The San Diego Fleet lost for the first time in their four games at SDCCU Stadium as former San Diego Charger Nick Novak kicked a 44-yard field goal as time expired to give the Birmingham Iron a 32-29 victory Sunday evening.
The Fleet tied the score on Mike Bercovici’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Francis Owusu with four minutes, 32 seconds to play.
However, Nelson Spruce was tackled by JaCorey Shepherd on Birmingham’s 2-yard line after he caught a pass from Bercovici on the required two-point conversion attempt, leaving the score tied, 29-29.The Iron took a 29-23 lead on Luis Perez’s 23-yard pass to L’Damian Washington on the second play of the fourth quarter, five plays after defensive back Jamar Summers intercepted a pass by Bercovici at Birmingham’s 48-yard line.
Washington caught a pass from Perez for the Iron’s only two-point conversion on four attempts.
Perez, an alumnus of Otay Ranch High School and Southwestern College, both in Chula Vista, completed 27 of 49 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns in relief of starter Keith Price. Perez had two passes intercepted.
Perez replaced Price on Birmingham’s third possession after he was hit by Damontre Moore and Shakir Soto after throwing a pass.
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The Fleet (3-3) were outgained 448-378, and trailed 24-14 in first downs and 36:12-23:48 in time of possession before a crowd announced at 20,896, 73 more than their previous high of 20,823 March 9 for the 29-23 victory over Salt Lake.
Bercovici completed 17 of 34 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He had two passes intercepted.
Running back Terrell Watson scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to give the Fleet a 23-21 lead.
Watson’s first touchdown came on a 2-yard run, one play after Bercovici’s 70-yard pass to Dontez Ford. Bercovici completed a pass to receiver Brian Brown for the Fleet’s only two-point conversion on four attempts.
Watson caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bercovici on the Fleet’s next possession, five plays after free safety Demetrius Wright intercepted a Perez pass at the Iron’s 37-yard line.
Birmingham (4-2) opened the second half by driving 75 yards on nine plays, with Trent Richardson running 2 yards for his ninth rushing touchdown of the season, the most in the Alliance of American Football.
Perez completed five of seven passes for 45 yards on the drive.
Richardson was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the third overall choice in the 2012 NFL draft, rushing for 950 yards as a rookie. He was traded to the Indianapolis Colts after two games in the 2013 season.
Richardson rushed for 458 yards for Indianapolis in 2013 and 519 yards in 2014 and has not played an official game in the NFL since then.
The former Alabama standout was cut by the Oakland Raiders before the start of the 2015 season and by the Baltimore Ravens during training camp in 2016.
Richardson’s most recent football experience before the AAF was playing four games for the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2017. He chose not to return to the team in 2018 because he would have lost custody of his children if he returned to Canada.
The Iron was scoreless on both of their two full possessions under Price, who made his first start of the season.
However, they got an immediate spark from Perez, who completed a 19- yard pass to Quinton Patton for a first down on a third-and-10 play on his first play.
Perez completed a 13-yard pass to Washington two plays later and a 13- yard touchdown pass to Richardson two plays after that, his first touchdown pass for the season.
Birmingham increased its lead to 12-3 when Washington caught a short pass from Perez and ran nearly 75 yards into the end zone on an 83-yard touchdown pass.
Bercovici completed a 72-yard pass to Ford on the Fleet’s first play on the ensuing drive, giving them a first down on the Iron’s 3-yard line.
Bercovici completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Johnson two plays later.
Novak kicked a 23-yard field goal 15 seconds before halftime, increasing Birmingham’s lead to 15-9. He missed a 50-yard attempt wide right on the Iron’s first possession.
The Fleet opened the scoring on the game’s third possession on Donny Hageman’s 36-yard field goal, four plays after Bercovici began the drive with a 40-yard pass to Ford.
Hageman missed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide left in the second quarter.
Ford became the first Fleet receiver to surpass 100 receiving yards in a game with 183 yards on three receptions before leaving the game in the third quarter because of an ankle injury.
The yardage total was the second-highest in the 24-game history of the Alliance of American Football behind Charles Johnson of Orlando, who had 192 yards in a Feb. 17 game at San Antonio.
Perez did not play on the varsity at Otay Ranch, quitting because the coaches frequently changed his positions.
He began the 2013 season as the ninth of nine quarterbacks on Southwestern’s depth chart, became the starter the third game of the season after injuries knocked out two quarterbacks and started about the half season until being sidelined by a leg injury.
Perez was an all-conference selection his second season at Southwestern, then transferred to Texas A&M-Commerce, leading the Lions to the 2017 NCAA Division II national championship and received the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top Division II player.
Perez signed with the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2018, played in their final preseason game, was cut before the start of the regular season and was on their practice squad from Sept. 2-18.
Novak kicked for the Chargers from 2011-2014 and seven games in 2017 after their move to Los Angeles. He continues to live in San Diego, telling reporters on a conference call Wednesday he regularly passes SDCCU Stadium on the way from his home to workouts.
— City News Service
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