Austin Wranglers game notes
ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE CELEBRATES 20 SEASONS
AFL Commissioner David Baker was present at the Kansas City Brigade's inaugural game on Sunday, February 12, 2006, in front of a sold out Kemper Arena. The Commissioner, along with the Brigade, helped break in their fans to Arena Football. Although the Brigade lost, the fans enjoyed their first AFL game.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 arenafootball.com and for ArenaBowl XX info, ArenaBowl.com.
THIS WEEK IN WRANGLERS FOOTBALL
Coming off a high after the 37-33 victory over the Kansas City Brigade, the Wranglers travel up I-35 to Dallas to take on the undefeated Desperados team. Also at 3-0, the Wranglers are off to their best start in franchise history. These two teams faced each other in a preseason scrimmage setting, which set the tone for this showdown on Friday.
WRANGLERS BEAT SOUTHERN DIVISION OPPONENT TO GO 3-0
During an exhilarating and exciting game for everyone that packed the Kemper Arena on Sunday, fans witnessed the Wranglers prevailing with a 37-33 win over the Kansas City Brigade. In their first home game, the Brigade put up a fight until the final seconds as Wranglers defensive specialist broke up an Andy Kelly pass to save the game for Austin. The Wranglers had an opportunity to extend their lead, but a stalled drive deep in Brigade territory gave the ball back to the Brigade with one minute left to play. Although the 16,523 witnessed a Wranglers victory, not all were disappointed in the outcome. Wranglers faithful were dispersed throughout the building, with the strongest following in the north end zone. Several Wranglers coaches and players have Kansas City ties, which made the game a bit of a homecoming of sorts. Most visible was Kevin Nickerson, who attended Central High School in KC, as he scored two touchdowns in front of many family and friends. The Wranglers are now 1-0 in division matchups.
SERIES HISTORY-AUSTIN AND DALLAS EVEN
This "Cattle Drive on I-35" has become a true rivalry over the past two seasons for the Wranglers and Desperados. With the first game going in favor of the Wranglers, last season's game was highly slanted in favor of the visiting Desperados, 52-28. Two costly interceptions thrown by quarterback John Fitzgerald led to the onslaught. With both teams currently undefeated, this game will mean even more as the competition increases to stay perfect in 2006.
In the second game of the 2006 season, several of the Wranglers returning from last year's squad had great performances like WR/DB Kevin Nickerson, QB John Fitzgerald, OL/DL Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL Angel Rubio, WR/LB Darrin Chiaverini, WR/LB Greg Brown.
RETURNING PLAYERS...BRIGHT SPOTS!
Nickerson: Playing in his hometown, Nickerson had five receptions for 33 yards and one touchdown. Also added a rushing score.
Fitzgerald: Finished the day 25-of-41 for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Also ran for six yards and one touchdown.Humphrey: Made three tackles. Rubio: Made two tackles including one for a loss. Chiaverini: Had five catches for 31 yards with a long of 11 yards. Brown: Had one reception for 14 yards and three tackles.
NEW ADDITIONS...BIG IMPACT!
The new Wranglers that had the greatest impact in game two were DS Damon Mason, WR/DB Sedrick Robinson, DS Donvetis Franklin and OS Derrick Lewis.Mason: Had seven tackles on the day.Robinson: Returned six kickoffs for 113 yards and had two catches for 28 yards and one touchdown.Franklin: Had three tackles and two pass breakups. The second pass breakup turned out to be game saving as time expired on the Brigade.Lewis: In his third AFL game, Lewis had 10 receptions for 129 yards and one touchdown with a long of 29 yards.
PASSING THEIR WAY TO VICTORY
On Sunday, the Wranglers used their passing attack to beat the Kansas City Brigade. Rookie Derrick Lewis seemed to have radar tracking the football as he accumulated 129 yards for the day with his longest reception being 29 yards. Other standouts were Sedrick Robinson and Kevin Nickerson who both helped out with one and two touchdowns respectively to add to the win. The second quarter was all about Nickerson as he scored both off the ground and in the air. Then late in the third quarter, Robinson caught a 14-yard pass from quarterback John Fitzgerald to put the Wranglers one score away from sealing a victory. Fitzgerald, who went 25-of-41 threw for three touchdowns and 252 yards which is a season-high for the Wranglers. Prior to Sunday's game, the team had been running their way to victory with 10 rushing touchdowns.
