Austin Wranglers game notes
Austin Wranglers (4-0) vs. Tampa Bay Storm (2-2)
Date: Saturday, February 25, 2006
Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. (CT)
Site: St. Pete Times Forum (19,200)
Officials: Referee: Bill Athan; Umpire: Matt Jordan; Head Linesman: Tim Podraza; Line Judge: Tom Symonette; Back Judge: Bud McCleskey
Series Record: Tampa Bay holds the lead 3-1, with the Storm winning at home both games
Coaches (Records Reflect Regular Season with Current Team):
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (18-18)
Tim Marcum, TBS - 12th season (123-59) - 18th overall (178-71 including playoffs)
TV: Televised on national cable television on OLN with Ari Wolfe (play-by-play) and Bill Osborn (color)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Kent Koen and Glyn Milburn (joined in progress)
ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE CELEBRATES 20 SEASONS
To commemorate the AFL's 20th season, a selection committee of coaches, executives and former players chose the AFL's 20 Greatest Players of All-Time. Tampa Bay had three former players that made this list including Hall of Fame QB Jay Gruden, former All-Arena lineman Sylvester Bembery and four-time Storm ArenaBowl champion WR/LB Stevie Thomas. 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
Facing just their second Southern Division opponent in 2006, Austin travels to Tampa Bay to take on Storm. The Storm lost last week to the Orlando Predators in overtime 67-64, marking their first loss at home since 2004, ending their streak of 12 home wins. Head Coach Tim Marcum and the Storm look to bounce back, and reign on the Wranglers parade as Austin enters the game 4-0 and 1-0 against Southern Division opponents on the year.
WRANGLERS KNOCK OFF DESPERADOS IN TEXAS SHOWDOWN
REMAIN ONLY UNDEFEATED TEAM AT 4-0
Last Friday, the Wranglers defeated the Dallas Desperados at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, 56-49. In a game that demonstrated several momentum changes, Austin lineman and former Desperado, Tom Briggs, sacked Dallas QB Clint Dolezel on fourth down to seal the win for the Wranglers. The Wranglers took the final lead of the game with 28 seconds remaining as Kevin Nickerson darted into the end zone on a four-yard carry on fourth down. With the win and a Colorado Crush loss to the Nashville Kats, the Wranglers now sit atop the AFL as the only unbeaten team remaining in 2006. Off to their best start in franchise history, the Wranglers have won three straight road games and look to win number four against the Tampa Bay Storm. Here's a look at the most recent win streaks in AFL history:
3, 2005-Orlando; 4, 2004-Chicago; 6, 2003-Orlando; 12, 2002-San Jose; 7, 2001-Tampa Bay; 7, 2000-Orlando
SERIES HISTORY-TAMPA BAY HAS DOMINATED 3-1
The Wranglers have struggled in this Southern Division match up over the past two seasons, dropping three straight to the Storm. The last meeting was in Austin, with the Wranglers losing 54-42. Tampa Bay had strong performances from standouts Lawrence Samuels, Jonathan Ordway and Shane Stafford en route to the win. The Wranglers look to hand the Storm their second straight loss at home and move to 2-0 against division opponents.
In the fourth 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 Tom Briggs, FB/LB Dane Krager and WR/LB Greg Brown.
RETURNING PLAYERS...BRIGHT SPOTS!
Nickerson: Nickerson had two rushing touchdowns. Added seven receptions for 66 yards and also had three tackles.Fitzgerald: Finished the day 23-of-34 for 254 yards and five touchdowns. Fitzgerald threw one lone interception, but it was his first since week one against Las Vegas. Awarded the Offensive Player of the Game honor for the third time this season.Briggs: Against his former team in the Dallas Desperados, Briggs had a game-clinching sack, two tackles and a forced fumble.Krager: Sacked Dallas quarterback Clint Dolezel, as the Desperados allowed their first sack this season. Also added three tackles and recovered a fumble.Brown: As the starting wide receiver/linebacker, he had five tackles and recovered two fumbles.
NEW ADDITIONS...BIG IMPACT!
