Racine Raiders Football Club | Racine, Wis. |

Chaotic: Special Teams, Turnovers Doom Raiders

Mitchell Farr throws a laser during the game against the Chicago Chaos on July 21, 2018.It was Christmas in July for the Chicago Chaos on Saturday night in Melrose Park, Illinois. The Racine Raiders, their guests for the evening, made sure to bring plenty of gifts. The Raiders allowed three special teams touchdowns and turned the ball over four times in suffering a 21-14 loss to the top team in the Thomas Conference of the MidStates Football League.

Raiders quarterback R.J. Mattucci threw three, first half interceptions but the Raiders defense was able to keep the Chaos off the scoreboard as they allowed just 100 yards of total offense to the Chaos in the first half. Despite the turnovers in the first half, the Raiders were able to move themselves into Chaos territory on two drives and had a handful of drives start at their own 40-yard line or better.

The special teams, which has been a strength of the Raiders this season, had a difficult night. The Raiders punt return unit allowed a pair of punt returns for touchdowns in the second quarter. The first return was a bit of a fluke. With gusting, swirling winds, Hunter Breunig launched a high 45-yard punt that landed on the turf, bounded high in the air, but backwards after hitting at the Chaos 30-yard line. Luey Nunez grabbed the punt out of the air, in stride, and returned it down the Chaos sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. David Tomis added the extra point and Chicago led 7-0 with 11:18 to play in the half.

With 2:30 to play in the first half, Chaos punter Dominic Kozlowski pinned the Raiders at their own five yard line. After a three-and-out, Breunig came on to punt and unleashed a 64 yard punt that was grabbed by Devion Hodges at the Chaos 36-yard line. Hodges too the ball through the middle of the field, nearly untouched, for another punt return touchdown. The Tomis point-after gave the Chaos a 14-0 lead heading into halftime.

The RaiJ.D. Hardy punches the ball away from Chicago Chaos running back Cameron Hall.ders defense got a quick three-and-out to start the third quarter. Kozlowski punted to Austin Tenner who muffed the return but was able to hop on the ball at the Racine 45-yard line. With Mitchell Farr replacing Mattucci at quarterback, the Raiders marched down the field and got to the Chaos three-yard line before having to settle for a field goal attempt. After the Raiders were flagged for having twelve players on the field initially, Breunig lined up for a 25-yard field goal.

Kaylon Miller of the Chaos came off of Breunig’s right side untouched, blocked the field goal attempt, recovered the football, and raced down the Chaos sideline for an 85-yard touchdown return. The Tomis kick was good and the Chaos led Racine 21-0 with 8:58 to play in the third quarter.

Jordan Payne goes up to haul in a touchdown against the Chicago Chaos on July 21, 2018.The Raiders would claw their way back on the next drive and finally get on the scoreboard. Tenner returned the kickoff 38 yards to give the Raiders good starting field position at their own 43-yard line. Farr led the Raiders on a seven-play drive that ended with Howard Triplett’s 11th touchdown run of the season from 14 yards out. The Breunig kick was good and Racine trailed by 14 with five minutes to play in the third quarter.

After a defensive stop, the Raiders would get into Chicago territory on their next drive. Tom Benko would fumble at the Chaos 42-yard line for the team’s fourth turnover of the game. On the very next play, the Raiders defense got the ball back for Racine when J.D. Hardy ripped the ball away from Cameron Hall and Marquan Holloway recovered for Racine at the Chaos 38-yard line. Three plays later, Farr connected with Jordan Payne on a 19-yard touchdown. The Breunig point-after left Racine seven points behind with 12:13 to play in regulation.

After the Raiders defense made another stand, the offense would fairly effectively move the ball against the Chaos defense again, marching down to the Chaos 26-yard line with 2:30 to play. It was Nunez that would come up with the play of the game, this time on defense. Farr dropped back and Nunez blitzed in, sacking him for a nine-yard loss and setting up a 4th-and-10 for Racine at the two minute warning. 

The Chaos again got pressure on Farr on fourth down but he was able to spin out of two near sacks and roll out to his right. Farr decided to hold onto the ball and try and run for the first down but Nunez was waiting for him at the 32-yard line, well short of the distance needed.

Channing Schultz returns an interception against the Chicago Chaos on July 21, 2018, as Erick Sanders lays a block for him.The Raiders had all three time outs remaining and had a chance to get the ball back if they could hold the Chaos. After Hodges rushed for a two yard gain, the Raiders took their first time out. On second down Chaos quarterback Chris Little launched a deep pass down the middle of the field. His receiver tipped the ball and Schultz made a diving interception. He got off the turf and returned it to the Chaos 36-yard line. The Raiders were called for an illegal block, giving them the ball near midfield.

Racine would get down to the Chaos 20-yard line with a full set of downs, one timeout, and 30 seconds to play in the game. Farr spiked the ball on first down to preserve the Raiders last timeout. On second down, Chaos safety Quinnell Johnson had an interception slip through his hands in the endzone. Farr found D.J. Brown for nine yards to the Chaos ten-yard line and Racine had to use their final timeout on fourth-and-one. Farr threw the ball to the middle of the endzone, looking for Troy Collier, but it was batted away at the last second, preserving the 21-14 win for Chicago.

The Raiders held the Chaos to 110 total yards of offense and the Chaos racked up 90 yards in penalties. Meanwhile, the Raiders offense, which had just 75 total yards of offense in the first half, had 200 yards of offense in the second half with Farr under center. The Raiders amassed 18 first downs to just five for the Chaos.

Farr finished the game 11-16 with 121 yards passing and one touchdown. Triplett finished with 90 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. Payne was the leading receiver for Racine with four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.

J.D. Hardy led the defense with seven tackles, including 2-1/2 tackles for loss and a half sack. Gage Zahradnik, Anton Graham, and Najee Parker all finished with a half sack.

The Raiders currently are the second seed in the Richhart Conference. They have their last regular season road game of the year on July 28, against the Milwaukee County Chargers at Hart Park in Wauwatosa. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 pm.

PHOTO CREDITS: Dan Scherbert, FStop Milwaukee