SHREVEPORT, La. -- The Baltimore Stallions pride themselves on strong special teams, and in Friday's 24-17 victory over the Shreveport Pirates, they were at their finest in that phase of the game.
Start with the team's most valuable legs. Kicker Carlos Huerta, the Canadian Football League's leading scorer, made three of four field-goal attempts to help the Stallions take a 24-3 lead after three quarters.
Punter Josh Miller, also the league's best, made his biggest impact in the first half. Miller, who averaged 57 yards on five punts in the half, ruined the Pirates' field position repeatedly.
Miller's 52-yard punt went for a single that gave the Stallions an 8-0 lead with 5:47 left in the first quarter. Then, he broke out the heavy artillery. In the second quarter, Miller had successive punts of 74 and 64 yards. The 74-yarder was especially important, coming after Baltimore had stopped Shreveport's first good drive by recovering a fumble on the Stallions' 3. Baltimore's offense then stalled at that spot.
Miller, standing about 10 yards deep in the Baltimore end zone, forced the Pirates to start at their 40, or 70 yards from the Stallions' end zone. Two plays later, nose tackle Jearld Baylis sacked Shreveport quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, who suffered a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand on the play.
"He [Miller] got them out of trouble every time. He did things I've never seen a punter do," Tolliver said. "Their punter gets the game ball."
Linebacker Matt Goodwin probably deserves one, too. Immediately after Tolliver's injury, Goodwin blocked a Pirates punt that Brian White ran in for a touchdown from 20 yards, giving the Stallions a 15-0 lead midway through the second quarter. It marked Goodwin's eighth blocked punt in two seasons with Baltimore.
"I've been back there four or five times this year and missed it [the block]," said Goodwin, who thought about sitting out after his sore left hamstring flared up on Friday. "I finally got it right."
That wasn't all for Goodwin, who was everywhere in the first half. He set up Baltimore's first score, a 1-yard run by Mike Pringle, by intercepting Tolliver deep in Shreveport territory on the game's second play. Then, early in the second quarter, he stopped the Pirates by stripping Norman Bradford inside the Baltimore 5. Charles Anthony recovered.
NOTES: Baltimore's defense, which gave up a season-high 197 yards rushing, produced four sacks and forced four turnovers. . . . Rush end Elfrid Payton, who led the Stallions with seven tackles, also had his first sack in three games. . . . Pringle's 45 rushing yards marked his second-lowest output of the season. Despite that and missing last week's game, Pringle still leads the CFL comfortably with 1,277 rushing yards.
NEXT FOR STALLIONS
Who: Shreveport Pirates
Where: Memorial Stadium
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS (tape delay)/WJFK (1300 AM), WGRX (100.7 FM)