WRANGLERS AND FOX SPORTS NET
In Wranglers team history, they have appeared on FSN a total of eight times, with a 5-5 record overall. On the road the Wranglers are 2-3 on FSN. 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:
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 in 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 17-18
Colorado Mike Dailey 28-12(Arena Bowl XIX Champions)
Dallas Will McClay 17-17-1
*All three of these coaches are undefeated entering week four of the 2006 season*
THE LAST TIME:AUSTIN VS. DALLAS
3/13/05 DALLAS 52, AUSTIN 28
"The Cattle Drive on I-35" was a rivalry game infested with penalties. The Dallas Desperados defeated the Austin Wranglers 52-28 as the two teams totaled 21 penalties for 129 yards. Austin's John Fitzgerald completed 20 of 35 passes for 184 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Dallas' Clint Stoerner completed 17 of 28 passes for 219 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. The Wranglers offense struggled, only coming up with four touchdowns on the day in a defensive battle against the League's No. 1 defense in the Desperados. The game ended with a four-yard touchdown run by Dallas FB/LB Ja'mar Toombs leaving the score 52-28.
5/9/04 AUSTIN 48, DALLAS 36
The mothers of the Austin Wranglers have got to be proud, as their inaugural season looks as if it will land them in the playoffs. Their 48-36 victory over their intrastate rival has all but solidified a playoff spot as well as leaving the Dallas Desperados on the outside looking in. In a game filled with penalties and Dallas mishaps, Austin played opportunistic football by capitalizing off the Desperados' mistakes. After owning a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, WR/LB Darryl Hammond recovered an arrant kick that bounced off the top upright giving possession back to Austin. Austin never looked back as Wranglers QB John Kaleo connected with WR/DB Charlie Davidson for the two-score lead after two pass interference calls on the Dallas secondary. Former Desperados OL/DL Tom Briggs got a pair of sacks and was awarded the ADT Defensive Player of the Game. Even though Dallas had more total offensive yardage in the contest, their 11 penalties cost them 81 yards and essentially the game. Austin gets to stay at home for another week as they host the Orlando Predators who are also vying for playoff position. Dallas looks to rebound as they visit the 9-4 Chicago Rush.
THEY GO WAY BACK...
QB John Fitzgerald and OL/DL Tom Briggs both played for Dallas. Fitzgerald was a backup in 2003 and Briggs played for Dallas in 2002-03 where he won AFL Lineman of the Year. Defensive coordinator Jon Norris also coached in Dallas from 2002-04. Desperados DS Roc Haith was traded to Dallas during 2006 training camp from Austin. In exchange the Wranglers got OL/DL Larrell Johnson.
DALLAS PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB CLINT DOLEZEL
The off-season acquisition of the Arena Bowl XV champion has proved to work out well for the Desperados. Dolezel has made a name for himself as one of the AFL's all-time greatest quarterbacks, and three games into the 2006 season he has led the Desperados to a 3-0 start accompanying the Wranglers and the Crush as the only unbeaten teams left in the AFL. Last week against the Destroyers, the 11-year veteran completed 23-of-34 pass attempts for 281 yards and six touchdowns. Currently Dolezel is the second ranked quarterback in the AFL, completing 69 of his 100 passes for 895 yards and 19 touchdowns only having one pass intercepted.
WR/DB TERRILL SHAW
Now entering his seventh season in the AFL, the veteran WR/DB is reunited with his Arena Bowl XV Championship teammate Clint Dolezel and the chemistry is still there. During the Desperados three-game winning streak, Shaw has become the League's leader in receiving yards catching 25 passes for 366 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns. Last week against Columbus, Shaw had his most modest game of the season catching five passes for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
WR/DB WILL PETTIS
Pettis signed with the Desperados as a rookie four years ago and since then he has become one of the teams most consistent two way players every season; 2006 hasn't been an exception. Once again Pettis has played well on both sides of the ball recording 15 receptions for 221 yards and four touchdowns on offense. Defensively, Pettis has made an impact with eight tackles and three interceptions. During the 52-38 victory over Columbus, Pettis lead the team in receiving with 112 yards and one touchdown.
DS JERMAINE JONES
The Desperados fourth year defensive specialist leads the team in tackles with 23.5 and has been one of the League's defensive standouts this season. Against the Destroyers, Jones anchored the Desperados defense once again with seven solo tackles.
DallasWill McClay, now in his third season at the helm of the Dallas Desperados. McClay was named the Desperados head coach on Feb. 5, 2004 - just three days prior to kicking off the 2004 season. In McClay's second season leading the Desperados, he improved the club's 6-10 finish in 2004 to 8-7-1 last season and will continue to work to bring the club the successes they had in their first two seasons in the league. In addition to his head coaching responsibilities, McClay was the club's defensive coordinator. His defense finished the 2005 season with the league's stingiest defense in opponents completion percentage, allowing just 58.0% of opposing quarterbacks to complete passes. His defense finished second in the league in passing yards-per-game allowed (238.3) and third in the league in yards-per-game allowed (261.8). He was hired as the team's inaugural defensive coordinator in 2002.
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.
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 NFL talent in DS Deveron Harper. Refer to the following sections for a breakdown of what these players will offer the Wranglers in 2006.
ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: DAMON MASON
Now in 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: 747.5-Mason was the first player in AFL history to reach over 700 tackles Interceptions: 34Pass Breakups: 113AFL 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: 3, at Arizona (2/3/06)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.
