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Austin Wranglers game notes

January 25, 2006 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Austin Wranglers News Release

Austin Wranglers (0-0) vs. Las Vegas Gladiators (0-0)
Date: Friday, January 27, 2006
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. (CT)
Site: The Frank Erwin Center (14,866)
Officials: Referee: Tom McCabe; Umpire: Paul Frerking; Head Linesman: Brent Durbin; Line Judge: Bob McElwee; Back Judge: Keith Washington; Supervisor: Bob Mantooth

Series Record: Wranglers lead 1-0 - road team won in only meeting
Coaches:Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (14-18)Ron James, LVG - 2nd season (8-8)
TV: Fox Sports Southwest - Kevin Eschenfelder and Gary Reasons (LIVE)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Erin Hogan, Bucky Godbolt and Kevin Dunn (LIVE)

2006 WRANGLERS SCHEDULE/RESULTS
WK. DATE OPPONENT TIME(CT)
1 Jan. 27 LAS VEGAS 7:30 p.m.
2 Feb. 3 at Arizona 8:00 p.m.
3 Feb. 12 at Kansas City 1:00 p.m.
4 Feb 17 at Dallas 7:30 p.m.
5 Feb. 25 at Tampa Bay 6:30 p.m.
6 Mar. 4 at Georgia 11:00 a.m.
7 Mar. 12 NEW YORK 2:00 p.m.
8 Mar. 18 KANSAS CITY 7:00 p.m.
9 Mar. 25 ORLANDO 7:00 p.m.
10 Mar. 31 at Philadelphia 6:00 p.m.
11 Apr. 9 GEORGIA 3:00 p.m.
12 Apr. 15 TAMPA BAY 7:00 p.m.
13 Apr. 22 at San Jose 9:30 p.m.
14 Apr. 29 COLUMBUS 7:00 p.m.
15 May 7 GRAND RAPIDS 2:00 p.m.
16 May 12 at Orlando 6:30 p.m.
Times and dates are subject to change. Home games in ALL CAPS.

TUNE INThe Austin Wranglers will be televised on FSN Southwest for five games in 2006. Fans can check out other AFL action around the league Sundays on NBC. LISTEN UPAll 16 Wranglers games can be heard on KVET (1300, The Zone) with Erin Hogan, Bucky Godbolt and Kevin Dunn at home and Kent Koen with Glyn Milburn on the road.

ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE CELEBRATES 20 SEASONS
The Arena Football League commences its historic 20th Season this weekend (January 27-29) with nine games, including rematches of the 2005 American and National Conference Championship Games and the debut of expansion teams in Kansas City and Utah. The 20th season concludes in Las Vegas for the second consecutive year when ArenaBowl XX is played at The Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday, June 11. Follow the 20th season action on www.arenafootball.com and for ArenaBowl XX info, www.ArenaBowl.com.

THIS WEEK IN WRANGLERS FOOTBALL
Kicking off the League's 20th anniversary, the Austin Wranglers host the Las Vegas Gladiators on Friday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m. Head Coach Skip Foster guides the Wranglers in his third year, as Gladiators Head Coach Ron James enters his second season at the helm. Both teams are looking to improve on last year's records with Wranglers finishing at 6-10 and the Gladiators finished 8-8. With several off-season moves, both squads have reloaded for 2006.

WRANGLERS HISTORY IN SEASON OPENERS
All-time the Wranglers are 1-1 in the opening game of the season. The Wranglers won on the road in 2004, while dropping last year's opener at home. 2005 Season Opener January 30, 2005 35-66 loss vs. PhiladelphiaQB Tony Graziani threw a season-high 8 touchdowns for the Soul in route to a Philadelphia victory.2004 Season OpenerFebruary 13, 2004 49-48 (OT) win at Orlando A Predators failed two-point conversion attempt in OT wins the game for the Wranglers, giving them their first win in franchise history.

