Austin Wranglers game notes
Austin Wranglers (4-1) at Georgia Force (3-2)
Date: Saturday, March 4, 2006
Kickoff: 11:00 a.m. (CST)
Site: Philips Arena (18,200)
Officials: Referee: Perry Havener; Umpire: Tom Laverty; Head Linesman: Rusty Baynes; Line Judge: David Meslow; Back Judge: Barry Anderson; Supervisor: Ed Manning
Series Record: Georgia holds the series lead 3-1, as they have won the last three games
Coaches (record reflects regular season and playoffs):
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (18-19)
Doug Plank, GF - 2nd season (16-8)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Kent Koen and Glyn Milburn (LIVE)
ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE CELEBRATES 20 SEASONS
The 20 Greatest Games in AFL history, as chosen by the 20th Season Historical Committee, were revealed last week and ArenaBowl X, a 42-38 victory by the Tampa Bay Storm over the Iowa Barnstormers, was voted as the greatest 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
For the final game of the five game road swing, the Wranglers travel to Atlanta to play the Georgia Force. Losing last week to the Tampa Bay Storm, the Wranglers look to stay at the top of the Southern Division ranks with a win against the Force. Georgia has already lost two games this season including a loss to the Storm. The Force dominated their opponent in week five, the Kansas City Brigade, winning easily 51-19.Note: The best road teams in 2005 were Dallas, Colorado, Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas - all 4-4 on road last year. The Wranglers are off to a 3-1 start on the road.
WRANGLERS FALL TO STORM, 58-48
Despite having a one-point lead at halftime, the Austin Wranglers struggled in the second half, losing to the Tampa Bay Storm, 58-48. With four costly turnovers, including three John Fitzgerald interceptions, the Wranglers were unable to overcome their own mistakes. The Wranglers and Storm traded scores throughout the first half and took the lead off a Fitzgerald to Sir Mawn Wilson nine-yard touchdown connection. The Storm with less than a minute left in the first half to get within one. The Storm clearly dominated the second half, as the Wranglers first two possessions ended in turnovers. Notably, the Wranglers out-rushed the Storm 35-13, but the Storm out-passed the Wranglers 415-215. The marked the Wranglers first loss in 2006, while it started a new home win streak for the Storm. Tampa Bay will travel to Austin on April 15 for the rematch between these two divisional rivals.
SERIES HISTORY-GEORGIA HAS WON THREE STRAIGHT (3-1)
The last two meetings between these Southern Division opponents were decided by three points in each game. The last meeting came down to the wire as the Wranglers scored and came within three points thanks to a Darrin Chiaverini two-point conversion. Austin kicker Todd Sievers onside kick attempt failed and left the Wranglers hanging as they lost 56-53. The Wranglers won the first ever meeting between these two teams, which occurred in 2004. The Wranglers won by 16 points in Austin with a final score of 42-26.
Despite the fifth game loss, several of the Wranglers returning from last year's squad had good performances like WR/DB Kevin Nickerson, QB John Fitzgerald, OL/DL Ramon Richardson, FB/LB Dane Krager and FB/LB Henry Bryant.
RETURNING PLAYERS...BRIGHT SPOTS!
Nickerson: He had four receptions for 55 yards and two touchdowns, including one TD for 20 yards. He also ran in on a four-yard touchdown. Defensively he added one tackle and a pass breakup.
Fitzgerald: In the first half, Fitzgerald was 10-of- 14 with four touchdown passes. Struggling however in the second half, he finished the night 19-of-35 with three interceptions.
Richardson: He recorded his second career sack for a nine-yard loss and two tackles defensively. He also added a five-yard touchdown reception.
Krager: Had a spectacular 16-yard touchdown run, as the barreled through several defenders. Also had two tackles on defense.
Bryant: Ran for 15 yards on four attempts, including one carry on fourth down to help the Wranglers convert.
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, WR/LB Sir Mawn Wilson and OS Derrick Lewis.
Mason: Led the Wranglers with 4.5 tackles and tallied one interception, his sixth of 2006.
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 THIRD YEAR HEAD COACHES
Wranglers 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:
(Arena Bowl XIX Champions)
*All three of these coaches have a 4-1 record in 2006 and lead their respective division*
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
191 total tackles
FB/LB HENRY BRYANT
9 rushing touchdowns
2 receiving touchdowns
108 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
1,569 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
57 games played
11,819 yards passing
194 passing touchdowns
1,003 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
367.0 total tackles
78 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
289 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
27 receiving touchdowns
1,213 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
757.0 total tackles
123 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...
