Orlando Predators win second straight game with victory over Portland Thunder

Bernard+Morris+has+taken+over+the+starting+position+since+QB+Randy+Hippeard%27s+injury

Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Bernard Morris has taken over the starting position since QB Randy Hippeard's injury

The Orlando Predators won their second home game in a row as they defeated the Portland Thunder 69-43 on Saturday night on their home turf at the Amway Center in front of an announced crowd of 10,583.

The 26-point victory is the largest win the team has logged this season. The blowout was a much needed morale boost for a team that has only scored a combined 20 points in the other four wins this season.

This was also the first game between the two franchises since the 2013 inauguration of the Thunder into the Arena Football League.

“It feels good to see my players win convincingly, these guys work very hard,” said head coach Rob Keefe about the win. “But as the coach that I am, I feel like we could have won by more. Now we are getting so good, that I want to win by more.”

To start the game, Brandon Thompkins made his first kick return of the season on the Predators first possession of the game to start ahead of Portland 7-6 who missed their PAT.

“It was a great play, I had a few teammates on the sideline call it saying ‘Hey man, you are about to bring this one back,’ so with their faith in me it kind of amped me up and I think I just had to do it for them.” said the Arkansas State graduate Brandon Thompkins.

Thompkins finished the night on top of the receiving corp making seven catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns.

Orlando grasped an early lead with a fumble recovery for a touchdown on the first play of Portland’s drive by defensive end Jeremy Geathers in the first quarter to put them up 14-6.

The Predators then pulled away further in the final minutes of the first half with Bernard Morris running it in for a 9-yard score followed by an onside kick that was recovered by Orlando and returned to Portland’s 8-yard line by defensive lineman Calvin Fance. Morris would then complete the 8-yard pass to Brandon Thompkins in the endzone to bring Orlando up 35-19.

First-year Predator Julian Williams made an appearance in the absence of Kendal Thompkins and made his first catch of the season in the endzone with only ten seconds left to bring the Predators up 42-25 going into the locker room at the half.

“There was a lot of guys that couldn’t play tonight… Last year we lost the conference championship because we didn’t have depth and my goal this year is to bring in as many players that can step up in a pinch and play just like they were the starters.” said head coach Rob Keefe about the addition of Williams to tonight’s roster. “Julian came in and did his job for Kendal and made two touchdowns, I couldn’t be more proud of the guy.”

All three of Orlando’s touchdowns in the third quarter were scored within one minute and 16 seconds.

As the Predators came back from the locker room, they continued to dominate with the only two touchdowns of the third quarter being by them with a long 33-yard pass from Morris to B. Thompkins and a 16-yard pass to LaMark Brown that set Orlando up 55-25 going into the fourth quarter.

The teams ended the game with each trading touchdown for touchdown in the fourth to bring the final score to 69-43 at the buzzer.

Quarterback Bernard Morris made his third start for Orlando this season and finished the game completing 16-of-23 passes for 221 yards and six touchdowns while running in two more.

“The guy wants to play for Orlando, he wants to win for his city. He’s been a journeyman quarterback and now to be home, he’s using that as a springboard to be great.” said Keefe about the Orlando native “One thing that is getting better is his long-ball, thats something he really didn’t have last year and he’s worked on it real hard.”

The win sets Orlando at 5-4 for the season while also keeping them at the top of the South Division above Jacksonville at 4-5 and Tampa Bay at 3-5.

The Predators return to the field next Friday, May 29 in Ohio against the Cleveland Gladiators.

INJURY UPDATE:

Randy Hippeard is still out and isn’t expected to return for at least three weeks.

Greg Carr is expected to return along with Kendal Thompkins next week against the Gladiators.