SERIES HISTORY-AUSTIN LEADS 1-0
In the lone meeting between the Las Vegas Gladiators and the Austin Wranglers, the Wranglers held the edge 1-0 in a down to the wire thriller. A win at Las Vegas in 2005 gave the Wranglers their second win for the season. Notables included Wranglers wide receiver/linebacker Darrin Chiaverini who had a season-high 13 receptions. Las Vegas starting quarterback in 2005, Clint Dolezel, was injured for the game. Current starter, Craig Whelihan, matched John Fitzgerald's five touchdown performance and actually threw for 13 more yards on the road to Vegas' third loss of the season.

THE NEW AUSTIN WRANGLERS

The Wranglers are returning 14 players from last year's team while adding 9 new players. The Wranglers goal was to re-sign a core group of players from the 2005 roster, while actively pursuing the free agent market.

RETURNING PLAYERS
Tom Briggs, OL/DLGreg Brown, WR/DBBrent Browner, DSHenry Bryant, FB/LBDarrin Chiaverini, WR/LBJohn Fitzgerald, QBAaron Humphrey, OL/DL Daniel Kegler, OL/DLDane Krager, FB/LBMarcus McKenzie, OL/DLKevin Nickerson, WR/DBRamon Richardson, OL/DLTodd Sievers, KEric Thomas, OL/DL



NEW WRANGLERS
Donovan Arp, OL/DLDonvetis Franklin, DSDeveron Harper, DSLarrell Johnson, OL/DLDerrick Lewis, OS*Notables-Two first year players from the NFL in Harper and Lewis.-Two lineman with AFL experience in Arp and Johnson. -Proven DS in Franklin. Damon Mason, DSChance Mock, QBSedrick Robinson, WR/DBJosh White, FB/LB*Notables-The only player with over 700 tackles in AFL history in Mason.-AFL's 5th leading rusher in 2005 in White.-Veteran two-way in Robinson.

FREE AGENT SHOPPING IN THE OFF-SEASON
After a disappointing 6-10 season in 2005,following an 8-8 inaugural season in 2004, the Wranglers tested the free agent market and brought to Austin some of the best talent from the AFL and NFL. Here are some of these off-season moves:Sep. 29-Wranglers start free agency off by agreeing to terms with former University of Texas Longhorn, quarterback Chance Mock (who signed at the beginning of free agency).Oct. 5-AFL's all-time leading tackler Damon Mason signs with team.Oct. 24-Veteran WR/DB Sedrick Robinson signs with WranglersDec. 5-7-Skill players attend mini-camp in Austin Wranglers, while Wranglers add proven DS Donvetis Franklin to complement secondary.Jan. 5-Training camp begins with 37-man rosterJan. 18-19-Trade with Dallas brings OL/DL Larrell Johnson to Wranglers in exchange for Roc Haith, while Wranglers pick up De'Angelo Lloyd from New York.

WRANGLERS AND FOX SPORTS NET
In Wranglers team history, they have appeared on FSN a total of eight times, with a 3-5 record overall. At home, the record stands tied at 2-2. 2005 marked the first season that the AFL and the Austin Wranglers teamed up to televise games. Here's a look at how the Wranglers faired on FSN:
DATE OPPONENT RESULT
Feb. 11 Los Angeles Avengers Lost 64-51
Mar. 13 Dallas Desperados Lost 52-28
Apr. 1 New Orleans VooDoo Win 56-55
Apr. 8 at Georgia Force Lost 56-53
Apr. 22 at Arizona Rattlers Lost 52-26
Apr. 30 at Columbus Destroyers Win 58-55
May 7 Orlando Predators Win 56-42
May 14 at New Orleans VooDoo Lost 69-68

AFL THIRD YEAR HEAD COACHES
COACHES BEGINNING THIRD SEASON WITH SAME TEAMWranglers Head Coach Skip Foster joins the head men in Colorado and Dallas, all beginning their third season as head coach with their current team. Mike Dailey and the Crush went on to an ArenaBowl XIX victory, while both Foster and McClay are both looking for their first playoff bid with their respective teams. Take a look at their records:TEAM COACH RECORD
Austin Skip Foster 14-18
Colorado Mike Dailey 25-12 (Arena Bowl XIX Champions)
Dallas Will McClay 14-17-1

