HARRISBURG - The Reading Express capped a tumultuous week with a resounding win Saturday night.
The Express responded to the departure of coach/general manager Bernie Nowotarski by defeating the Harrisburg Stampede 56-31 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in the American Indoor Football League.
Nowotarski, who left the Express less than 10 months after leading it to the AIFA title, was on the field coaching the defense for the second-place Stampede (6-3).
But the Express (6-5) got a dominant defensive effort to avenge a 55-42 loss it suffered to Harrisburg two months ago in the Sovereign Center.
Reading held Harrisburg to eight points in the first half and broke the game open in the second half. One touchdown in the second half came on a blocked field goal and another came on a defensive fumble recovery in the end zone.
"Our defense really came to play tonight," said Chris Thompson, the interim head coach for the rest of the season. "We had a great game plan put together, and everybody did their part."
Kicker Erik Rockhold also had a big game for the Express, kicking three field goals and five unos. Rockhold had two field goals and three unos in the first half when Reading opened a 16-8 halftime lead.
Express quarterback Rob Flowers completed 18-of-35 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns, one each to Carmelo Ocasio, Dan Kelly and Nate Romig. Flowers also ran for a touchdown.
Harrisburg quarterback Kelvin Robinson completed just 3-of-16 for 41 yarsd and two interceptions. He was pulled in the second half and replaced by Aries Nelson.
Nelson was marginally better - 7-for-13 for 91 yards- and managed to hook up with wide reiver Kevin Marion for a 41-yard score on a sharply thrown ball. But by then there was just 1:26 left in the contest and Harrisburg still trailed 45-31.
A field goal by Rockhold and recovered fumble in the end zone by Matt Sola finished it off.
"This game is all about executing and we weren't executing," Stampede coach Ramon Robinson said. "When you're not executing, it doesn't matter how good a team is or bad a team is.
"Doesn't matter about the record. We killed ourselves. Not completing passes when we needed to. Missing blocking assignments here and there. Just a matter of playing team ball, and we didn't that tonight."
The victory, Reading's third in four games, keeps the Express' playoff hopes alive. Reading has a week off before back-to-back home games with New Jersey and Fayetteville, the last-place team in the Eastern Division.