The new Wranglers that had the greatest impact in game four were DS Damon Mason, WR/DB Sedrick Robinson, DS Donvetis Franklin, DS Deveron Harper and OS Derrick Lewis.Mason: Had five tackles and two pass breakups on the night. Robinson: Returned four kickoffs for 130 yards and a touchdown. Added four catches for 43 yards and two more scores on offense. Named the Ironman of the Game for his performance. Also named the Touchdown Ink, Offensive Player of the Week.Franklin: Had six tackles and two pass breakups.Lewis: In his fourth AFL game, Lewis had 8 receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 28 yards.
AFL on OLN
The Arena Football League and OLN have reached an agreement for OLN to be the national cable television home for the AFL during its historic 20th season. OLN will televise 11 regular-season games and one Wild Card playoff game during the 2006 season.The Austin Wranglers game at the Tampa Bay Storm will be shown live on OLN at 4 p.m. (CT) on Saturday. This will be Austin's only regular-season appearance on OLN.AFL ON OLN SCHEDULEWeek 5: Austin @ Tampa Bay - Saturday, February 25, 5:00 p.m. ET (live) Week 6: Philadelphia @ Las Vegas - Sunday, March 5, 6:30 p.m. ET (live) Week 7: Colorado @ Chicago - Friday, March 10, 11:00 p.m. ET (tape delay) Week 8: Colorado @ LA - Sunday, March 19, 6:30 p.m . ET (live) Week 11: Orlando @ Columbus - Sunday, April 9, 6:30 p.m. ET (tape delay) Week 12: Chicago @ Arizona - Saturday, April 15, 10:00 p.m. ET (live) Week 13: Dallas @ Georgia - Saturday, April 22 (TBD) Week 14: Philadelphia @ New York - Saturday, April 29 (TBD) Week 15: Dallas @ Philadelphia - Saturday, May 6, 4:00 p.m. ET (live) Week 16: Chicago @ Grand Rapids - Saturday, May 13, 4:00 p.m. ET (live) Wild Card: (TBD)
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 18-18
Colorado Mike Dailey 28-11(Arena Bowl XIX Champions)
Dallas Will McClay 17-18-1
*Skip Foster reached the .500 mark in his AFL coaching career with a win over Dallas*
WRANGLERS PLAYER MILESTONES
Amongst the Wranglers veterans and newer AFL players, there are several players with career milestones within reach. Take a look...
OL/DL TOM BRIGGS
41.0 total sacks
189 total tackles
FB/LB HENRY BRYANT
9 rushing touchdowns
2 receiving touchdowns
93 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
1,569 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
56 games played
11,604 yards passing
189 passing touchdowns
984 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
365.0 total tackles
75 pass breakups
OL/DL AARON HUMPHREY
7.0 total sacks
7.5 total tackles for loss?
8 forced fumbles
51.5 total tackles
FB/LB DANE KRAGER
14 rushing touchdowns
273 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
25 receiving touchdowns
1,158 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
753.5 total tackles
122 games played
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
57 receiving touchdowns
3,659 receiving yards
19 rushing touchdowns
19 kick return touchdowns
HOW THE WRANGLERS WERE BUILT...
