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  • 20 Nov 2014

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Thunder get home win

The Portland Thunder (3-7) won 55-40 Thursday night at Moda Center, pouncing on the San Antonio Talons (1-9) early and never letting the worst team record-wise in the AFL claw its way back.

The game marked the Thunder’s first home victory in franchise history.

“It was awesome. The crowd has been very patient and supportive,” Thunder QB Danny Southwick said.

The Thunder, who averaged 6.8 points in the first quarter coming into the game, scored 21 first-quarter points on Thursday. Portland scored on a screen play to rumbling OL Stanley Daniels, a 10-yard tuck and run by Southwick and a deep ball from Southwick to wide receiver Eric Rogers before quarter two.

“I thought we did a really good job coming out focused. That was the most focused we’ve been in a longtime,” Thunder coach Matthew Sauk said.

Despite a few hiccups, Southwick delivered one of the best performances of his AFL career, throwing for 280 yards and five touchdowns, along with one rushing score. After three stellar quarters earned him offensive player of the game, Southwick sat back and watched former Ducks QB Darron Thomas take the offensive reigns.

“Selfishly, I always want to be on the field, but Darron and I have a special relationship. I was really happy to see him get in there. He works really hard,” Southwick said.

Thomas, who had scored on a QB sneak in the second quarter, plugged his way into the end zone again on his first full drive at quarterback. However, he also botched a couple snaps in the final quarter.

Portland defensive back Varmah Sonie was true to his opportunistic form, stripping a Talons wide receiver and nabbing an interception after inserting himself into the passing lane on an attempted streaking-route.

Sonie was named defensive player of the game.

Fellow defensive backs Dwight McLean and Eric Crocker also had interceptions of Talons QB Shane Boyd. The Thunder defense was stout all night, forcing three San Antonio turnovers on downs.

“They played well and got back to stripping the ball, picking it off when they have a chance and being physical out there,” Sauk said.

In their two other victories this season, the Thunder scored 40-plus points. They were so dominant against the Talons, the Thunder reached the 40-point mark with 9:30 left in the third quarter.

Though Rogers’ three-game 100-yard receiving steak ended Thursday, wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon picked up the slack, darting his way for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Rogers accrued five receptions for 57 yards.

“I think we’ve a lot of weapons. Him (Solomon) and Eric, it’s tough for defenses. They complement each other well,” Southwick said.

Solomon was the Thunder’s leading receiver through the first four weeks of the season before being traded to the Orlando Predators for now injured QB Kyle Rowley. However, this week he was traded back to the Thunder.

Solomon commented on his season defined by fluctuation: “It took its tolls, but I just weathered the storm. Coach Sauk felt like he needed to make the team better. I’m always a team guy. He brought me back at the right time.”

Sauk said Solomon’s performance was “as good as you can get,” and was happy to have Solomon back on the team.

“Jeffrey is a great person and he is a great teammate,” he said.

Sauk added that Solomon doesn’t need to be the primary receiver to make a handprint on the game. “We only ran one play where he was the main wideout,” he said.

Though he was happy with the win, Sauk was tired of his players being penalized so frequently. On Thursday, the Thunder players were credited with 10 penalties for 65 yards.

“I think at this point, when we got a personal foul, that player comes out. We just can’t have it anymore. The problem is we come out with such passion and such intensity and unfortunately that gets us penalties sometimes,” Sauk said.