Lexington running back Rayshawn Askew tied NFL great Jerry Rice for professional football’s all-time touchdown record with 208 career touchdowns in helping the Horsemen to a 48-33 win at River City. The victory came in the first round of the United Indoor Football playoffs on Sunday afternoon at Family Arena.
Playing with 2006 UIF Offensive Honorable Mention selection Eddie Eviston at quarterback for the first time this season, the third-seeded Horsemen (9-7) advance to the UIF Eastern Conference championship game.
Lexington will square off with fourth-seeded Bloomington (9-7) at 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday in Rupp Arena. By virtue of Bloomington’s 43-30 win against top-seeded Rock River last night, the Horsemen are the highest-remaining seed in the Eastern Conference. The winner of that contest advances to United Bowl III, which is slated for Saturday, Aug. 4.
“I thought that Eddie played a great game, but everybody on this team stepped it up tonight,” Lexington head coach Mike Zuckerman said. “We’ve been looking for that all season long and it really came at the right time tonight. We played so well together tonight. We’re all on the same page and we found ways to make plays, which is what we haven’t done for most of the season. When you make big plays, it just turns the ballgame around and that’s the key.”
Eviston, who rejoined the Horsemen last week after spending the early part of the season with the Cincinnati Jungle Kats of AF2, did not miss a beat in his first game with the team this year. The Georgetown (Ky.) College product went 20-of-26 for 207 yards with four touchdown passes.
Askew, one of the most decorated players in indoor football history, rushed 19 times for 42 yards with two scores. He has the opportunity to break the all-time professional football scoring record on Saturday in Rupp Arena. The Horsemen look to clinch the Eastern Conference championship next Saturday in front of their home faithful, many of whom traveled to the suburban St. Louis location to witness the first-round contest.
“We really enjoy the support of our fans,” Zuckerman said. “It really lifts our guys up when they see those friendly faces around them. We really appreciate our fans coming out tonight.”
Defensive back J.T. Haskins, who on Wednesday was one of five Horsemen players to be selected to the inaugural UIF All-Star Game, tied a UIF single-game record with three interceptions on the night. He now has seven pickoffs this season. The Horsemen had four takeaways in the game, returning those picks for 51 yards.
“I thought turnovers were going to be a key tonight,” Zuckerman said. “It was huge to get a couple of stops like that. Generating turnovers builds morale and makes the other team stop believing in some of the things they are doing. We got some big turnovers tonight and that really worked in our favor.”
The Horsemen avenged two regular-season losses to River City (9-7) with the win, holding the Rage’s star running back Muhammad Abdulqaadir to just 11 carries for 42 yards.
“The whole key to success is getting to the playoffs,” Zuckerman said. “When you get to the playoffs, everyone’s record is 0-0 and that is what we preached to our team this past week. Anything can happen at any time when you get to the playoffs.”
Despite River City out-rushing and out-passing the Horsemen, Lexington’s total-team effort and its defensive prowess propelled it to the next round of the playoffs.
“It’s not about any one individual, it’s all about the team,” Zuckerman said. “I am more proud because it was a total-team effort tonight and that’s all that matters to me. I thought we won the battle on both sides of the ball tonight.”
The Horsemen got on the board first as they capped off a 45-yard opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Eviston to Chad Spencer with 6:41 to go in the first quarter. River City answered on its next possession when quarterback Aso Pogi tossed a 3-yard scoring strike to Hurtis Chinn with 4:46 left in the opening quarter and went ahead 7-6 on a successful point-after by Derek Kutz.
The Horsemen regained the lead just seconds into the second quarter as Eviston called his own number from 3 yards out for the score to give Lexington a 14-7 advantage. River City responded as Travis Williams caught a 26-yard pass from Pogi with 11:46 remaining in the second period to knot the score at 14. Spencer scored for the second time with 5:53 left until halftime, catching a 1-yard toss from Eviston to put the Horsemen ahead 21-14.
The Rage’s Abdulqaadir made sure the lead was short-lived as he caught a pass from Pogi and ran 30 yards for a touchdown with 4:40 left in the half to again tie the score, this time at 21-21. Eviston launched his third touchdown pass of the game when he threw a 6-yard strike to Tavon McGee with 1:28 to go in the second quarter to send Lexington into the locker room with a 28-21 advantage.
Out of intermission, Earven Flowers picked off a River City pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown with 11:42 to go in the third quarter that put Lexington ahead 35-21. Chinn responded with a 2-yard catch for score with 5:10 remaining in the third to narrow the Horsemen advantage to 35-27. Askew closed out the third quarter by scoring on a 5-yard pass from Eviston to give Lexington a 41-27 advantage heading into the final period of play.
Askew iced the victory with a 1-yard carry for touchdown with 2:02 left in the game to widen the Horsemen margin to 48-27. River City’s Anthony Fisher scored on a 1-yard run with 10 seconds remaining, but his touchdown attempt was superfluous as the Rage were down by 15 despite the score.