In the last regular season game of the year for the Arena Football League, the Portland Steel defeated the Los Angeles KISS 48-46 on Monday night in front of 5,236 fans at the Moda Center.
The game was close from start to finish, though offensively inept through the first three quarters. The score was tied at the end of the first, second, and third quarters, and the final point difference was a result of Los Angeles’ inability to convert on two late point-after situations.
The first points of the game were an indication of what was to come, as Los Angeles sacked Portland quarterback Shane Austin, causing him to fumble, which rookie defensive back Qumain Black recovered in the end zone for the KISS touchdown seven minutes into the game. On Portland’s next possession, offside and pass interference penalties by L.A. gave the Steel the ball at the four-yard line, and Austin connected with Jared Perry for a touchdown pass to tie the game with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
The second quarter scoring began with L.A. quarterback Pete Thomas executing a quarterback keeper to find the end zone. The KISS led 13-7 after their first failed extra point attempt of the game. Portland quickly responded, using another L.A. pass interference call to gain possession at the KISS 18. From there, Austin again connected with Perry for a touchdown. Portland’s own extra point attempt was blocked, keeping the game tied at 13. Steel defensive back Sergio Gilliam made a spectacular one-handed interception of a Thomas pass on the next drive, but Portland failed to convert on fourth down and gave the ball right back. With less than a minute left in the half, Thomas and Donovan Morgan connected for an 11-yard touchdown and, after converting the extra point, a 20-13 lead.
The KISS attempt an onside kick off the wall that Portland recovers at the L.A. 17-yard line. After a short sequence, the Steel had the ball at the L.A. two yard line with 14 seconds left. Offensive lineman Bryson Kelly took the handoff and plunged into the end zone to tie the game at 20 as both teams went into halftime.
The first two drives of the second half are traded interceptions, including Gilliam’s second of the game for Portland. Portland’s second drive ended on a strip sack fumble that appeared to be returned for a touchdown by Marcus Pittman. After review, he was down when he recovered the ball. Los Angeles failed to do anything with that possession, however, and turned the ball over on downs.
On Portland’s second play, they fumble the snap and Pittman is again there for the recovery. L.A. doesn’t squander that opportunity, with Thomas finding Justin Wilson for the 11-yard score and a 27-20 KISS lead with six minutes left in the quarter.
Portland concludes their next possession, a 5-play, 41-yard drive, with another touchdown run, this time by fullback Kevin Myers. After three quarters, the game was again tied, 27-27.
Then things sped up a little. In the first five minutes of the quarter, Thomas threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Fred Williams and Austin found Rashaad Carter for an 18-yard touchdown to bring the game to 34-34.
Thomas then found Morgan for his second touchdown of the game, this time for 32 yards and a 40-34 lead after another botched extra point. Eight plays and thirty yards later, Portland had its third one-yard touchdown run, the second of the game for Kelly, and a 41-40 lead after converting their PAT.
Los Angeles had ninety-five seconds remaining in the game to answer, and used just forty before Thomas found LaQuan Williams for a 25-yard score and 46-41 lead. They failed their two point conversion attempt, even after taking a timeout to discuss it. With just 55 seconds left in the game, Portland had the ball with the chance to win the game. After five plays they faced a fourth and one from the KISS 11-yard line.
Austin hit Perry for his third receiving touchdown of the game to put the Steel up for good, 48-46, with just six seconds remaining. L.A. managed just one final completion to Morgan before the clock ran out.
Portland (3-13) finished their regular season on a high note, earning their third victory of the season, all of them coming at home. Shane Austin completed 25 of 42 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns. Rashaad Carter finished with 10 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, and Jared Perry totaled five receptions for 60 yards and three touchdowns. The Steel will travel to Arizona to face the top-seeded Rattlers in the first round of the 2016 AFL playoffs on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 10 pm ET.
Los Angeles (7-9) was led by Pete Thomas’ 258 yards and five touchdowns. Most of his targets went to Donovan Morgan, who finished with 12 receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The KISS finished second in the National Conference and will host the Cleveland Gladiators in the first round of the playoffs. That game will be on Sunday, August 7 at 6 p.m. ET at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.