Portland Thunder Press Release
PORTLAND, Ore. – On a record breaking night, the Portland Thunder (5-12) kept their playoff hopes alive with a 64-33 victory over the Las Vegas Outlaws (5-11-1) in front of a franchise record 14,055 fans at Moda Center.
Kick return specialist Duane Brooks made history to open the third quarter by returning his AFL-record eighth kickoff for a touchdown, surpassing the previous single-season League record of seven, set by Lamont Cooper in 2000 and tied by Antonio Chatman in 2003.
“Number eight is a surreal feeling,” Brooks stated after the Thunder’s fifth home win in 2015. “Special teams coach Lee Johnson has done a brilliant job getting us prepared week in and week out, and I have guys around me on the kickoff team that take pride in their work. They run hard every time, they block hard every time, and that makes things happen, obviously.”
The 56-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half was just one of many highlights in the Thunder’s home finale.
Portland took a 15-6 lead in the first quarter through two Kyle Rowleytouchdown passes, one each to Jared Perry and V’Keon Lacey. Sandwiched between those scores was an AFL rarity. A botched snap and hold by the Outlaws on the point-after attempt following their opening score left Las Vegas kicker Ernesto Lacayo scrambling to recover the football in the backfield. Thunder defensive back De’Mon Glanton pounced on the loose ball and returned it for a two-point defensive conversion.
After Las Vegas quarterback Dennis Havrilla hit wide receiver Clinton Solomon for a 12-yard score to begin the second quarter, and bring the Outlaws within two points, the Thunder’s highlight reel night continued. On the first play of the ensuing Portland drive, Rowley hit Lacey on a short pass into the right flat. The rather innocuous pitch and catch turned into the Cutters Catch of the Game, with Lacey making six Las Vegas defenders miss on a 48 yard touchdown catch and run.
Lacey would find the end zone again just over nine minutes later, taking the score to 29-20, and starting a run of four straight scores for Portland. On Las Vegas’ first play following the Lacey touchdown, Havrilla’s pass was deflected by defensive end Frank Trotter, forcing the ball into the outstretched arms of Jack linebacker Bryce Peila, who would run the interception back eight yards for the touchdown. Again on the Outlaws’ first offensive play, this time following Peila’s touchdown, the Thunder would intercept Havrilla.
Las Vegas’ downfield effort was short of its mark and fell right to defensive back Varmah Sonie. Three plays later, Rowley would again find Lacey, this time for a 27-yard touchdown strike and the Thunder’s third touchdown in two minutes and 36 seconds.
The fourth successive score in the sequence was Brooks’ record-breaking runback. On the opening kickoff of the second half, Brooks broke through the scrum around the Portland 18-yard line, and carried two Outlaw defenders while stretching into the end-zone. The touchdown gave the Thunder a 30-point cushion, and a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
Brooks finished the evening with 112 yards from three returns to go along with two catches for 15 yards. Lacey led all receivers with seven catches for 125 yards and four scores, while Perry caught five passes for 49 yards and two scores. Both Lacey and Perry are now tied with 28 receiving scores on the season, surpassing Eric Rogers’ franchise record of 27 set last year.
Rowley ended the night 18-of-26 passing for 206 yards and seven scores, his highest touchdown mark of 2015. The Thunder defensive backfield tallied four interceptions, another season high. Sonie’s two picks takes him into the franchise lead for interceptions, with 12.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME – PDX WR V’Keon Lacey
RIDDELL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME – PDX DB Varmah Sonie
J. LEWIS SMALL PLAYMAKER OF THE GAME – PDX WR/KR Duane Brooks
CUTTERS CATCH OF THE GAME – PDX WR V’Keon Lacey 48 yard TD Catch and Run in Second Quarter
AFL HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME – PDX WR/KR Duane Brooks Record Breaking Eighth KRTD in Third Quarter