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Melrose Park, Ill. – It’s not over, but it’s not looking good. The Racine Raiders may have seen their hopes of a Mid-States Football League championship go up in flames Saturday night after a crucial 24-14 loss to the Midway Marauders. Whereas the Raiders were missing several key players due to injury or work commitments, the Marauders welcomed back star quarterback Tony Powell.

And Powell played like the three-time Most Valuable Player of the MSFL that he is, with 197 passing yards and two touchdowns with only five incompletions (12-17).

Midway avenged an early-season loss to Marauders because it shut down the Raiders’ passing attack, which was missing key receivers Will Norwood and Joe Garcia.

“I was disappointed with the outcome,” Raiders coach Wilbert Kennedy said Tuesday. “Just couldn’t get out of my mind the lack of focus and how lackadaisical the team warmed up and team sessions went prior to the game.”

It didn’t help that several key players were out for the Raiders.

“We were missing a few guys,” Kennedy said. “Several players that play a big role on our team were out due to injuries, others due to work obligations.”

Kennedy mentioned that Daquan Smith, Ryan Gails, Austin Tenner, Jordan Payne, Isaiah Tate, and Norwood were all unavailable to play.

“Bottom line, no excuses,” Kennedy said, “We have the ability to win with the guys we have, and we had plenty of opportunities. We ran the ball great. We ran for over 175 yards; Howard Triplett went for 150 yards and two touchdowns and the offensive line did a great job.”

Payne wasn’t able to play because he was committed to work as an officer for the Kenosha Police Department. Veteran receiver Norwood was unavailable for a reason Kennedy said he wasn’t told.

Triplett’s efforts weren’t enough because Powell was in control, and Mitch Farr and the Raiders’ passing attack were off all night. Powell’s 10-yard strike to Denzel Whitaker made it 16-6 at the half, and his second touchdown toss was the game-breaker.

Triplett did his best to bring the Raiders back, reeling off a 15-yard touchdown run with around 11 minutes to play to cut the Midway lead to 16-14. But all Powell needed was one play, two seconds to be exact, and he hooked up with Nick Czeszewski for an 88-yard touchdown bomb to extend the Marauders’ lead to 24-14.

The Raiders are now in a three-way tie in second place in the Mid-States Football League with the Midway Marauders and Illinois Cowboys at 4-3, while the first place Chicago Birdgang nest comfortably at 5-1. The Raiders must take on the 7-1 Birdgang at 7 p.m. Saturday in Chicago.

“We have to do a better job seeing the field,” Kennedy said. “Missing big-name players definitely doesn’t help, however, we have players that are very capable of getting the job done. We can’t drop balls or miss open receivers. We will work on it this week. The game was very disappointing, especially after playing probably our best game the week before.”

The only other Raider touchdown came on a three-yard scamper by Triplett.

For the first time since losing to the Birdgang a month ago, the Raiders were outgained. They racked up 215 total yards to Midway’s 232. Only 43 came via the air.

The Raiders’ three final chances

With three league games left and the Raiders sitting two games behind the first-place Birdgang, Saturday’s tilt 75 miles south in Chicago is a must-win. Racine will probably have to win all three remaining league games to have any kind of shot at first place.

“We have to clean up defensive play on the back end,” Kennedy said. “We put ourselves in a position to win the game after coming within two points, and then we gave it back on a big play and a score. We have to run our coverages with proper technique and better recognition of the offensive schemes we are playing against.”

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