The Wranglers are led by a strong core of 15 returning players from last year's team. To further bolster the roster, especially on defense, Austin actively pursued free agents and trades during the off-season and added 11 new players.
#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 in 2005
#11 Darrin Chiaverini, WR/LB - led the Wranglers in receptions in '05
#16 John Fitzgerald, QB - 6th season and has led team to 4-1 start in 2006, adding four rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - 1.5 sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 78 yards and ranks 3rd in '06
#53 Marcus McKenzie, OL/DL - veteran center
#28 Kevin Nickerson, WR/DB - led Wranglers in receiving yards in rookie season with 1,028
#91 Ramon Richardson, OL/DL - has two forced fumbles, a sack and a touchdown catch
#68 Angel Rubio, OL/DL - 0.5 sacks in three games
#3 Todd Sievers, K - 6/12 in field goals, 30/34 PAT
#56 Eric Thomas, OL/DL - starting center
#9 P.J. Winston, WR/DB - in his second Austin season
#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 six 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. GEORGIA
2/25/05 - Georgia 66, AUSTIN 63
Wranglers QB John Fitzgerald completed 22-34 passes for 300 yards and five touchdowns with one costly interception. The Georgia Force lost starting quarterback Jim Kubiak (10-12, 119 yards, 1 TD) after he went down with a left knee injury in the second quarter. Matt Nagy backed him up with a 257-yard performance on 19 completions of 25 attempts and one interception. The Wranglers made the first defensive stop of the game with less than seven minutes left in the game when WR/LB Ira Gooch intercepted a Nagy pass after it rebounded off the nets. Fitzgerald led the team on a quick 2-play drive capped off with WR/DB Charlie Davidson's first touchdown of the season. The Wranglers took the lead with 6:03 left to go in the game until Georgia came up with an interception on Austin's next drive and converted for a touchdown. Fitzgerald led the Wranglers down the field and Bryant rushed for his third touchdown of the game, tying the score at 63 with 11 seconds remaining. The Force ran two plays before Kicker Nelson Garner connected on a 49-yard field goal for the win.
4/8/05 - GEORGIA 56, Austin 53
For the second time this season, the Austin Wranglers fell to the Georgia Force by just three points. Force QB, Matt Nagy, led a quick offense attack and was nearly perfect on the night, going 24-of-28 for 245 yards and six touchdown passes. His main target on the night, OS Chris Jackson, was definitely the difference maker in the game. Jackson, acquired just two weeks ago, caught 13 passes for 133 yards. He scored twice by air, once on the ground and ran back a kickoff 57 yards for a score. The Wranglers snuck in an onside kick before halftime and recovered the ball but had the play called back due to an offside penalty. Georgia took advantage as Nagy hit Derek Lee for a score on the next play to go back up by four points, taking a 21-17 lead into the half. Down by 11 late in the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald took command of the Austin offense and quickly marched them into Georgia territory. He hit Ira Gooch for a 14-yard score to bring the Wranglers back within five. Chiaverini hauled in the two-point conversion attempt to reduce the deficit to three, but Sievers' onside kick attempt was recovered by Georgia with 20.9 seconds left.
GEORGIA PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB MATT NAGY
Nagy, now playing in his fifth AFL season, has developed into one of the League's premiere quarterbacks. After signing with the Force for the 2005 season, Nagy had a breakout year, recording career highs in completions (260), attempts (388), passing yards (3,003) and touchdowns (66). In 2006, Nagy has continued to play well as he has led the Force to a 3-2 record through the first five weeks of the season. Last week, Nagy and the Force offense dominated the Kansas City Brigade as he completed 19-of-30 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the 51-19 Force victory.
OS CHRIS JACKSON
The former Rookie of the year (2000) and Offensive Player of the Year (2003) has gained a League-wide reputation as a game-breaking receiver, but since being awarded Offensive Player of the Game honors after the Force home opener against Orlando, Jackson has not been as much of an explosive threat as expected. Currently, Jackson's 23 catches for 319 yards rank him 26th among all AFL receivers. Look for Jackson's offensive production to increase as the Force head into week six of the season.
