The Vipers’ defense needed to make a play for the team to earn its first win of the season Saturday night at Cashman Field.
Then another. And another.
Eventually, the Orlando Guardians ran out of chances, and the Vipers secured a 35-32 home win in front of 6,008 fans after a wild final couple of minutes.
Quinten Dormady found Cody Latimer down the middle for a 45-yard touchdown with 1:12 remaining, and a three-point conversion attempt that could have tied the game was unsuccessful.
Under XFL rules, Orlando had a chance to try a fourth-and-15 from its 25-yard line to keep possession. Pita Taumoepenu forced a fumble, and though Dormady recovered it, the defense swarmed and wrapped him up, sparking another brief celebration.
But it still wasn’t over. The Vipers couldn’t run out the clock and had to settle for a field-goal attempt on fourth-and-6 with 52 seconds remaining. When the Guardians jumped offside, coach Rod Woodson elected to send his offense back on the field and put away the game with a first down.
Luis Perez’s pass was incomplete, and the Guardians took over at their 10-yard line. But they committed two false starts, each resulting in 10-second runoffs, that killed the remaining clock, and the Vipers celebrated their first win for real.
It was a finish befitting the struggle the Vipers (1-4) have had to get their first win.
The defense made the last few plays, but the offense had put the team in position for the victory.
Perez completed 20 of 28 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, and Rod Smith added two scores on the ground.
Jeff Badet had five catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns, including a 25-yarder on third down with 6:26 remaining to put the Vipers up nine points.
Their efforts were needed, as the Vipers’ defense struggled to get stops against Dormady, who entered the game in relief and capped a controversial week with a 22-for-25 passing effort for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
Former NFL first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch led the opening drive for the Guardians (0-5). He commanded a 13-play journey that covered 65 yards before Quinton Flowers came into the game and found the end zone on a 1-yard run to put the Guardians ahead early.
Perez rallied the Vipers to 17 consecutive points before Dormady came in for Lynch and took control.
Dormady was reinstated to the team in the middle of the week after he was released due to an accusation he had shared plays with other teams in the league. After an XFL investigation, he was cleared and reinstated
“It has been determined that allegations of impropriety were unsubstantiated and there is no basis for disciplinary action,” the league said in a statement.
He almost did enough to carry the team to a win in his return, but the Vipers’ defensive front made plays at key moments.
“They’ve got good edge rushers,” Dormady said. “They made it home in a situation when they knew they could pin their ears back and come after us. So credit to them. They’re good up front.”
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.
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