Austin Wranglers game notes
Georgia Force (6-4) at
Austin Wranglers (7-3)
Date: Sunday, April 9, 2006
Kickoff: 3:00 p.m. (CST)
Site: Frank Erwin Center (14,866)
Officials: Referee: Riley Johnson; Umpire: Rick Podraza; Head Linesman: Julian Mapp; Line Judge: Paul Engelberts; Back Judge: Bud McCleskey
Series Record: Georgia holds series lead 3-2
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (21-21)
Doug Plank, GF - 2nd season (18-10)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Erin Hogan (Play-by-Play), Bucky Godbolt (Analyst) and Kevin Dunn (Sideline) JIP at 3:15 p.m.
Web: AFL Net and austinwranglers.com
ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE CELEBRATES 20 SEASONS
In April of 1999, the AFL unveils its Mission Statement and Fans' Bill of Rights, a first among professional sports leagues. The fan-friendly AFL has prospered over the last 15 years, while other pro football leagues have failed. The AFL remains the best entertainment value in pro sports, providing an exciting, original concept at a fair price. 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 home from Philly with another win, which moves the Wranglers road record to 5-1 on the season, Austin looks to protect their home turf this weekend when they host the Georgia Force. Through ten weeks of the 2006 season, the Wranglers still lead the Southern Division with three teams in a tie for second place.
WRANGLERS LEAVE SOUL SINGING THE BLUES, WIN 43-38
The City of Brotherly Love was generous to the Austin Wranglers in their first trip to Philadelphia as they topped the Soul 43-38 at the Wachovia Center. QB John Fitzgerald completed 23-of-38 passes for 296 yards and six touchdowns, his most passing yards all season. Fitzgerald found a wide-open Sedrick Robinson in the Soul end zone to ignite the Wranglers passing attack on the 23-yard touchdown pass to end the first quarter. He went on to score another touchdown to finish the game with five receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Performing well on special teams, Robinson returned four kicks for 91 yards, earning him the Ironman of the Game honor. Against the Soul, the obvious difference maker tonight was offensive specialist Derrick Lewis who had his most dominating performance of his short AFL career. Lewis tallied 150 yards receiving on eight catches with four receiving touchdowns, to lead all receivers. With touchdowns of 15, 17, 30 and 49 yards, Lewis earned his first Offensive Player of the Game honor. In the second half, the Soul were held to just 17 total points, with the Wranglers scoring 30. Leading the defense was defensive specialist Donvetis Franklin who posted eight tackles and one pass breakup. During the course of the game, Franklin also grabbed two Graziani passes for interceptions, but due to penalty flags, they were overturned. After two botched snaps, the Wranglers were successful on a Todd Sievers kick from 54 yards out, his longest of the season.
SERIES HISTORY - GEORGIA LEADS 3-2
In a game that came down to the final minute, the Wranglers beat the Force in Georgia on March 4th thanks to an acrobatic Torrance Marshall pass breakup. The Force will be out for revenge in Austin, as the Force won the last meeting at the Frank Erwin Center, 66-63.
WRANGLERS THROUGH MID-SEASON
The Wranglers are starting to earn some respect around the AFL as they earned three Mid-Season awards along with having three players selected to the All-AFL team through the mid-year.
Defensive Player of the Midseason: DS Damon Mason
Rookie of the Midseason: OS Derrick Lewis
Most Surprising Team: Austin Wranglers
Mid-Season All-AFL Team
Defensive Specialist-Damon Mason
Kick Return Specialist-Sedrick Robinson
The Mid-Season awards were dominated by the state of Texas as half of the players selected were from the Dallas Desperados and Austin Wranglers.
Also, the Wranglers and the Desperados combined for seven of the eight awards given to teams through the mid-season.
Peter Schwartz, a columnist for arenafootball.com, selected Wranglers Head Coach Skip Foster as the Mid-Season Coach of the Year.
WEEK TEN TOP PERFORMANCES
Here's a look at the best performances of week 10:
Robinson: Had five receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns, along with four kick returns for 91 yards.
Nickerson: Tallied eight receptions for 56 yards and added 2.5 tackles on defense.
Lewis: Scored four touchdowns off eight catches for 150 yards and was named Offensive Player of the Game.
Harper: Made 4.5 tackles and had a pass breakup.
Franklin: Had seven tackles and a pass breakup and was named Defensive Player of the Game.
Fitzgerald: Completed 23-of-38 passes for 296 yards and six touchdowns and was named Offensive Player of the Game.
COACHES BEGINNING THIRD SEASON
WITH SAME TEAM
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 teams currently lead their respective divisions*
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
62 games played
13,045 yards passing
215 passing touchdowns
1,116 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
393.5 total tackles
82 pass breakups
OL/DL AARON HUMPHREY
8.0 total sacks
8.5 total tackles for loss
8 forced fumbles
57.0 total tackles
FB/LB DANE KRAGER
15 rushing touchdowns
342 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
33 receiving touchdowns
1,604 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
785.5 total tackles
128 games played
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
60 receiving touchdowns
3,787 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 7-3 start in 2006, adding eight rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - 2.5 sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 131 yards and ranks 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 - 9/18 in field goals, 58/66 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 in Week 8
#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
#96 Bernard Holsey, OL/DL - NFL veteran who played with the Desperados in 2002
THE LAST TIMES:
GEORGIA vs. AUSTIN
3/4/06 - Austin 53, GEORGIA 52
The Wranglers battled back from a two touchdown deficit to beat the Georgia Force, 53-52. Austin moves to 5-1 on the season, with a 4-1 road record. The Wranglers' most important defensive stop came when Wranglers fullback/linebacker Torrance Marshall broke-up a Matt Nagy pass intended for Derek Lee in the end zone, preventing Georgia from scoring in the final minute of play. The Wranglers got the ball back on downs and managed to run out the clock using a pass play to Derrick Lewis and two running plays with Kevin Nickerson and Dane Krager. The Wranglers used some trickery on fourth and goal to take the final lead of the game as Fitzgerald faked a handoff to Sir Mawn Wilson and took the ball in himself for the two-yard touchdown run. Sedrick Robinson continued his success on kick returns. The Georgia native had five returns for 133 yards, including a 57-yard kickoff return touchdown. Robinson also recovered a blocked field goal and returned it 10 yards for his second touchdown of the game.
