Kats Soar with Impressive Win at Orlando

ORLANDO — Braxton Haley scored three touchdowns and Randy Hippeard led the offense with seven touchdown passes, as the Nashville Kats upset the Orlando Predators, 62-32, in the first round of the AFL Playoffs on Friday evening at the Kia Center.

With the win, the Kats head back to Billings for a matchup with the Outlaws next Saturday evening in the AFL Semifinals on CBS Sports Network. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. CT / 8 p.m. MT and can be heard on 102.5 and 106.3 FM The Game. In the previous meeting on June 8, Nashville defeated Billings, 57-54, after Hippeard found Marquise Irvin with one-second remaining. 

In an impressive stat, Nashville scored touchdowns on all nine offensive possessions and was perfect in the red zone.

Hippeard finished the game with 165 yards on 15-of-21 completions.

Haley was Hippeard’s favorite receiver, leading the Kats with three touchdown catches. Kenrick Ings had the most receptions for the Kats with four, including a late touchdown. Four other Kats also contributed: Irvin had three catches, Carrington Thompson and Milton Williams III each had two, and James Atoe had one catch for a touchdown.

Besides the seven passing touchdowns, the Kats utilized the short-yardage run game with scores from Carlton Brown and Irvin. Brown finished with 18 yards on the ground, including a 14-yard rush, his longest this season.

The swarming Kats defense forced three turnovers — an interception by Derrick “Bones” Jones and fumble recoveries by Jay Woods and Ezekiel Rose.

Nashville wasted no time, scoring on the opening play with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to Haley. Orlando answered with a three-yard QB sneak by Drew Powell to take a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter.

It was all Nashville for the rest of the quarter with touchdowns from Irvin and a second score by Haley. The Kats added a kickoff deuce by Pat Clarke and led 21-7 after 15 minutes.

The visitors added a quick eight points off an Atoe seven-yard touchdown catch and then a one-point rouge, scoring 23 unanswered points.

Orlando added 13 points before halftime, with Haley scoring in between. Orlando tried to add four points on a post-touchdown conversion at the end of the half, but Nashville stopped the Predators from closing the gap, leading 36-20 at halftime.

Nashville dominated the third quarter with two scores, an interception and a fumble recovery. It started with a 25-yard interception return by Jones, which led to Williams’ four-yard touchdown catch, expanding the Kats’ lead to 42-20 with 12:29 left.

On the next possession, the Kats' defense stole the ball again with a fumble forced by Rose and recovered by Woods, who moved the ball 30 yards to the Orlando three-yard line. The Kats capitalized on the turnover with a one-yard rushing score by Brown, pushing the advantage to 49-20.

Not settling with a 29-point lead, the Kats scored twice in the final quarter, both within the red zone from Irvin and Ings.

The Kats finished with 191 yards of total offense, but Orlando led this statistic with 266 total yards.