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Vipers fail to seize opportunities in D.C., fall to 0-4

Updated March 12, 2023 - 9:51 pm

It looked for a brief moment as if the Vipers might have finally figured out a way to solve their second-half woes.

The moment was fleeting.

After the D.C. Defenders fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, the Vipers went four-and-out and failed to take advantage of the mistake.

It didn’t get much better from there, as the Vipers fell to 0-4 with a 32-18 road loss to the Defenders on Sunday.

“Those opportunities don’t come around too often. You’ve got to be able to convert those into touchdowns,” coach Rod Woodson said. “We shot ourselves in the foot and dug ourselves a hole and then dug a little more. I’m extremely disappointed because I know we have a good football team. We’ve been in every single game.”

While Sunday marked the first time the Vipers have trailed at halftime, they have been outscored 76-35 in the second half. They had a chance to draw even or take the lead late in the first half Sunday, but quarterback Luis Perez was tackled just short of the goal line on the final play of the second quarter.

The play was originally ruled a touchdown with five seconds remaining, but was overturned by replay officials. Because Perez was tackled in bounds and the Vipers were out of timeouts, the ensuing 10-second runoff caused time to expire.

Woodson was incensed at the ruling as the teams walked off the field.

The mood on the sideline appeared to improve when Travis Koontz hopped on the loose ball that was fumbled on the kickoff to start the second half. But DeAndre Torrey was stood up for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-1 and the Vipers had squandered another opportunity to draw even.

The Defenders kicked two field goals before the Vipers got back within 20-12 on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Perez to Cinque Sweeting on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Like in the first meeting with the Defenders, the Vipers had no answer for D’Eriq King. The former Houston and Miami star, who enters as a situational quarterback for D.C., ran for two scores and completed both pass attempts for 38 yards and another score.

Perez found Sweeting for another score with 1:55 to play, but the 3-point conversion play was unsuccessful. Perez then was sacked on the fourth-and-15 attempt that replaces the onside kick in the XFL.

The game got off to a disastrous start for the Vipers when Dohnovan West’s first snap of the day was low and to the left of quarterback Brett Hundley, who couldn’t corral the loose ball.

West was starting in place of Kahlil McKenzie, who went on injured reserve Friday.

D.C. cashed in the turnover five plays later to take the lead.

Hundley, who replaced Perez as the starting quarterback last week, came out of the game after the second offensive drive. He had been questionable with a thigh injury after he was limited in practice all week.

Perez finished 23 of 32 for 283 yards and two touchdowns.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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