Power rock, roll all night against LA KISS
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Power linebacker James Bryant walked to the podium after his team's 50-26 victory against the LA KISS on Saturday night at Consol Energy Center, looking like he had been in a fight. Or, maybe he just wanted one.
He wore a mask that covered most of his face, but insisted he wasn't injured. In fact, he spoke the brash words of a winner, declaring that the Power's defense is the best in the Arena Football League.
“Darn right,” he said when asked the question. “Absolutely. This is the best defense I've played on since high school.”
Bryant launched the Power's third consecutive victory by putting a hurting on 43-year-old KISS quarterback Aaron Garcia with a sack near the goal line on the game's first snap. The ball was jarred loose and defensive end Anthony Hoke secured it in the end zone for a touchdown.
Then, on the next LA series, Bryant hit Garcia long after he released a pass. The penalty cost the Power 10 yards, but Garcia didn't appear to enjoy either hit. For the next two series, he was out of rhythm with his receivers, misfiring on seven of nine attempts. That led to a 21-0 Power lead by the end of the first quarter when quarterback Tommy Grady threw 19- and 11-yard touchdown passes to Hank Edwards and Shaun Kauleinamoku.
After that, the KISS never even remotely threatened while the Power improved to 6-3, their best record halfway through the season in four years of the franchise's existence.
The sack of Garcia — the first of three — was perfectly conceived, with Bryant sprinting untouched into the backfield.
“If I can get a clean look on anybody, it might be lights out,” he said.
When asked if he thought he set a tone for the game with the strip sack of Garcia, he said with authority, “I don't think. I know.”
The defense recorded four fourth-down stops and four turnovers, including three interceptions.
The team wasn't happy with its effort in the past four weeks, winning two and losing two, and Bryant said he won't accept similar performances the rest of the season.
“We are not playing around with these guys anymore,” he said. “We are coming for everybody.”
The Power punctuated the victory when Hoke intercepted a pass on a conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. He started back-pedaling 15 yards from the goal line before running laterally, and finally was forced to dive into the end zone for the two points after the KISS defense finally caught up with him.
Coach Ron James said he doesn't want Hoke showboating, but players are coached to slow down in breakaway situations late in the game to kill the clock.
“That's not the way we want to do it,” James said, “but it's part of our game management.”
The Power put on show for the CBS Sports Network national audience and a season-high home crowd of 7,762, with Brandon Freeman risking a fine by kicking the ball into the stands after intercepting a pass.
“National TV brings out the character in our characters,” James said.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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