THE LAST TIME IN AUSTIN... 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.
GEORGIA - PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB MATT NAGY
Nagy, now playing in his fifth AFL season, has developed into one of the League's premier 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 6-4 record through the first 10 weeks of the season. He has 50 touchdowns and only six interceptions so far. Last week, Nagy and the Force offense outlasted the Kansas City Brigade 55-47.
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. After being hampered by injuries earlier in the year, Jackson has 52 catches for 653 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has also scored twice on the ground and twice on kick returns. Last week against Kansas City, Jackson caught nine passes for 126 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score.
WR/DB DEREK LEE
Lee, a second-year WR/DB, has emerged this season as the Force's leading receiver and ranks fifth among all receivers with 829 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. Lee has 78 catches and 16 touchdowns in 2006.
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 leads the AFL in tackles (73) and tops the Force secondary in interceptions (4). The Georgia native was a two-year starter at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Brown hasn't made an interception since week four, but in that game, he made three picks and returned two for touchdowns.
Doug Plank enters his second season as head coach of the Georgia Force in 2006. In his first season as an AFL head coach,he led the Force on a magical ride to ArenaBowl XIX. Plank was voted 2005 AFL Coach of the Year after leading 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 and secured the Force's first Southern Division Championship and the number one seed in the playoffs. The Force went on to win the National Conference Championship game by defeating the Orlando Predators. The victory secured the Force's place in ArenaBowl XIX. Plank has coached in four straight ArenaBowls. He helped lead the Arizona Rattlers to three previous ArenaBowls as their defensive coordinator. In his final season with the Rattlers, the team earned the top seed in the AFL playoffs. Plank was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 12th round of the 1975 NFL Draft.
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, four, nine and 10. Leads Wranglers in pass breakups with 14. Returned a fumble for a touchdown against Orlando in week nine.
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: 34 tackles, including two fumble recoveries and two pass breakups thus far. Against Dallas, had a game-high six tackles, which led all Wranglers. Had 5.5 tackles and forced a fumble against Orlando.
In 10 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 eight sacks this season, including one against the Orlando Predators by Aaron Humphrey. Against the Soul, the Wranglers defense forced two field goal attempts and made a goal line stand to cement the win for the Wranglers.
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 breakups.
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: 120
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.
Wranglers starting quarterback John Fitzgerald emerged last season as one of the League's most underrated QBs. Thus far in 2006, Fitzgerald is 214-of-330. He has also added eight rushing touchdowns with 20 carries for 40 yards.
As the Wranglers undisputed 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 one of Fitzgerald's favorite targets Lewis currently leads the team with 76 receptions for 945 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked eighth in the AFL in receptions and fourth 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 64 catches for 619 yards and 11 touchdowns, including four against New York. He also has six rushing touchdowns. Nickerson led the team in receptions and yards in week seven and has scored 11 touchdowns in his last six 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 131 yards rushing on 39 attempts with six touchdowns in 2006.
WR/LB SIR MAWN WILSON
Wilson is playing in his 7th AFL season and has played in six 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. He had four catches for 29 yards against Kansas City.
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. While playing with Wranglers DS Donvetis Franklin last season in Columbus, these two split the special teams duties there.
SED STEPS INTO GEAR
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...
6,758 - total yards on his career from kick returns
3,787 - total receiving yards on his career
129.5 - total tackles on his career
77 - total rushing yards over career, which is good for 20 touchdowns
76 - games Robinson has played in
60 - 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 - receiving touchdowns in last week's Wrangler road victory over the Philadelphia Soul
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 14 receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He also has 35.5 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, the 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 have allowed just one sack through 10 games.
FOURTH DOWN EFFICIENCY: In fourth down situations, the Wranglers convert at a 75.0. percent clip, with 15-of-20 conversions.
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE: Austin averages 20.3 yards per return.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: Austin has 27 rushing touchdowns, five more than any other AFL team.
KICKOFF RETURN DEFENSE: The Wranglers allow opponents a mere 15.3 yards per kickoff return.
RUSHING YARDS IN AFL: Dane Krager is second in the AFL with 131 rushing yards this season.
POINTS PER GAME: Austin's defense has given up 453 points in ten games, only 45.3 per game.
DEFENSE TOTAL TOUCHDOWNS PER GAME: The Wranglers only allow 6.100 TDs and 61 this season.
THIRD DOWN PASSING: QB John Fitzgerald has a 103.0 passer rating on third down.
RUSHING YARDS PER GAME: The Wranglers average 31.9 yards on the ground.
Although the Wranglers will not be televised this weekend, you can check them out via your computer using AFL Net or by logging on to austinwranglers.com.
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