Pittsburgh overpowers Force 58-41

DULUTH -- On the first few plays of their game with the Pittsburgh Power, the Georgia Force looked like a team looking to lock up an Arena Football League playoff spot.

But the rest of the game, they looked more like the inconsistent team that has struggled through the previous 16 weeks.

The visiting Power scored 24 straight points over the final 10 minutes of the first quarter and the early stages of the second to take control and rolled to a 58-41 victory Saturday night at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.

The Force (8-9) may still have clinched a playoff berth with a win by South Division-leading New Orleans over Tampa Bay. Those two teams were tied at 70 heading into overtime as of press time.

But they had no answer for the last-place Power (5-12), who got 266 yards and six touchdowns through the air from quarterback Andrico Hines, with 107 yards and four TDs going to Mike Washington.

"The game is about possessions," Force coach Dean Cokinos said. "You can't turn the ball over. ... We had three possessions where we either threw an interception or dropped a touchdown. ... That's a formula for losing. Penalties, dropped touchdowns, you're just not going to win that way. There aren't enough possessions in the game."

C.J. Johnson got the Force off to a rousing start by taking the opening kickoff in his own end zone and returning it 45 yards to the Pittsburgh 12-yard line.

Three plays later, Bryant Moniz found Larry Shipp open in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass.

Carlos Martinez's extra point bounced off the upright, but the Force had a 6-0 lead just 2:12 into the game.

But Pittsburgh quickly answered with a three-play, 29-yard drive, capped by Hines' 8-yard scoring strike to Washington and Geoff Boyer's extra point, putting the Power in front 7-6 with 10:14 left in the first quarter.

The Power then took control thanks to Christian Wise, who came up with interceptions on consecutive Georgia possessions.

Pittsburgh capitalized on the first one when Hines found Washington from 3 yards out to extend the Power's lead to 14-6 with 5:57 left in the quarter.

Boyer, a native of nearby Marietta, then took advantage of Wise's second interception by booting a 28-yard field goal as the first-quarter clock expired, pushing Pittsburgh's lead to 17-6.

Things only got worse for the Force early in the second quarter.

Moniz was stopped short on fourth and 1 from the Georgia 17, and Pittsburgh needed just two plays to cash in, with P.J. Berry barreling in from a yard out to give the Power a commanding 24-6 lead with 10:59 left in the first half.

Even after the Force ended Pittsburgh's 24-point run with Benji McDowell's 1-yard TD run with 7:41 left in the first half, the Power got that score back just over three minutes later.

Berry hauled in an 18-yard pass from Hines with 4:29 left, sending the Power into halftime with a 31-13 lead.

About the only consistent thing that went right for the Force most of the night was C.J. Johnson, who averaged 32.4 years on eight kickoff returns, including a 55-yard return for a score late in the game.