If Monday’s regular-season opener is any indication, the Myrtle Beach Freedom will be bringing plenty of excitement to the turf.
The team got a late interception, then a touchdown pass from a backup quarterback in the game’s final seconds to defeat the Savannah Steam 34-33 on Monday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
It was the first official American Indoor Football League game for the fledgling franchise.
The Steam (1-1) took a 33-27 lead with 4:28 left in the fourth quarter on George Grant’s touchdown pass to Kelvin Irving, and appeared to have the game locked up when Davonte Green picked off Myrtle Beach’s Daryll Clark with 1:25 left.
But the Freedom defense rose to the occasion when Dontrelle Sanford picked off Grant at the Myrtle Beach 10-yard-line with 21.2 seconds left.
With Clark bruised and battered, reserve quarterback Mike Johnson went under center for the Freedom and hit former Conway High standout Jason Livingston on a post pattern for a 40-yard touchdown to tie the score at 33.
Vic Leventritt hit the game-winning extra point with 15.8 left on the clock, sealing the victory.
“We never had any doubt,” Livingston said. “We preach adversity all week long. We face it, we practice it, so there was no doubt. We came out here and we executed. We knew the defense was going to get us the ball back. We made a great play.”
Myrtle Beach took a 12-0 first quarter lead on a pair of rushing touchdowns from Clark, but by halftime Savannah had taken control behind Grant, who ran for a 1-yard touchdown on the final play of the first quarter and threw two more scoring passes in the second to give the Steam a 20-12 lead at halftime.
Clark added another rushing score before Grant connected with Irving to put Savannah ahead 27-19 with 3:30 to go in the third.
Clark who had been hit hard and often – even driven over the dashers on the sidelines – spun and pounded his way into the end zone from 9 yards out. Johnson came in to run the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 27 with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter.
Grant then found Irving for the go-ahead score that precededthe defensive stand, the interception and “the play.”
“Coach had it already written up, ready to go,” Livingston said. “He said, ‘When we get the ball back, this is what we’re going to run.’ ”
Freedom coach Ryan David said he was pleased with how his team handled adversity, including giving up the lead late, several costly penalties and some physical play and flare-ups that resulted in a handful of unsportsmanlike conduct calls against both sides.
“The way that our guys kept fighting, that was so impressive,” David said. “And I’ve got to tip my hat to Daryll Clark. He played wonderfully, just an absolute warrior out there the way he was dinged up. We couldn’t really call a lot of our plays because he was dinged up, and I tried not to run him as much.”
Myrtle Beach returns to action on Saturday at Central Florida.
MB-Daryll Clark 3 run (kick failed) 11:58
MB-Clark 6 run (pass failed) 5:32
SAV-George Grant 1 run (kick good) 0:00
SAV-Grant 44 pass to Marlin Laston (kick good) 8:18
SAV-Grant 29 pass to Kelvin Irving (kick failed) 0:44
MB- Clark 1 run (kick good) 11:20
SAV-Grant 40 pass to Irving (kick good) 3:30
MB-Clark 9 run (Mike Johnson run) 11:02
SAV-Grant 38 pass to Irving (kick failed) 4:28
MB-Johnson 40 pass to Livingston(kick good) Vic Leventritt kick 15.8
RUSHING: Savannah-Ken Middleton 6-18, George Grant 7-15. Myrtle Beach-Daryll Clark 14-44, Alkeem Sherman 6-33, Denzell Strawhorne 1-0.
PASSING: Savannah-Grant 9-26-1-126. Myrtle Beach-Daryll Clark 9-26-2 89; Mike Johnson 1-1-0 40.
RECEIVING: Savannah-Kelvin Irving 4-106, Lee Dorsey 3-41, Marlin Laston 2-39. Myrtle Beach- . Jason Livingston 4-70, Ty Zimmerman 1-9, Eric Huggins 1-12, Dontrelle Sanford.