AWARD WINNERS FROM 2005
Wranglers players that were game award winners from 2005. Kevin Nickerson earned an All-Rookie team nod after his breakout performance last season. OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAMEOpponent (Date) Player
at Las Vegas (3/4/05) Darrin Chiaverini
NEW YORK (3/19/05) John Fitzgerald
ORLANDO (5/7/05) John Fitzgerald
ADT DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAMEOpponent (Date) Player
at Grand Rapids (2/19/05) Cedric Walker
at Las Vegas (3/4/05) Cedric Walker
NEW YORK (3/19/05) Kelvin Hunter
NEW ORLEANS (4/1/05) Kelvin Hunter
at Columbus (4/30/05) Cedric Walker
ORLANDO (5/7/05) Dane Krager
ARMY IRONMAN OF THE GAMEOpponent (Date) Player
at Grand Rapids (2/19/05) Kevin Nickerson
at Las Vegas (3/4/05) Dane Krager
NEW YORK (3/19/05) Darrin Chiaverini
NEW ORLEANS (4/1/05) Ira Gooch
at Columbus (4/30/05) Kevin Nickerson
ORLANDO (5/7/05) Kevin Nickerson
AFL ALL-ROOKIE TEAM- Kevin Nickerson

THE LAST MEETING:AUSTIN AT LAS VEGAS IN 2005
The Austin WRANGLERS 42, GLADIATORS 41The Austin Wranglers beat the Las Vegas Gladiators as time expired, 42-41. On fourth down with five seconds on the clock, Wranglers' QB John Fitzgerald found WR/DB Kevin Nickerson in the end zone for the 14-yard game winner. WR/LB Darrin Chiaverini led all receivers, catching 13 passes for 102 yards and three TDs to help Austin get the hard fought victory. In his first game back from injury, FB/LB Dane Krager, was named Ironman of the Game after catching three passes for 13 yards and a TD paired with one tackle, a fumble recovery and an INT late in the fourth. The Gladiators scored a TD on their first drive of the game. Then, the Wranglers answered when Fitzgerald connected on a third and long to set up a TD catch by Chiaverini. Gladiator QB,Whelihan then hit WR/LB Joe Douglass on an 18-yard strike to put Vegas ahead 14-7 in the second quarter. Austin answered back when Chiaverini caught a 25-yard pass from Fitzgerald that set up Krager's first TD of the season. PAT holder, Scott Dreisbach, mishandled the snap from Aaron Humphrey, leaving the score 14-13. Vegas scored again just before the half to go into the locker room up 21-13. Vegas kicker, Mark Lewis, missed a 55-yard field goal attempt. Fontaine snatched up the rebound and returned it 42-yards to the Vegas 16. Three plays later, Fitzgerald hit Chiaverini again for his second TD reception of the game. On the next drive, Whelihan found eligible DL, Mayes for a 21-yard score. But Austin answered right back on a 21-yard score of their own when Fitzgerald hit Davidson in the end zone. The third quarter ended with Vegas up 28-27. A Gladiator pass attempt into the end zone bounced off the iron and was caught by Krager for an INT. The turnover proved costly as Chiaverini caught his third TD of the game to put Austin ahead, 33-28. After both teams traded scores, Whelihan hit Douglass on a 43-yard bomb to put Las Vegas up 41-36 with 2:37 left. Finally, the Wranglers responded with an amazing drive to score on the game's final play to get the victory. With the win, Austin improves their record to 2-4.

