SDCCU STADIUM — In their second game in front of their home crowd Sunday night, the San Diego Fleet (2-1) took down the San Antonio Commanders (1-2) by a score 31-11, for their second straight comeback win.
Head Coach Mike Martz liked what he saw from his team “I’m proud of the resilience of this team. I’m proud of the coaching staff and the preparation. We have come a long way in the last two or three weeks.”
The Fleet’s dynamic running back tandem of Terrell Watson and Ja’Quan Gardener led the way offensively combining for 195 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 25 carries. Philip Nelson was steady in his second game as a starter finishing 17-25 for 193 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
“They’re obviously two completely types of runners,” Martz said of his backfield. “They both have terrific speed, as you can see. I think that [Ja’Quan] sees things just a little bit more and I think, you know, [Watson] he’s still learning a little bit of the run reads, but he’s a load now.”
The game started just about as terrible as it could. San Diego quarterback Philip Nelson was intercepted on the first play of the game. To pour salt on the wound, the very next play, the Commander’s quarterback Logan Whiteside found Mekale McKay for a 47-yard touchdown.
Down 8-0, things were almost much worse for the Fleet when San Antonio once again found the endzone only to have it called by back a holding penalty, derailing the drive and leading to a Jordan Martin interception.
San Diego’s offense finally found a spark when Laquvionte Gonzalez got free for a 43-yard reception. This would lead to the Fleet’s first passing touchdown of the season when Philip Nelson found Nelson Spruce in the back of the endzone.
Now down by two, the Fleets defense got in on the scoring when linebacker A.J. Tarpley intercepted a Whiteside pass, taking it back 27 yards for a touchdown.
Spruce would strike once more before the half, with his second touchdown of the game on an 18-yard strike and a second Terrell Watson 2-pt conversion gave the Fleet a 22-8 advantage at intermission.
The San Diego defense continued its dominance in the second half, smothering the Commanders, finishing the game with 5 sacks, two interceptions and holding San Antonio to 1-12 converting third downs.
“For them to go 0-3 in the red zone speaks wonders about our defense, for them to be 1-12 on third-down conversions speaks dividends also,” said Fleet defensive end Damontre Moore. “ It was a tough task to live up to, but I feel like the defense handled it.”
Ja’Quan Gardener provided the only fireworks of the second half, exploding on a delayed handoff for an 83-yard touchdown run, the longest play in American Alliance of Football history.
With the victory, the Fleet now sit at the top of the standings in the Western Conference. San Diego now hits the road again, on a short week, to take on the Memphis Express Saturday, March 2nd at 1 p.m. PT.
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