quarterback.

“Steve got the start because he was 10-14 at the end of the game last week and it carried over, I think he was 8 for 9 in the first half this week.”

Both coach and quarterback pointed to the offensive line as the main reason to the offensive efficiency but Panasuk took it a step forward.

“When we got in there, we had great protection from the offensive line and I was able to see every route and every coverage, everything just opened up for us tonight,” the quarterback said.

Some quick offensive stats:

Roger Spider Jackson 4 receptions 74 yards 3 tds

Antione Rivera 4 receptions 70 yards 2 tds

Antonio Allen 3 receptions 51 yards 1 td

Melik Brown 37 rushing yards 1 td

The Freedom end their three-game home stand with a 2-1 record and prepare for their first home game Friday night in Richmond, Virginia as they take on the Richmond Raiders (1-3). Erie, in their first year in the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) fell to 0-2.

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