#93 Tom Briggs, OL/DL - 10th year, 41.0 career sacks
#37 Greg Brown, WR/DB - former UT Longhorn
#6 Brent Browner, DS - in his third season with Austin
#33 Henry Bryant, FB/LB - led the Wranglers in rushing '05
#11 Darrin Chiaverini, WR/LB - led the Wranglers in receptions in 2005
#16 John Fitzgerald, QB - 6th season and has led team to 4-0 start in 2006, adding four rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - 1.5 sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 62 yards and ranks 5th in '06
#53 Marcus McKenzie, OL/DL - veteran center
#28 Kevin Nickerson, WR/DB - led Wranglers in yards receiving in rookie season with 1028
#91 Ramon Richardson, OL/DL - has two forced fumbles
#68 Angel Rubio, OL/DL - 0.5 sacks in three games
#3 Todd Sievers, K - 6/12 in field goals, 24/28 PAT
#56 Eric Thomas, OL/DL - starting center
#9 P.J. Winston, WR/DB -
#73 Donovan Arp, OL/DL - played in 11 games in 2005 for Philadelphia
#4 Donvetis Franklin, DS - back-to-back defensive player of the game in 2006, 2nd in tackles for Columbus in 2005
#7 Deveron Harper, DS - 1st year, from NFL
#90 Larrell Johnson, OL/DL - traded by Dallas for Roc Haith
#87 Derrick Lewis, OS - 1st year, from NFL
#99 De'Angelo Lloyd, OL/DL - signed after being released by New York
#10 Torrance Marshall, FB/LB - saw first AFL action in week four, played four seasons with Green Bay Packers (2004-01)
#2 Damon Mason, DS - leads league with five interceptions in 2006, leading tackler in AFL history
#5 Chance Mock, QB - 1st year as backup in AFL
#25 Sedrick Robinson, WR/DB - veteran two-way player
#8 Sir Mawn Wilson, WR/LB - 7th season and has Super Bowl ring with Denver Broncos
THE LAST TIMES:AUSTIN VS. TAMPA BAY
2/5/05 - TAMPA BAY 62, Austin 45
Tampa Bay-The Austin Wranglers defense played well to start Sunday's game in Tampa, but couldn't keep up with red hot QB Shane Stafford, in a 62-45 loss to the Tampa Bay Storm. Wranglers QB, Bobby Pesavento was only able to complete one pass for 12 yards before he left the game early in the first quarter with a knee injury. He was replaced by team newcomer, John Fitzgerald, who had an impressive day throwing for 234 yards and six touchdowns. Four of Fitzgerald's six touchdowns were caught by WR/DB Kevin Nickerson, who ended the game with five catches for 104 yards. Stafford, last week's "AFL Player of the Week", completed 20-of-30 passes for 278 yards, threw seven TD passes, and had one rushing touchdown on the day. Four of Stafford's seven touchdown passes ended up in the hands of Clif Dell, who was replacing an injured Freddie Solomon at the offensive specialist position. Despite a strong start, the Wranglers fell behind 21-14 at halftime and were unable to overcome a third quarter deficit.
4/17/05 - Tampa Bay 54, AUSTIN 42
The Wranglers looked to rack up a Week 12 win as they hosted the Tampa Bay Storm on Sunday. They lost to the Storm earlier this season and hoped to get a division win in their second meeting. QB John Fitzgerald went 17-for-32 for 216 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Tampa's QB, Shane Stafford, went 25-for-41 for 207 yards and five touchdowns. Tampa Bay's Lawrence Samuels received Offensive Player of the Game honors, Jonathan Ordway was ADT Defensive Player of the Game and Lynarios Elpheage was selected as U.S. Army Ironman of the Game. The Storm controlled the ball in the second half allowing the Wranglers offense only 8:24 to work in the second half and managed to capitalize on Wranglers special teams errors to give them the win.
THEY GO WAY BACK...
Two current Austin Wranglers have spent time with the Tampa Bay Storm. OL/DL Eric Thomas played for the Storm in 2002-03, while WR/LB Sir Mawn Wilson played in 2001-02. Thomas was a member of the Storm ArenaBowl Championship team in 2003.
TAMPA BAY PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB SHANE STAFFORD - Now in his fifth season in the AFL, the Storm quarterback continues to make a name for himself as one of the League's most prolific passers. After having the most productive season of his career in 2005, Stafford is off to another great start in 2006. Four games into the season, he leads the league in passing yards (1,296) and completions (111). Last week in the Storm's 67-64 overtime loss to the Predators, Stafford threw for an astounding 458 yards and eight touchdowns, completing 36 of his 52 pass attempts.
WR/LB LAWRENCE SAMUELS - Coming off second-team All-Arena honors for the second consecutive year, Samuels is showing he still has gas in the tank after 12 seasons in the AFL. After four games, Samuels is second only to Utah's Siaha Burley with 481 receiving yards. Against Orlando, Samuels led all receivers with 182 yards and three touchdowns. He is now 13 yards from tying the Storm's all-time reception yards record by Stevie Thomas. Defensively, Samuels broke the all-time Storm mark for tackles previously held by Tracey Perkins. Samuels has made 352.5 tackles in his Storm career.