LAS VEGAS PLAYERS TO WATCH
OS MARCUS NASHReturning for his third season with the Gladiators, Marcus Nash has proved to be a major offensive threat. In the last two years with Las Vegas, Nash has caught more passes, gained more receiving yards, scored more touchdowns and more points than anyone else in the AFL. During the 2005 season, Nash led the league in yardage with an astounding 1,769 yards combined with 41 touchdowns. After totaling 36 receptions for 415 yards and 13 touchdowns in May, Nash was named the offensive player of the month. All these honors came after Nash won the AFL Offensive Player of the Year award in 2004. In one game played against the Wranglers in 2005, Nash tallied seven catches for 79 yards and one touchdown.QB CRAIG WHELIHANAfter playing behind Clint Dolezel for a majority of the 2005 season, Whelihan is now the starting quarterback for the Gladiators and is out to prove he is worthy of the job. Starting only two games in 2005, one came against the Wranglers in which he completed 21-of-34 pass attempts for 277 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. The longest play of the game came when Whelihan connected with Joe Douglas for a 43 yard touchdown strike late in the fourth quarter.WR/LB COCO BLALOCKWith six seasons of AFL experience under his belt, this veteran is looking for a productive follow up to a career best season in 2005. Blalock had a very promising start to his AFL career after being named the Gladiators MVP in 2001, but an Achilles tendon injury suffered in a pre-season game at the beginning of the 2002 season put him out for 16 months. The 2005 season showed that Blalock was at full speed again as he contributed with a career high 73 passes for 851 yards and 13 touchdowns on Offense and 19.5 tackles and a forced fumble on defense. Blalock also returned 45 kicks for 865 yards and a touchdown on the season.DS ALONZO SPELLMANA nine-year NFL vet, Spellman joins the Gladiators this season for his first in the AFL. Playing with the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions, he totaled 123 career games good for 43.0 total sacks and one interception. The Gladiators plan to use Spellman in a pass rushing capacity, giving him the DS tag.

HEAD COACHES

RON JAMES
Las Vegas
Ron James is entering his second season as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Gladiators. In his first year as head coach the Gladiator teams ranked #1 in total offense and #1 in total defense Arena Football League and finished with an 8-8 record. Prior to becoming the head coach, James served as assistant head coach/line coach and special team's coordinator for the Gladiator organization from 2001-2004. Coach James has nine years of AFL experience having served as the line coach and player personnel director with the Houston Thunderbears from 2000-2001 and as an assistant with the Albany Firebirds in 1990 and 1991. In addition to coaching in the AFL, James has coached a combined total of 14 years on the collegiate level.

SKIP FOSTER
Austin
Head Coach Skip Foster is entering his third AFL season with the Austin Wranglers. In the Wranglers second season (6-10), the offense scored 109 touchdowns, with 18 different players recording points on the year. Five of his receivers combined for 11 games in which they had 100 or more receiving yards. In the team's inaugural season performance (8-8), Foster's offense scored 104 touchdowns, an average of 47.8 points per game, led the AFL in total offense for five weeks and remained one of the League's top three total offenses for a total of fifteen weeks in 2004. Prior to joining the Wranglers, Foster served as the head coach for the 2003 af2-Champion Tulsa Talons. Foster compiled a record of 82-39-2 at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas before moving to Arena Football.

GETTING DEFENSIVE
With many off-season improvements to the Wranglers team, one area was of extreme focus...DEFENSE! Making waves in the free agent market, the Wranglers nabbed the AFL's all-time leading tackler in Damon Mason, a sturdy and proven DS in Donvetis Franklin and tapped the pool of former AFL talent in DS Deveron Harper. The team also kept DS Brent Browner on the squad as he played with Austin last season. Refer to the following sections for a breakdown of what each of these four players will offer the Wranglers in 2006.

MORE THAN THE HAIR: DONVETIS FRANKLIN
Donvetis Franklin is easy to pick out on the field, as he patrols the defensive secondary. Why? Because of the hair... Franklin's trademark dreadlocks set him apart from the rest. With his hair also brings intensity and ability to the Wranglers this season. He has his own style. Here is a look at how Franklin has made his way through the AFL ranks:2005: Played all 16 games for the Columbus Destroyers and had 77 tackles on the year.2004: Played in all 16 games for the New York Dragons, finishing fourth in the AFL in tackles with 84.5.2003: Played in all 16 games for the New York Dragons and led the AFL in tackles with 93.5.2002: In his rookie season, played in 14 games and led the team in tackles with 90.5.***THREAT OFF THE NETS***Over Franklin's four seasons, he has become a legitimate threat off the nets on special teams. The Wranglers hope to get some production from him in this area. Here is a look at his career special teams numbers: KICK RETURNS GP No. Yds Avg TD Long
2003 New York Dragons 16 42 816 19.4 1 52
2004 New York Dragons 16 14 291 20.8 0 50
2005 Columbus Destroyers 16 7 145 20.7 0 37
Career totals 48 63 1,252 19.9 1 52
MISSED FIELD GOAL RETURNS GP No. Yds Avg TD Long
2003 New York Dragons 16 6 115 19.2 0 42
2005 Columbus Destroyers 16 1 33 33.0 0 33
Career totals 32 7 148 21.1 0 42

