Atlanta is back on track. The Firebirds rebounded from a surprising loss with a bounce back victory over the Washington Wave, 17-10.
“That’s my kinda game, a real smashmouth, bust-you-in-the-balls win,” said Atlanta coach Rob Ryan. “I’m rock hard after that win. Let’s go out and play another one right now.”
Scoring was at a premium all night, and the Wave came rolling in first with a 15-yard run by Tony Pollard. Atlanta’s defense stiffened and did not allow them to find the end zone again.
The Firebirds’ lone points of the first quarter came on a 30-yard Wil Lutz field goal as they trailed 7-3 after one frame.
In the second quarter they got a spark from an unexpected source. When starting quarterback Nick Arbuckle was briefly knocked out of the game, Brad Kaaya stepped in and completed 7 passes for 148 yards. He put his team in front with a 23-yard pass to Preston Williams early in the second quarter.
Arbuckle returned to the game late in the half and found his old college teammate Penny Hart on a 60-yard bomb to lead 17-7 at the half.
All offense ground to a halt in the second half, with Washington scoring the only points on a field goal late in the third quarter as the Firebirds held on for the 17-10 victory.
Arbuckle was under pressure all night, completing just 9 of 20 for 120 yards and 1 touchdown with 4 sacks.
Williams was the top target, hauling in 6 catches for 122 yards and a score.
Rodney Anderson was limited to 44 yards on 14 carries.
The defense was stellar, with Nick Marshall leading the way with 8 tackles and an interception. Donald Payne and Brandon Boykin each added 7 tackles. Ethan Westbrooks and Kony Ealy each added a pair of sacks.
Sitting at 8-3 overall, Atlanta faces another massive measuring stick game this week as they host the 10-1 San Antonio Marshalls. San Antonio is the class of the league this year, and they dealt the Firebirds a 38-17 whipping back in week one.
“We left that first game with a real nasty taste in our mouths. We tried to put it in our rearview mirror for a bit, but it’s time to remember how that felt,” said Coach Ryan. “We’ve talked about needing to win the big games to be a true contender, and tests don’t get any bigger than this one.”