by David Holusha
March 27, 2006 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - New York Dragons
Starting only his second game of the season, third-string quarterback Nick Browder passed for 249 yards, going 21-for-28 and notched six touchdowns as the New York Dragons beat the Kansas City Brigade 54-48 in front of a packed Nassau Coliseum.
"When you\'re able to stand up on your feet - those receivers are so good, that if you just get it around them, they\'re going to come up with the ball," said Browder.
"This game often comes down to pretty much whatever they are going to give you defensively. I can\'t go out there thinking I\'m going to throw it to Check (WR Mike Horacek) this series - or I\'m going to throw it to Swayne (WR Kevin Swayne - or whomever\'s out there", Browder continued. "Its whatever the defenses are giving. They were calling plays to stop the stuff over the top. So, Check\' was the underneath guy - and when they play these zones, I\'ve just got to find the guys that are open. Horacek did a great job of being there."
WR/DB Mike Horacek did in fact lead the Dragons' receiving corp, pulling down a game high 14 passes for four touchdowns, to the tune of 174 yards and garnering offensive player of the game honors.
"As a football player, you\'ve got to be prepared to make plays at all times", said Horacek. "It came down to a situation where we had some good plays called, then they gave us the defense that we wanted and we went out and made the plays."
"In the games we\'ve lost this season, its been for the most part, mental mistakes," continued the stellar wideout. "We end up beating ourselves at the end of the game. We\'ve got too much talent to be doing that. Now we\'re rallying as a team and making sure everyone does their job. Without any mental mistakes, we should be easily 6-2 at this point".
Instead The Dragons sit in a logjam at 5-4 with five other conference teams. At this point, only Dallas and Austin have separated from the pack. Then there is this very Kansas City team, deep in the cellar. They have now lost their last five games. However, the Brigade did pull close in the closing minutes, after being outscored and dominated for the majority of the afternoon. On the games final play, LB Jeremy Beutler sacked Dragons QB Nick Browder, popping the ball loose, but Swayne recovered the fumble as time ran out on the clock.
"I\'m glad it was a win, but I\'m not very happy about the second half execution at all," said headcoach Weylan Harding. "We had early control of the game, and we should have handled it the rest of the way. Its still our own mistakes that are killing us. Especially during crucial moments, we\'ve got to be smarter about what we\'re doing"
"We\'re still figuring out what kind of team we want to be," continued the coach. "Teams that are used to being front-runners - when they get in that situation (taking an early, large lead) they go ahead and finish. Sometimes we\'re still looking at ourselves as the underdog - not knowing how to play with the lead. That\'s the transition we have to make".
However, the coach was quick to add, "at this point we\'re real close."
Harding also doled out praise where it was most deserved.
"Our secondary unit is now coming together. DS Mark Ricks has been a settling force. Moving Will Holder to DS has added to the improvements. Getting DB Angel Estrada back from the injured reserve list had a major impact on the game," said Harding.
Estrada certainly did make his return a noticeable one, as he contributed with a fumble recovery, interception and three solid tackles.
The Arena Football experience is so much more that just football, however. Keeping everyone\'s spirits high (and pulses racing) is the cutting-edge choreography of the Dragons own FireDancers. These beautiful and talented young women never fail to entertain and delight the crowd. New photos of these lovely young ladies can be found at this site's Photo Album page, or by clicking on this link: http://www.oursportscentral.com/photos/thumbnails.php?album=15. Along with many familiar faces, I was pleased to be able to add many new (or never before photographed) dancers like Michelle, Cristin, Estelle, Jessie, Gina G., Karey, Liz, Kristen, Tanya, Kara, Nicole, Piti and Danielle. A big thanks to Choreographer and Coach Phyllis, for helping in arranging all this.
Super Arena Hostess Dina was, naturally, a big part of the gameday experience as well. Looking resplendent in her own personalized Dragons Jersey, Dina kept the crowd captivated during all the contest and fan-friendly events throughout the game.
The Dragons are back home this Saturday night, as they host Grand Rapids Rampage.
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