Austin Wranglers game notes
Orlando Predators (4-4) at
Austin Wranglers (6-2)
Date: Saturday, March 25, 2006
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. (CST)
Site: The Frank Erwin Center (14,866)
Officials: Referee: Dennis Lipski; Umpire: Rick Nelson; Head Linesman: Kavin McGrath; Line Judge: Darrel Leftwich; Back Judge: Rich Wilborn;
Series Record: Series record tied at 2-2 with both teams having split at 1-1 at the FEC
Coaches (record reflects regular season and playoffs):
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (20-20)
Jay Gruden, OP - 7th season (68-40)
TV: FSN Southwest with James Bates (Play-by-Play) and Jeff Power (Color)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Bucky Godbolt, Erin Hogan and Kevin Dunn (LIVE)
The 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 or on OLN.
All 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
This week in AFL history, rookie offensive specialist Tacoma Fontaine of the Austin Wranglers records 205 receiving yards (five TDs) against the Detroit Fury, the second-best mark for reception yards (single game) among expansion team records (individual). 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
Moving to 3-1 in the Southern Division after beating the Kansas City Brigade, the Austin Wranglers host the Orlando Predators on Saturday. They look to keep the momentum going at home. The Predators are the only Southern Division opponent that the Wranglers haven't played this season. Orlando lost in week eight to the Dallas Desperados 87-62.
AUSTIN DOMINATES AT HOME AGAINST KC, 64-37
No late-game heroics were necessary Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center as the Wranglers routed the Brigade 64-37 in the most lopsided victory in franchise history. Austin moves to 6-2 on the season, with a 3-1 Southern Division record. The Wranglers took a 14-point lead into halftime and never looked back. The two teams traded blows in a 24-point barrage in the final minute of the first half before Austin quarterback John Fitzgerald's 36-yard touchdown pass to OS Derrick Lewis with 12 seconds left which put the Wranglers up two scores heading into the break. Fitzgerald completed 25-of-35 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns, all to Lewis. Fitzgerald added two short touchdown runs to extend the lead after halftime en route to being named the Offensive Player of the Game. Wranglers DS Damon Mason picked off two Brigade passes and made 3.5 tackles to lead the Austin defensive effort. Mason earned Defensive Player of the Game honors for his performance. Mason has set a new season-high mark with eight interceptions so far this season. Brigade WR/LB James Jordan led the team with five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns. He also added three tackles on defense and received the game's Ironman award. Austin received the opening kickoff and marched down the field quickly, thanks to three Brigade penalties. Backup quarterback Chance Mock made his debut for the Wranglers at the one-minute mark and scored on a quarterback sneak on his only snap. The former University of Texas signal caller also scored on his first collegiate snap on a touchdown pass.
SERIES HISTORY - TIED AT 2-2
Orlando and Austin first met back in 2004, as the Predators were the first opponent of the then expansion Wranglers. Austin stole the first game in "The Jungle," but struggled last season in Orlando. At home, the Wranglers won the last meeting 56-42, behind the arm of quarterback John Fitzgerald who threw five touchdown passes for the Wranglers.
WRANGLERS ON FSN
In Wranglers team history, they have appeared on FSN a total of twelve times, with a 6-6 record overall. When playing at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, the Wranglers are 3-3. 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:
New York Dragons
at Dallas Desperados
at Arizona Rattlers
Las Vegas Gladiators
Los Angeles Avengers
New Orleans VooDoo
at Georgia Force
at Arizona Rattlers
at Columbus Destroyers
at New Orleans VooDoo
*In 2006, the Wranglers are 3-1 on FSN, 6-1 in games that are televised and 1-0 when playing in a game that is not televised.*
WEEK EIGHT TOP PERFORMANCES
Here's a look at the best performances of week eight:
Robinson: Had one reception for 12 yards, one rush for four yards and a touchdown and two kick returns for 25 yards.
Nickerson: Tallied eight receptions for 58 yards and added one rushing touchdown off three carries for six yards.
Lewis: Scored three first half touchdowns off seven catches for 76 yards.
Mason: Had his third multi-interception game with two interceptions against the Kansas City Brigade for 18 yards. Also had 3.5 tackles and 3 pass breakups.
Franklin: Added four tackles and one pass breakup on the day.
Marshall: Had 2.5 tackles and 0.5 sacks while running for seven yards on two carries.
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.
