CFLs head off Posse on late pass, 38-33


LAS VEGAS -- The Baltimore CFLs outlasted the Las Vegas Posse for a raucous 38-33 victory last night before 10,122 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Quarterback Tracy Ham's 1-yard touchdown sneak with 3:50 left produced Baltimore's winning points in a game that featured eight lead changes and four ejections.

Ham teamed with wide receiver Walter Wilson on a 61-yard pass play to set up the touchdown.

Baltimore, which moved into a first-place tie in the CFL's East Division with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 3-2, made a defensive stand at their goal line in the final two minutes to preserve the victory.

On third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Curtis Mayfield made a reception and was end zone-bound until cornerback Irvin Smith tackled him on the 2-yard line.

Baltimore's Donald Igwebuike (33 yards) and Las Vegas' Carlos Huerta (12) traded field goals in the final quarter.

The first half was one of diminishing returns for Baltimore. Starting the game in 112-degree temperatures, the CFLs twice opened a 12-point lead, but they were unable to protect it.

Along the way, they lost two quarterbacks and two defensive starters to a series of mishaps and melees.

Quarterback Tracy Ham threw two touchdown passes in the first half, and set one of them up with an 80-yard scramble. He left the game with 5:30 left in the second quarter with dehydration.

His backup, John Congemi, injured his left thumb on a late hit by linebacker Brad LaCombe in front of the Baltimore bench in the final two minutes of the half. That hit precipitated a scuffle that saw CFLs halfback Charles Anthony -- a native of Las Vegas -- and LaCombe disqualified from the game.

LaCombe hit Congemi a full two yards out of bounds, driving him into the wall along the CFLs' bench. Nick Subis was the first Baltimore player to reach LaCombe, and Anthony arrived late, pushing his way through the crowd.

Rookie Shawn Jones replaced Congemi to finish the half. He completed two passes for 23 yards, but also was intercepted in Posse territory.

Baltimore lost starting outside linebacker Matt Goodwin earlier in the quarter when a fight broke out on a Vegas punt return. Goodwin was ejected along with Wolf Barber.

Goodwin had already made his mark by then. He raced untouched from the right side to block a punt by Robbie Keen at the goal laine, then recovered it in the end zone for a Baltimore touchdown and 15-3 lead.

It was a riotous first half that saw Baltimore go up 22-10 on Ham's passing. He threw a 28-yard scoring strike to Chris Armstrong in the first quarter to cap a 75-yard drive, then flipped a 5-yard TD pass to Eddie Britton in the second quarter.

The Posse scored the last 13 points of the half to take a 23-22 halftime lead. Carlos Huerta's third field goal of the half, a 52-yarder with 1:48 left, came after a fumble by running back Mike Pringle at the Baltimore 43.

Huerta also hit field goals of 51 and 32 yards. He had not missed on four tries from 50 yards or longer this season until he came up short on a 52-yard attempt in the third quarter.

Vegas got two touchdowns in the second quarter comeback. One came on a 24- yard pass from Len Williams to Tamarick Vanover. It was the fourth catch of the season for Vanover, who signed as a sophomore out of Florida State, and his first touchdown.

The highlight of the first half for the Posse was a fake field goal that went for a touchdown.

Huerta lined up for a 43-yarder with just over 3:00 left in the half. But Keen tossed a shovel pass to Tim Broady, who ran through two Baltimore defenders for a 36-yard touchdown.

He sloughed off an attempted tackle by Michael Brooks at the line of scrimmage, broke into the clear, then ran over Stan Petry at the 2-yard line with Karl Anthony in pursuit.

Ham completed 8 of 16 passes for 120 yards in the first half. Williams, starting in place of injured Anthony Cavillo, hit 8 of 15 passes for 172 yards.

Ham returned in the second half and helped get the lead back with field-goal drives on Baltimore's first two possessions.

The CFLs moved to Vegas' 10, where Walter Wilson couldn't hold onto a second- down pass from Ham in the end zone. Donald Igwebuike kicked a 17-yard field goal on the next play for a 25-23 lead.

After Huerta missed from 52, the CFLs went 97 yards in 11 plays and twice appeared to score a touchdown.

But a seeming catch by Armstrong at the 1 was ruled incomplete on first down at the Vegas 4. On second down, Ham, under pressure, got a pass to Peter Tuipulotu in the end zone for what looked like a touchdown catch. But the play again was ruled incomplete.

Igwebuike then kicked an 11-yard field goal to increase the Baltimore lead to 28-23.

Vegas came back to recapture the lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter -- a trouble spot for the CFLs this season. The Posse drove 59 yards to the Baltimore 16. On second down, Williams threw to Curtis Mayfield on a crossing pattern and Mayfield beat cornerback Irvin Smith to the goal line for the touchdown. Huerta's extra point made it 30-28.

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