— San Antonio Commanders (@aafcommanders) March 17, 2019
image from Twitter.com @aafcommanders
Editor’s note: This story was updated Sunday night after the Birmingham Iron beat the San Diego Fleet 32-29
The San Antonio Commanders wrapped up the dreaded four-game road stretch of their schedule with their third straight victory and return home at the top of the standings.
The Commanders defense came up with a series of big plays for the second week in a row as they knocked off the Atlanta Legends 37-6 on Sunday at Georgia State Stadium.
The Commanders (4-2) went 3-1 on the road stretch of the schedule. They play at the Alamodome on Sunday at 7 p.m. (Central) against the Salt Lake Stallions (2-4). The Commanders have sole possession of first place in the AAF West. San Diego and Salt Lake are both 3-3.
“We just finished 3-1 on the road on a four-game road trip, which I think is pretty impressive for us,” Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside said. “We’ve got a chance to go back and play a really good Salt Lake team back in San Antonio. We’re excited about going back and playing in the Dome.”
Commanders defensive backs De’Vante Bausby, Zack Sanchez and Derron Smith all came up with interceptions. Smith had an interception return for a touchdown for a second straight week. Duke Thomas added a first-half fumble recovery.
The Commanders scored touchdowns after their first three takeaways.
“We’ve got some good players and they made plays today,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “They’re athletic and they’re savvy. Derron Smith is a very unique football player.
(Zack) Sanchez made another interception. Those guys, if you make a mistake around them, they’re going to make you pay. They play with a lot of confidence.
“Getting turnovers is one thing. Being able to capitalize with points, that was really the game today. We got the ball in some good situations for our offense. We did take advantage of it and made it count got a good early lead because of it.”
Greg Ward Jr. gave the Commanders a special teams score when he returned a punt for a league-record 79-yard touchdown. The Commanders’ offense did not have any turnovers.
“I was really proud of our team today,” Riley said. “I think we kind of stayed on top of it. It was fun to see basically all the parts of our team, offense, defense, and special teams all contribute to winning the game. It was definitely a team win, a team effort.”
Woodside completed 17 of 23 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think it’s just another week with this offense and these guys,” said Woodside, who was the AAF offensive player of the week last week. “I just tried to take it personal to study more and try to do everything I can in practice to make myself better. Obviously with the defense we have it have makes it tough on us in practice. So it always good to to go against those guys every week.”
Wide receiver Mekale McKay and tight end Evan Rodriguez had the Commanders’ touchdown catches. Tight end Cam Clear led the team in receptions with five for 45 yards.
“What we hoped to do is run the ball OK. We didn’t really run the ball as well as we wanted to today,” Riley said. “But we ran. We like to run.
“Then we like to have play-action passes that go down the field. Then we need some ball-control passes. One of the best things about our game at least early in the game, we hit some consistent ball-control routes that got some first downs for us. We kept the ball for a long time in the first half.”
Commanders running back Kenneth Farrow scored the first touchdown of the game to make it 6-0 in the first quarter. That was set up by Thomas’ fumble recovery.
The Legends tried to get even on their next drive when they went for a deep pass. The Commanders’ Smith and Bausby were there to break it up.
Sanchez had his interception later in the first quarter. That set the stage for Woodside’s touchdown pass and two-point conversion pass both to McKay to make it 14-0. The Commanders kept that drive going when Woodside completed a fourth-down pass to Clear.
The Commanders defense came up with its third takeaway of the first half on Bausby’s interception. This time Woodside threw a touchdown pass to Evan Rodriguez and the Commanders led 20-0.
The Legends scored a touchdown late in the first half for what turned out to be their only points of the game.
Ward’s punt return for the touchdown extended the Commanders’ lead to 26-6 with 1:00 left in the half.
Nick Rose, who has not missed this season, kicked a field goal on the Commanders’ first possession of the second half to make it 29-6.
Both offenses were held in check the rest of the way. The final touchdown of the game came on Smith’s 87-yard interception return with 8:40 remaining.