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
126 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
1,569 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
60 games played
12,528 yards passing
207 passing touchdowns
1,069 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
379.5 total tackles
81 pass breakups
OL/DL AARON HUMPHREY
7.0 total sacks
7.5 total tackles for loss
8 forced fumbles
53.5 total tackles
FB/LB DANE KRAGER
15 rushing touchdowns
329 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
33 receiving touchdowns
1,475 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
774 total tackles
126 games played
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
58 receiving touchdowns
3,706 receiving yards
20 rushing touchdowns
21 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 - 11th year, 41.0 career sacks
#37 Greg Brown, WR/DB - former UT Longhorn
#6 Brent Browner, DS - 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 6-2 start in 2006, adding eight rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - 1.5 sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 118 yards and ranks 2nd 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 two touchdown catches
#68 Angel Rubio, OL/DL - 23-yard reception vs. KC
#3 Todd Sievers, K - 7/15 in field goals, 50/58 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 - scored his first AFL touchdown and made a game-saving pass breakup against Georgia in week six
#2 Damon Mason, DS - leads the League with eight interceptions in 2006, leading tackler in AFL history
#5 Chance Mock, QB - scored 1st AFL TD last week
#25 Sedrick Robinson, WR/DB - veteran two-way player and kick return specialist
#8 Sir Mawn Wilson, WR/LB - 7th season and has Super Bowl ring with Denver Broncos
THE LAST TIME:
ORLANDO vs. AUSTIN
3/25/05 - ORLANDO 51, Austin 21
The Orlando Predators and QB Joe Hamilton outgunned the Austin Wranglers on Friday night, 51-21. Hamilton scorched the Wrangler defense, completing 22-of-26 passes for 236 yards and six touchdowns. Making a game-time decision, Wranglers Coach Skip Foster brought in Bobby Pesavento to start at Quarterback for the first time since being injured in Week 2 at Tampa Bay. Pesavento started for an injured John Fitzgerald, completing 18-of-31 passes for 181 yards and two scores. The Wranglers started the game off with a bang as OS Tacoma Fontaine ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. The return marked the first time that the Wranglers ran back a kick for a score in their two-year history. Hamilton continued his hot night with a 20-yard TD strike to Jimmy Fryzel on the Predators ensuing drive. The Wranglers managed a late score when Pesavento hit Gooch for a 12-yard TD to cut Orlando's lead to 44-21, but with time running out, the Preds clearly had the win insight. Predators backup QB, Chris Sanders, would come in to throw a late touchdown to Jimmy Fryzel as Orlando defeated the Austin Wranglers by a final score of 51-21.
5/7/05 - AUSTIN 56, Orlando 42
Although the Wranglers playoff hopes have been dashed, they were out for revenge as they finished their series with the Orlando Predators. Earlier in the season, the Predators defeated the Wranglers in Orlando, but Saturday, in their last home game of the season, the Wranglers evened the score with a win in Austin, 56-42. They did just that as John Fitzgerald went 19-for-32 for 236 yards and five touchdowns, while being named the Offensive Player of the Game. Dane Krager was named ADT Defensive Player of the Game, and Kevin Nickerson was named U.S. Army Ironman of the Game as the Wranglers defeated the Predators 56-42.
FRYZEL SIDELINED AFTER WEEK SIX
Jimmy Fryzel, who was the team's leading receiver through six weeks, has missed the past two games on the injured reserve list after the he was diagnosed with diabetes. The loss of Fryzel is just the latest in a series of injuries at WR. WR/LB Clif Dell is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL against Tampa Bay on Feb. 19, while DeAndrew Rubin, Jermaine Mays, Javarus Dudley, Lamont Moore and Lin-J Shell have missed a total of 12 games with various injuries.
ORLANDO - PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB JOE HAMILTON
The 1999 Heisman runner-up and former Georgia Tech star quarterback leads the Predators' passing attack. Hamilton completed 26-of-36 passes for 367 yards and seven touchdowns in a loss to Dallas last week. On the season, he has thrown for 2,006 yards and 34 touchdowns. Hamilton has struggled with taking care of the ball this year. Hamilton ranks second in the AFL with 12 interceptions after throwing only 11 all of last season.
WR/LB JAVARUS DUDLEY
The rookie had a career game for the Predators against the Desperados, catching 10 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. After a record-setting career at Fordham, Dudley impressed the Predators at their open tryouts in October. The wide receiver/linebacker has earned more playing team for his performance since making his AFL debut in Week 3.
WR-LB/DB JERRIAN JAMES
The former offensive specialist, who is in his second AFL season out of the University of Houston, has spent time at linebacker and corner because of injuries this season. He still leads the team with 540 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also is near the top of the Predators' defensive charts, with 31.5 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown.
