Disaster avoided for new Power coach

First win arrives after blowing lead

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For a fraction of a second, it looked like another collapse had been cemented.

The Power, which was once up by 28 points, saw its lead methodically dwindled to a single point two weeks after losing a late 17-point lead in a loss that partially prompted a coaching change.

All that was separating it from another hard-to-imagine defeat were 2 yards of Consol Energy Center turf.

But just when it looked like Jason Willis came down with a catch on a 2-point conversion for the San Jose SaberCats, the ball popped out to help the Power hold on to a 48-47 victory.

"In the AFL, you've got to get used to winning," quarterback Tommy Grady said. "They haven't won too many games here the past couple of years, so it's kind of a culture.

"You have to have a winning culture and you get used to winning like you get used to losing. It was big for us to make that stop at the end of the game and get a win."

The win was the team's first under coach Ron James, who was named to the position last Friday, replacing Derek Stingley after one game. For the players, there were few growing pains.

"Players still go play and coaches learn what kind of guys they've got around them and the type of people they've brought into the organization," defensive back Sergio Gilliam said. "Adjusting to a different coach, it's just a different scheme. Arena ball's going to be arena ball, offenses are going to try to score, defenses are going to try to stop them from scoring."

Grady threw for 182 yards and five touchdowns, four of which went to Prechae Rodriguez, who finished with nine catches for 91 yards.

Those scores helped Power (1-1) jump out to a surprising 35-7 lead on one of the top teams in the league. The Power defense played an equally important role, holding the SaberCats (2-1), who entered the game averaging 66.5 points per game, to a single touchdown through the first 29 minutes.

Circumstances quickly changed, though. San Jose got two touchdowns in the final five seconds of the first half, the second of which was a recovery on a kickoff that bounced off the goalpost.

For the entire second half, it remained within two touchdowns. Trailing by seven with 45 seconds remaining, the SaberCats recovered an onside kick and marched up the field in 42 seconds for a touchdown to get within one.

What would have been a 2-point conversion, however, fell just out of Willis' hands, a moment that caused Power players to sprint back to the team's bench in joy.

"We found a way to win and that's all that matters," Grady said.

For some, there was a sense of relief that came with the victory, a result that seemed painfully uncertain late in the game. But to James, who is just about a week into his new job, there are lessons to be passed down from a near collapse.

"I don't think there's a sense of relief -- I think there's a sense of urgency for next week to hone in on the mistakes we made and not make them continually," he said. "That's the biggest issue. It's so early in the season and the season is so new that we're learning and you have to learn every week."

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

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