DS JONATHAN ORDWAY - Tampa's defensive specialist and team leader in tackles has 23.5 on the year, which places him 16th in the League. Ordway had nine solo tackles against Orlando last week. As the season progresses, look for his numbers and his ranking to keep climbing. Ordway also ranks fourth among return men with 404 yards on a League-high 23 returns.
WR/DB BOBBY SIPPIO - Living up to his reputation as a popular free agent in the off-season, Sippio had 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns against Orlando. In four games, he has 26 receptions for 331 yards and six touchdowns, second on the team in every category. The Kissimmee, Fla., native uses his 6-foot-3 frame to make life easy for his quarterback and miserable for opposing signal callers. On the season, Sippio has made 5.5 tackles in the secondary.
Marcum is the winningest head coach in AFL history. In his 18th season as an AFL coach, Marcum has won seven ArenaBowl championships and has coached in ten of the League's 17 ArenaBowls.
Marcum is the only coach in Arena Football history to lead three different teams to championships (Denver, Detroit, and Tampa Bay), and is the AFL career coaching leader in victories, winning percentage, games coached, and postseason victories. A two-time recipient of the AFL Coach of the Year Award, Marcum was the first coach in AFL history to win more than 100 games and has missed out in playing for the championship only five times in his career. Marcum's AFL clubs have advanced to the postseason in every season. The first coach in pro football history to be elected to any professional Hall of Fame while still an active coach, Marcum began his Arena Football career in 1987 as head coach of the champion Denver Dynamite during the League's inaugural season.
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):
-Mason was the first player in AFL history to reach over 700 tackles
Pass Breakups: 115
AFL Career Highs (Season):
-Set AFL record for most tackles in a single-season
Pass Breakups: 34
-Led the AFL in 2005 in both categories
AFL 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)
Last season, Mason became the first player ever to play in 17 games in two consecutive seasons.
2004: Carolina Cobras/Orlando Predators
2005: 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: Named the Defensive Player of the Game for the second straight week with six tackles and two pass breakups.
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.
INSTANT AFL IMPACT: 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.
2006: 10 tackles total including one forced fumble thus far. Against Dallas, had a game-high six tackles, which led all Wranglers.
In four games, the Wranglers defense has emerged as one of the strongest in the AFL. The secondary has five interceptions, all by Damon Mason. The Wranglers line has five sacks this season, including two sacks against Dallas. These sacks by Tom Briggs and Dane Krager were the first the Desperados have allowed all season.
Currently, the Wranglers rank number one in touchdown scoring percentage on defense, only allowing 21 touchdowns off 49 possessions.
Wranglers starting quarterback John Fitzgerald emerged last season as one of the League's most underrated QB's. Thus far in 2006, Fitzgerald is 82-of-135 for 551 yards and seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. He has also added four rushing touchdowns with 14 carries for 30 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 rookie season in the AFL, Lewis has come on strong, as he was the Wranglers leading receiver in a week four win against Dallas. He had eight receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns, including one 28 yard catch. Lewis currently leads the team with 26 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked 19th in the AFL.
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 in 2005, 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.
Now back in his second season, Nickerson is second on the team with 21 receptions for 173 yards and three touchdowns. He also has three rushing touchdowns, including two against Dallas.
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 62 yards rushing on 20 attempts with four touchdowns in 2006.
WR/LB SIR MAWN WILSON
Playing in his first game for the Wranglers in week four, Wilson is playing in his 7th AFL season. He spent 2006 training camp with the Columbus Destroyers, before being picked up by the Wranglers. In his debut performance with his new team, Wilson had one reception for nine yards and one touchdown.
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.
Robinson does it all... rushing, receiving, passing, tackling and kick returns...
6,104 - total yards on his career from kick returns
3,659 - total receiving yards on his career
123 - total tackles on his career
73 - total rushing yards over career, which was is good for 19 touchdowns
70 - games Robinson has played in
57 - receiving touchdowns on his career
45 - longest career reception
6 - in his sixth AFL season
4 - fourth team in five years that Robinson has suited up with
1 - rushing touchdowns he scored with Wranglers in game one vs. Las Vegas.
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, he has tallied seven receptions for 52 yards. He also has 14 tackles, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles.
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)
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),
Austin Wranglers vs. Georgia Force (4/11/04), 42-26 (16)
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