DS JEROID JOHNSON
A defensive specialist in his seventh AFL season, Johnson leads the Predators with 47.5 tackles and four interceptions. He has 100 return yards off those picks, including two touchdowns against Arizona in Week 7. Johnson and the secondary will be motivated after giving up 11 passing touchdowns to Dallas' Clint Dolezel last week.
OS DEANDRE RUBIN
The South Florida product has made a splash in his rookie season, despite missing two games with an ankle injury. Rubin has 24 receptions for 338 yards and six touchdowns in six games. His best game came against Arizona when he pulled down eight passes for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In 15 AFL seasons, Jay Gruden has made 15 consecutive playoff trips, including seven times to the ArenaBowl and six titles. As a head coach, he is 69-40-0 and ranks in the top 10 overall in coaching wins and winning percentage. He is one of only five AFL coaches with two or more ArenaBowl championships. In the playoffs, his 11-4 mark as a head coach ranks in the top five all-time in victories and winning percentage. As a quarterback, he ranks in the top ten with more than 20,000 passing yards and close to 400 touchdowns. He won 15 of 19 post-season starts. Gruden was 84-25 (.770) as a starting quarterback. That mark, combined with his 10-5 record as Nashville's offensive coordinator and his 64-37 record as head coach, takes Gruden's all-time AFL record to 163-70 (.702). Gruden's success as a coach is not confined to Arena Football. For the past four seasons, he has served as an offensive assistant for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his brother Jon.
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.
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. Leads Wranglers in pass breakups with 13.
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: 24.0 tackles total including two fumble recoveries and one pass breakup thus far. Against Dallas, had a game-high six tackles, which led all Wranglers.
In eight games, the Wranglers defense has emerged as one of the strongest in the AFL. The defense has recorded nine interceptions with eight coming from Damon Mason and one from Sir Mawn Wilson. The Wranglers line has seven sacks this season, including one against the Kansas City Brigade shared by Torrance Marshall and Marcus McKenzie.
ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS:
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: 119
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.
OS DERRICK LEWIS
In his rookie season in the AFL, Lewis has come on strong, as he was one of Fitzgerald's favorite targets Lewis currently leads the team with 60 receptions for 707 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked 7th in the AFL in receptions and 9th in receiving yards.
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 48 for 490 yards and 11 touchdowns, including four against New York. He also has five rushing touchdowns. Nickerson led the team in receptions and yards in week seven and has scored 10 touchdowns in his last four games.
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 118 yards rushing on 33 attempts with six touchdowns in 2006.
WR/LB SIR MAWN WILSON
Wilson is playing in his 7th AFL season and has played in three 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. Wilson had two receptions for 20 yards against Georgia in week six. Wilson added two more receptions for 16 yards against New York. He had four catches for 29 yards against Kansas City.
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.
Here's a look at Robinson's career statistics and how he has built his reputation as being feared off the nets:
New Jersey Gladiators
Las Vegas Gladiators
Robinson does it all... rushing, receiving, passing, tackling and kick returns...
6,574 - total yards on his career from kick returns
3,706 - total receiving yards on his career
127.5 - total tackles on his career
77 - total rushing yards over career, which is good for 20 touchdowns
74 - games Robinson has played in
58 - 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
2 - rushing touchdowns at home this season, one against Las Vegas and Kansas City
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 the starter with Chiaverini injured. Thus far in 2006, he has tallied 11 receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns. He also has 27.5 tackles, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
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-124 yards (2006)
Darrin Chiaverini-41 yards (2005)
Kelvin Hunter-33 yards (2005)
In Wranglers team history, team's largest margin of victory is 27 points, set this season against Kansas City. The Wranglers broke their previous mark which they set in week two against Arizona with 19.
Most Decisive Wins:
Austin Wranglers vs. Kansas City Brigade (3/18/06), 64-37 (27)
Austin Wranglers at Arizona Rattlers (2/3/06), 53-34 (19)
Austin Wranglers vs. Las Vegas Gladiators (1/27/06),
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 21.3 yards per return.
FOURTH DOWN EFFICIENCY: In fourth down situations, the Wranglers convert at a 78.6 percent clip, with 11-of-14 conversions.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: Austin has 25 rushing touchdowns, seven more than any other AFL team.
KICKOFF RETURN DEFENSE: The Wranglers allow opponents a mere 15.1 yards per kickoff return.
RUSHING YARDS PER GAME: The Wranglers average 33.3 yards on the ground.
PENALTIES PER GAME: Austin has only committed 46 offensive penalties, 5.8 per game.
PENALTY YARDS PER GAME: Austin only tallies 34.4 penalty yards on offense.
POINTS PER GAME DIFFERENTIAL: The Wranglers are outscoring opponents by an average of 7.88 points.
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