The Atlanta Havoc overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit and rolled to a 35-20 win over the Triangle Torch in American Arena League action on Saturday night at the Buford Arena. North Gwinnett alum Ryan McDaniel scored a pair of second-half touchdowns to spark the rally as the Havoc improved to 3-0 on the season.
“This is arena league football where you can score 21 points in three minutes, ” McDaniel said. “I’m proud of this organization and all the fans who came out. We could feel their excitement.”
The Havoc held on to the game’s opening possession as the Torch reached the Atlanta 21. A fourth and 1 pass by quarterback Anthony Dixon fell incomplete, giving the Havoc the ball. The possession was cut short as quarterback Michael Eubank’s pass was intercepted by the Triangle’s Chris Martin.
The Torch drove to the Atlanta nine but successive sacks by the Havoc’s Eric Crosby forced the Triangle into a field goal situation. Martin came up big on that play also as he blocked the attempt.
In their most complete drive of the first half, Atlanta moved to the Torch’s 2 when Eubank connected with Tyron Lewis Sr. Two successive rushes by Zachary Brown netted no gain. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Atlanta’s Ryan McDaniel pushed the Havoc back to the 12. Atlanta was gifted a new set of downs on the next play thanks to a Triangle penalty which moved the ball down to the six and an automatic first down.
Eubank was sacked twice and a wide-open Martell Moore couldn’t make a catch of the wide throw by Eubank. On fourth down, Eubank tried to hook up with McDaniel but the pass fell incomplete.
The Torch needed one play as Dixon connected with Allen Lee on a 35-yard touchdown just inside the padding in the left corner of the end zone. The extra point failed and the visitors led 6-0 with 13:31 left in the second quarter.
The Havoc again moved the ball to the vicinity of the Torch’s goal line, this time making it all the way to the five. However an incomplete, a sack, and another sack forced Atlanta coach Boo Mitchell to try a field goal to get points on the board. However, the strategy didn’t work as Jed Solomon’s 22-yard attempt was blocked.
The Triangle increased its lead just before halftime. With 56 seconds left, Dixon connected with Jataurus White on a 4-yard pass in the back of the end zone. The extra point gave the Torch 13-0 lead at the break.
The Havoc comeback started with a bang as McDaniel was on a receiving end of a 21-yard touchdown that saw him crash through the opponents’ gate in the end zone and land on the arena floor. The call flipped from incomplete to touchdown and Solomon’s extra point failed to make the score 13-6.
The Torch stretched its lead to 20-6 on the next possession but Atlanta responded on the very next play after the kickoff when Eubank connected with Moore on a 24-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 20-13 and the Havoc gained another point when Solomon’s kickoff went through the uprights for an additional point making it 20-14.
The Triangle’s next drive stalled at midfield and the Havoc gained its first lead. Eubank scrambled for 15 yards and then connected with Lewis Sr. on his second touchdown, this one from five yards. Solomon’s extra point with 11:05 left in the game gave Atlanta a 21-20 lead.
Dixon fumbled on a pass attempt on the next possession for the Torch (0-2). Larry Ford recovered for the Havoc setting the stage for McDaniel’s second touchdown. This one came from 4 yards as Eubank once again connected with the Samford graduate to increase the lead to 28-20.
The defense then iced the game with 6:25 left when Michaux Robinson went 25 yards with a pick-six on a Dixon pass. Ford recovered another fumble to seal the win.
“When we were down at half, no one was yelling in the locker room,” McDaniel said of their halftime activities. “We were talking through what we needed to do. Obviously, that worked because we were rolling in the second half.”