TALENT AND SIZE: DEVERON HARPER
-This talented rookie brings experience from the depths of the NFL's secondary. Making the transition to the AFL has been easier for Harper than most and he is ready for what the AFL's best has to bring him. -The Wranglers secondary has added size in Harper. Standing at 5'11, 200, he will stand tall amongst his line mates and will protect against anything high that his AFL opponents will throw at him.

WRANGLERS VET: BRENT BROWNER
After a strong training camp showing, Browner is back to round out the Wranglers strong secondary. Last season, Browner recorded a career-high 36 tackles, one INT and seven PBU.

ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: DAMON MASON
Entering his ninth AFL season, no other player in League history has perfected the art of tackling better than Wranglers DS Damon Mason. Tackling is not the only skill Mason is strong in; he also set new career highs in 2005 in pass break ups.Here's a breakdown of Mason's career accomplishments:AFL Career Highs (Career):Tackles: 727.5-Mason was the first player in AFL history to reach over 700 tackles Interceptions: 29Pass Breakups: 110AFL Career Highs (Season):Tackles: 133.5-Set AFL record for most tackles in a single-seasonInterceptions: 7Pass Breakups: 34-Led the AFL in 2005 in both categoriesAFL Career Highs (Game): Tackles: 17.0, vs. Los Angeles (5/21/05) Interceptions: 2: twice - last vs. Grand Rapids (6/08/02)Pass Breakups: 8, vs. Los Angeles (5/21/05)***DURABLE***-Last season, Mason became the first player ever to play in 17 games in two consecutive seasons. 2004: Carolina Cobras/Orlando Predators2005: Orlando Predators/Grand Rapids Rampage*Mason achieved this feat after switching teams and missing the bye-week both years.

2003: Played in all 16 games for the New York Dragons and led the AFL in tackles with 93.5.2002: In his rookie season, played in 14 games and led the team in tackles with 90.5.***THREAT OFF THE NETS***Over Franklin's four seasons, he has become a legitimate threat off the nets on special teams. The Wranglers hope to get some production from him in this area. Here is a look at his career special teams numbers: KICK RETURNS GP No. Yds Avg TD Long
2003 New York Dragons 16 42 816 19.4 1 52
2004 New York Dragons 16 14 291 20.8 0 50
2005 Columbus Destroyers 16 7 145 20.7 0 37
Career totals 48 63 1,252 19.9 1 52
MISSED FIELD GOAL RETURNS GP No. Yds Avg TD Long
2003 New York Dragons 16 6 115 19.2 0 42
2005 Columbus Destroyers 16 1 33 33.0 0 33
Career totals 32 7 148 21.1 0 42

TALENT AND SIZE: DEVERON HARPER
-This talented rookie brings experience from the depths of the NFL's secondary. Making the transition to the AFL has been easier for Harper than most and he is ready for what the AFL's best has to bring him. -The Wranglers secondary has added size in Harper. Standing at 5'11, 200, he will stand tall amongst his line mates and will protect against anything high that his AFL opponents will throw at him.

WRANGLERS VET: BRENT BROWNER
After a strong training camp showing, Browner is back to round out the Wranglers strong secondary. Last season, Browner recorded a career-high 36 tackles, one INT and seven PBU.

