AC BlackJacks

Atlantic City Blackjacks have ‘a nucleus of proven players’ led by Coach Ron James.

ATLANTIC CITY — Defense carried the Atlantic City Blackjacks to the biggest victory in their inaugural season Saturday night.

The Blackjacks forced three turnovers, including two interceptions from defensive back Kiante Northington, and made another big stand during a 48-41 victory over the Baltimore Brigade at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.

“I gave the game ball to our defensive coordinator (Sergio Gilliam) because he called a great game,” Blackjacks coach Ron James said. “Every time our offense seemed to slip up a little bit, our defense got the ball back for us.”

An announced crowd of 4,054 saw the Blackjacks even their record at 2-2 and remain unbeaten at home. They are tied for second place with the Brigade, Philadelphia Soul and defending Arena Bowl champion Washington Valor behind the Albany Empire (4-0).

The Blackjacks will host the Empire next Saturday at Boardwalk Hall and then face the Brigade there again June 1.

“We have a great environment here and that inspires us,” James said. “We’re a little better with home cooking at this point than we are on the road, and that’s what you look for.”

The Blackjacks used a strong start by their defense to grab a 20-13 halftime lead.

Northington, a rookie out of Eastern Kentucky University, snared interceptions on each of the Brigade’s first two possessions.

Boyd had thrown a league-low one interception in the Brigade’s previous three games.

“As the slot corner, everything is really fast-paced,” Northington said. “The other team is going to make some plays, but you just have to have a short-term memory and be ready to make the plays when you get the chance to make them. The defensive line got pressure, and I was able to get the picks.”

The defense also came up big at the end of the half. After Blackjacks turned the ball over on downs, the Brigade staged a last-minute rally, but wide receiver Brandon Collins was tackled at the Blackjacks’ 2-yard line as time expired.

In the third quarter, rookie defensive lineman Donte Rumph got a strip sack that led to a touchdown from Blackjacks wide receiver Antwane Grant. With the Blackjacks leading 41-33 in the fourth quarter, the defense forced the Brigade into a four-and-out at its own 5-yard line. Wide receiver LaMark Brown scored his third TD on the next play to essentially seal the win.

“As a defense, we pride ourselves in turning the ball over,” Northington said. “It comes down to everyone just doing their job and knowing where they’re supposed to be.”

Atlantic City quarterback Randy Hippeard threw four touchdowns and two interceptions, one of which resulted in a pick-six from Brigades defensive back Nias Martin.

But on most possessions, the Blackjacks had no trouble moving the football. Wide receiver Kendrick Ings caught two touchdown passes. Brown had one TD catch and ran for two scores to increase his season total to 11.

“I was the leading rusher when I was at Kansas State,” Brown said. “When I get the chance to run the ball, I know what to do with it.”

The Blackjacks hope continued success will result in even bigger crowds at home.

They drew an announced crowd of 6,514 for their home opener against Columbus on May 4.

“We love playing here because the fans are really into it,” Northington said. “Hopefully, we can keep winning and even more people will come. Hopefully, fans will see us win and tell their friends, and then those friends will tell more friends, and we’ll be able to get even more fans to the games.”

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