Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shock Cruise to 44-0 Victory Over Voyageurs

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Syracuse Shock cruised to a 44-0 victory over the Montreal Voyageurs Saturday night at Sunnycrest Field in the EFL Game of the Week. The Shock scored 30 points in the second half, stifling the Voyageur offense throughout the evening. Syracuse backup quarterback Bryan Simer threw three touchdowns in the second half leading the Shock to their second victory of the season. Syracuse improved their record to 2-0, while Montreal fell to 1-2.

A somewhat sluggish start by the Shock was pretty much forgotten early in the second half, when returner Dewayne "Flash" Gordon let a punt trickle to the one yard line before picking up the ball and taking it back 99 yards for the touchdown. Gordon was sprung by a devastating block as he sliced through the Montreal coverage, easily outrunning all defenders. Syracuse head coach, Ken Anderson knows he has a special player in Gordon, "I know it's early in the year but Flash Gordon is our MVP and he's probably one of the best players in semi-pro football on the east coast." Anderson plans to get Gordon touches anyway possible, "When he touches the ball he's exciting to watch and we try to get him the ball however we can. He is one heck of an athlete who can strike at anytime as we saw on the 99 yard return." The longest play of the 2011 season gave the Shock a 21-0 lead with 11:53 remaining in the third quarter.

The highlight by Gordon was preceded by two Shock second quarter touchdowns after a scoreless first quarter. Following a fumble recovery by Syracuse defensive back Depaul Crowell on the Montreal 15 yard line, Simer scooted around the left side scoring the game's first touchdown on a four yard keeper at the 12:28 mark. Penalties and turnovers bogged down the first half, but were highlighted by a strong 52 yard touchdown by Syracuse running back Justyn Hardwick. On second and ten from the Montreal 48 Hardwick took a toss around the right side and beat all the Montreal defenders to the corner, breaking one tackle down the Montreal sideline. With 4:46 remaining in the half Syracuse held a two touchdown lead, 14-0.

The score could have easily been 28-0 at halftime but two Syracuse touchdowns were called back because of penalties in the first half as Simer took time adjusting, throwing two interceptions, both inside the red zone. Simer went 3-7 for 29 yards and two interceptions in the first half. The missed opportunities didn't hurt the Shock thanks to Hardwick's punishing running. Anderson knew it would take time for his players to comfortable with Simer, "Brian knows the offense it just took him and the players some time to get acclimated, but he did a great job for us in the second half." Simer was filling in for starter Cedric Stevens who missed the game due to a work obligation. "Brian is a very steady player and with the talent around him Brian just need to be Brian and he'll be successful," Anderson continued. There were a combined four turnovers in the first half as the Shock took the 14-0 cushion into the break.

Montreal received the ball to start the second half, but was forced to replace starting quarterback Mathew Rene due to an injured right arm. Not that Rene faired very well in the first half, going 3-11 for 35 yards and one interception. The Voyageur offense was ineffective most of the night as the Shock defense swarmed the Montreal ball carriers. The Shock defense caused four turnovers picking off the Montreal quarterbacks three times. Montreal's running game was stymied as well, deploying a running back-by-committee attack. At least five different Montreal players carried the ball, but compiled less than 50 yards rushing. Montreal suited up about 20 players, losing three at the border due to a passport conflict. The hiccups in the travels didn't break their spirit however, battling the entire game. "You have to give Montreal credit for fighting all evening after making the trip down," said Anderson. "I think they lost a few players on the border and only suited up a hand full of guys, but they played for all 60 and you got to give them credit for that."

Simer's transformation began with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter. Simer found week one's Rookie of the Week, Tyrone Burke, who took a quick screen 52 yards for the touchdown. Burke caught the pass near the Syracuse sideline, broke a tackle and outraced everyone to the end zone.  Burke dropped a wide open touchdown pass on the previous play, as the ball just escaped his fingertips, but redeemed himself with the 52 yard catch and run. The Shock extended their lead to 28-0 following the point after attempt. Following an interception by defensive back CJ Moore, Simer connected with receiver Tyler Gage on a beautiful play action pass down the left hash. Simer laid the ball perfectly in Gage's hands as he glided in for the 47 yard toss and catch.

Montreal, backed up to their own three yard line intentionally conceded a safety, as they let the snap fly out the back of the end zone, giving Syracuse a 37-0 lead heading into the final quarter. The fourth quarter saw little action as the Shock attempted to run the clock. Until the final minute when Simer threw his third touchdown of the half finding tight end Nick Layou on a 15 yard out to cap off the scoring. Simer finished the second half going 4-9 for 129 yards and three touchdowns, making a complete 180 from the first half.

Coach Anderson has a confident group, but he knows they have to keep working. "We learned we can win with either quarterback tonight, but we have to continue to get better," he noted. Anderson also wants his team to get off to a better start, "We can't wait until the third quarter to get started, and we have to be ready to play at kickoff."

Syracuse posted the first shut out of the 2011 EFL season, holding the Montreal to well under 100 yards of offense. Justyn Hardwick racked up over 100 yards for the first time this season, posting his second touchdown of the season. Tyler Gage caught four passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. CJ Moore picked off two passes for the Shock, while fellow defensive back Leron Brown also snagged an interception. Safety Wesley Joseph had an interception for Montreal and defensive lineman Ricardo Willis recorded a fumble recovery.

Syracuse will host Amsterdam next week at Sunnycrest Field; kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Amsterdam is coming off a 38-7 win over Elmira Saturday evening. Montreal will travel to Glens Falls, who suffered a disappointing 24-14 loss at Albany last night.

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