E.J. Nemeth welcomed himself to the Harrisburg Stampede by tossing seven touchdown passes, as the Stampede opened up season number four in Harrisburg with a 59-28 trouncing of the Maryland Reapers.
“We were a little rusty in a couple areas, but I think we have a lot to build on,” head coach Bernie Nowotarski said. “With just a couple of practices before we tonight’s opener, we expected this, but I’m happy with the result.”
Trailing 12-7 five minutes into the second quarter, Stampede running back Eugene Goodman broke through on a sweep around the right end for an 11-yard touchdown scamper that put Harrisburg on top 13-12.
It ignited five straight scores that gave Harrisburg a comfortable 46-12 lead before Maryland finally answered with a 35-yard touchdown strike from Darryl Overturn to Steve Savoy.
“I had a great game, but I’m not happy with it,” Nemeth said after the game.
“I had seven touchdown passes, but I left two or three out there. We have a championship team here, and we can’t leave points out there, regardless of the final score.”
Nemeth connected with Collis Martin on four of his seven touchdowns, but Martin was quick to mention teammates Scorpio Brown and Jon Lanouette, who recorded the other three touchdown receptions.
“I hope I’m going to be his go-to-guy,” Martin said with a smile.
“But we have a great group of receivers out here who will do whatever we need to win.”
Nowotarski was also happy with his trio of receivers.
“In this game, it’s sort of an uneven flow. Sometimes you get the ball a lot, and sometimes you hardly get it at all, but you always have to be ready, and all of our guys were tonight.”
Nemeth finished 12 of 28 for 180 yards, and Goodman checked in with five carries for 49 yards and two scores.
For all the offensive fireworks, though, it was the defense who Nowotarski wanted to talk about most, as a unit that was often the Achilles heel a year ago stopped Maryland twice on the goal line and recorded three turnovers.
“Sometimes it works out defensively in this league, and sometimes it doesn’t, but we had a great game plan tonight and stuck to it,” Nowotarski said.
“We’re happy about tonight, and want to be even better going forward.”
Harrisburg returns to American Indoor Football League action next Saturday, when they play host to Virginia at 7 p.m. at the York Ice Arena.
By GREG PICKEL