FITZGERALD'S WEAPONS
Wranglers starting quarterback John Fitzgerald emerged last season as one of the League's most underrated QB's. In just 14 games, Fitz compiled a 111.95 passer rating to go with his 354-of-537 for 72 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. He threw for an average of 282.9 yards per game, ranking in the top ten amongst quarterbacks. As the Wranglers starter for game one, he will have an opportunity to utilize last year's experience to maximize his output with his favorite targets:Kevin NickersonNickerson proved to be a diamond in the ruff after being signed following the 2005 Wranglers open tryouts. Starting 11 of 16 games, Nickerson helped the Wranglers air attack with a team high 1,028 yards on 85 catches for 23 touchdowns. Nickerson proved he could run the ball as well, recording a touchdown while carrying the ball twice. The AFL also took notice to Nickerson's abilities, placing him on the AFL's All-Rookie Team.Darrin ChiaveriniDuring the 2005 season, Chiaverini was the main target for Fitzgerald as the two connected for a team-high 114 receptions that led to 951 yards and 18 touchdowns. Staying healthy was a big part of Chiaverini's success as he started all 16 games for the Wranglers.Fullback/Linebackers:Dane Krager and Henry BryantIn Foster's offense, he takes advantage of his agile fullback/linebackers. In 2005, both Dane Krager and Henry Bryant were incorporated into the offensive attack. They accounted for 10 receptions for 82 yards and three touchdowns, being used primarily in short yardage situations. Other notables: Greg BrownBrown is ready to play this season after making the transition to a new position in the AFL.Tom Briggs and Aaron HumphreyBoth of these lineman have been known to make contributions to the offense and will be looked for this season through the passing game.

SED STEPS INTO GEAR
After five solid years in the AFL, Sedrick Robinson is now with his fourth team here in Austin. A highly sought after free agent, Robinson possesses strengths on both offense and defense, while being considered one of the best kick returners in League history. Having played with Wranglers DS Donvetis Franklin last season in Columbus, these two split the special teams duties there. Robinson is a beast off the nets and wears #25 because of George LaFrance, who was #3 on the AFL's 20 Greatest Players. LaFrance worked with Robinson in 2001 to help him become a force off the nets. Here's a look at Robinson's career statistics and how he has built his reputation as being feared off the nets:KICK RETURNS GP No. Yds Avg TD Long
2001 Houston Thunderbears 13 39 880 22.6 3 58
2002 New Jersey Gladiators 9 40 957 23.9 4 58
2003 Las Vegas Gladiators 16 73 1581 21.7 4 58
2004 Columbus Destroyers 16 72 1580 21.9 5 57
2005 Columbus Destroyers 12 37 756 20.4 2 56
Career totals 57 261 5754 22.0 18 58
Robinson does it all... rushing, receiving and passing...5754-total yards on his career from kick returns 3572-total receiving yards on his career112.5-total tackles on his career63-total rushing yards over career, which was is good for 18 touchdowns57-games Robinson has played in54-receiving touchdowns on his career45-longest career reception6-entering his sixth AFL season4-fourth team in five years that Robinson has suited up with***THE REUNITE AGAIN***In game one, Robinson is playing his old team, the Las Vegas Gladiators. On the Gladiators, Robinson played with Damon Mason who he teams up with for the second time in his career. Other players he is teammates with again:John Fitzgerald-Houston Thunderbears (2001)Marcus McKenzie-Columbus Destroyers (2004)Donvetis Franklin-Columbus Destroyers (2005)

REMEMBER ME?
The Wranglers and Gladiators have several players that have each spent time with both organizations. Sedrick Robinson is the Gladiators all-time leader in kick returns, but the return specialist is now a Wranglers. Robinson is joined by Damon Mason, Marcus McKenzie and Ramon Richardson as former Gladiators turned Wranglers. Dameon Porter is the lone ex-Wrangler to suit up for the Gladiators.

REVERSING THE TREND
The red zone proved to be a troubling area for the Wranglers in 2005. The team ranked last in red zone offense and second to last in red zone defense. Head Coach Skip Foster made this a major area of concern during the off-season. With the changes in personnel and offensive/defensive schemes, the Wranglers look to stop the bleeding inside the 10.

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