MORE THAN THE HAIR:DONVETIS FRANKLIN
Donvetis Franklin is easy to pick out on the field. Why? Because of the hair... Franklin's trademark dreadlocks set him apart from the rest. He cites his most embarrassing moment when he was on the field and some of his dreadlocks got ripped out in a play.With his hair, he 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:2006: Franklin contributed 3.0 tackles and two pass breakups in the Wranglers win over the Brigade. One pass breakup was on a touchdown-saving play as time expired.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
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.
In three games, the Wranglers defense has emerged as one of the strongest in the AFL. Beginning with the secondary, they have five interceptions, all by Damon Mason. The Wranglers line has been able to pressure the quarterback and against Arizona, it was no exception. Humphrey, Rubio and White were able to sack the quarterback while Ramon Richardson and others hurried the quarterback. Currently the Wranglers rank 1st in sacks per pass attempt.
Wranglers starting quarterback John Fitzgerald emerged last season as one of the League's most underrated QB's. Thus far in 2006, Fitzgerald is 59-of-101 for 551 yards and seven touchdowns to just one interception. He has also added four rushing touchdowns with 13 carries for 29 yards.As the Wranglers decisive starter this season, he will have an opportunity to utilize his prior starting experience to maximize his output with his favorite targets:
OS DERRICK LEWIS
In his first AFL game, Lewis scored the first Wranglers touchdown of the season, a nine-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald. He ended the night with five receptions for 69 yards and one touchdown. Against the Rattlers, Lewis was kept to just three receptions for 22 yards. Having his best AFL game to date, Lewis had 10 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown in Kansas City. Lewis leads the team with 18 receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns in 2006.
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
Nickerson proved to be a diamond in the rough 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 in 2005. Nickerson led the team against Arizona with 40 receiving yards on four catches and one touchdown. Playing in front of his hometown crowd in KC, Nickerson had five receptions for 33 yards and one touchdown, also adding one TD on the ground.
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
During 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. On the season, Chiaverini has 15 receptions for 108 yards and one touchdown.
FB/LB DANE KRAGER
Fitzgerald often finds Krager coming out of the backfield. Krager has also been getting the job done on the ground with 63 yards rushing on 18 attempts with four touchdowns in 2006.
SED STEPS INTO GEAR
After five solid years in the AFL, Sedrick Robinson is now with his fourth AFL team. 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.
GREG BROWN FINDS NICHE
With the Wranglers organization from the beginning, Brown has transitioned into his WR/LB position from safety where he played in college and in the NFL. Brown is expected to split time with Chiaverini this season. Thus far in 2006, Brown has six receptions for 48 yards with a long of 14.
Damon Mason's impact on the Wranglers was immediate as he broke team records in season and single-game interception return yards with 47 after two interceptions in his first game with Austin. He re-broke his own mark at Arizona with three interceptions for 59 yards with a long of 29.He also tied a Wranglers single-game high with nine tackles on his way to earning the Defensive Player of the Game honors in the first two games.Interception Return Yards:Damon Mason-106 yards (2006)Darrin Chiaverini-41 yards (2005)Kelvin Hunter-33 yards (2005)
WHERE THE WRANGLERS RANK...
With the tremendous improvement on the field, the Wranglers have moved their way up the AFL standings in 2006. Here are some examples (Please disregard the prior stats from the first set of game notes):#1 TOTAL DEFENSE IN THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE: the Wranglers rank fifth in total defense throughout the AFL. SACKS PER PASS PLAY: first in sacks per 100 passes attempted. MASON: leads the AFL in interceptions with five for 106 return yards in just three games. -ranks eighth in the AFL in tackles with 20.0 on the season. #2RUSHING: knocked out of the top spot by the Chicago Rush, the Wranglers rank second in the AFL in rushing with 48 attempts for 121 yards and 12 touchdowns.KRAGER: tied for second in the AFL in rushing yards with 63 for the season. SIEVERS: ranks second amongst kickers with 34 points on the season, 16/20 PAT, 6/11 on FG.OTHER NOTABLES:HUMPHREY: tied for ninth in the AFL with 1.5 sacks on the season.ROBINSON: ranks sixth in the AFL in kickoff return yardage with 12 returns for 220 yards. Is averaging 18.3 yards per return.FRANKLIN: ranks 23rd in the AFL in tackles with 16.5 on the season.FITZGERALD and KRAGER: tied for eighth in the AFL with four touchdowns.
In Wranglers team history, team's largest margin of victory is 19 points, set this season at Arizona. The Wranglers broke their previous mark which they set in week one against Las Vegas with 18. Most Decisive Wins:Austin Wranglers at Arizona Rattlers (2/3/06), 53-34 (19)Austin Wranglers vs. Las Vegas Gladiators (1/27/06),64-46 (18)Austin Wranglers vs. Georgia Force (4/11/04), 42-26 (16)
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