WR/DB DEREK LEE
Lee, a second-year WR/DB, has emerged this season as the Force's leading receiver and ranks ninth among all receivers with 455 yards on the season. After becoming a member of the All-Rookie Team in 2005, Lee's game has continued to elevate, and he now appears to be one of the league's main attractions. Standing 6-foot-5, he is a major threat to any defense and should be the focus of any coach's game plan.
DS CHRIS BROWN
Learning the Arena game comes easier for some than others, and rookie defensive specialist Chris Brown picked up the game quicker than most. In his first season playing in the AFL, he has developed into a defensive juggernaut, not only leading the team in tackles (37) and interceptions (4), but also ranking second League-wide in tackles. For his performance last week against Kansas City, Brown earned the title of ADT Defensive Player of the Week. He has returned three of his interceptions for touchdowns, including a 49-yard return last week.
Doug Plank is in his second season as head coach of the Georgia Force in 2006. In his first season as an AFL head coach, Plank led the Force on a magical ride to ArenaBowl XIX. Plank was voted 2005 AFL Coach of the Year thanks to his unprecedented success. Plank led the Force to a League-best 11-5 regular season record and a 13-6 record overall. The 11-5 mark was the best record in franchise history (previous best 8-8 in 2003) and secured the Force's first Southern Division Championship and the top seed in the playoffs. Plank has coached in four consecutive ArenaBowls. Plank helped lead the Arizona Rattlers to the three previous ArenaBowls as their defensive coordinator. A former member of The Ohio State University football team, Plank played in three consecutive Rose Bowls.
He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 12th round of the 1975 NFL Entry Draft and started at safety for eight seasons. The "46 Defense" created by Buddy Ryan was named for Plank's jersey number.
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):
-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 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 in weeks three and four.
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 patrolling the secondary in the NFL. 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: 13 tackles total including one forced fumble thus far. Against Dallas, had a game-high six tackles, which led all Wranglers.
In five games, the Wranglers defense has emerged as one of the strongest in the AFL. The secondary has six interceptions, all by Damon Mason. The Wranglers line has six 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. Ramon Richardson added a sack against Tampa Bay, the second of his career.
Wranglers starting quarterback John Fitzgerald emerged last season as one of the League's most underrated QB's. Thus far in 2006, Fitzgerald is 101-of-171. 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 again in a week five loss against Tampa Bay. He had 11 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown, including one 26-yard catch. Lewis currently leads the team with 38 receptions for 483 yards and five touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked 7th 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 25 receptions for 228 yards and five touchdowns, including two against Tampa Bay. He also has four rushing touchdowns.
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 78 yards rushing on 21 attempts with five touchdowns in 2006.
WR/LB SIR MAWN WILSON
Wilson is playing in his 7th AFL season and has played in two games since joining the Wranglers. He spent 2006 training camp with the Columbus Destroyers, before being picked up by the Wranglers. In his debut performance with his new team against Dallas, Wilson had one reception for nine yards and one touchdown. Against Tampa Bay, he had two catches for 18 yards and a 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...
6,273 - total yards on his career from kick returns
3,659 - total receiving yards on his career
127 - total tackles on his career
73 - total rushing yards over career, which was is good for 19 touchdowns
71 - 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 touchdown 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 eight receptions for 58 yards. He also has 17.5 tackles, five 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)
WHERE THE WRANGLERS RANK...
With the tremendous improvement on the field, the Wranglers have moved their way up the AFL standings in 2006.
SACKS PER PASS PLAY: The Wranglers' line has done a great job protecting Fitzgerald as they haven't allowed a sack all season.
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE: Austin averages 22.0 yards per return.
THIRD DOWN DEFENSE: The Wranglers' defense has limited opponents to just 31.4 percent efficiency on third downs, with only 11-of-35 conversions.
FOURTH DOWN EFFICIENCY: In fourth down situations, the Wranglers convert at a 75 percent clip, with 6-of-8 conversions.
PENALTY YARDS PER GAME: Austin only racks up 33.8 penalty yards per game on offense.
KICKOFF RETURN DEFENSE: The Wranglers allow opponents a mere 13.8 yards on kickoff returns.
RUSHING DEFENSE PER GAME: The Austin defense only allows an average of 10.6 yards.
RUSHING YARDS PER GAME: Austin averages 32.8 yards per game on the ground.
POINTS PER GAME DIFFERENTIAL: The Wranglers are outscoring opponents by an average of 7.6 points per game.
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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