Austin Wranglers game notes
Tampa Bay Storm (6-5) at
Austin Wranglers (7-4)
Date: Saturday, April 15, 2006
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. (CST)
Site: Frank Erwin Center (14,866)
Officials: Referee: Bill LeMonnier; Umpire: Mike Delaney; Head Linesman: Allen Baynes; Line Judge: Dana McKenzie; Back Judge: Billy Beckett
Series Record: Tampa holds series lead 4-1
Coaches (Records Reflect Regular Season with Current Team):
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (21-22)
Tim Marcum, TBS - 12th season (127-62) - 18th overall (182-74 including playoffs)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Erin Hogan (Play-by-Play), Bucky Godbolt (Analyst) and Kevin Dunn (Sideline) *LIVE*
Web: AFL Net and austinwranglers.com
ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE CELEBRATES 20 SEASONS
The Arena Football League and MSL Sports have partnered to present the inaugural AFL National Combine at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 10 as part of ArenaBowl XX Weekend. The AFL National Combine will present a platform for prospective AFL players on a national scale for the first time. Although many AFL teams host both open and closed tryouts throughout the year, there has never been a national tryout with player personnel representatives present from every team. 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
After a tough loss at home to the Georgia Force, the Wranglers hope to bounce back this week against another Southern Division foe, the Tampa Bay Storm. Led by the AFL's winningest coach in Tim Marcum, the Storm suffered a defeat last weekend when they hosted the San Jose SaberCats. After losing 52-43 and giving up six rushing touchdowns, look for some defensive changes this week when Austin hosts Tampa Bay.
FORCE DOWN WRANGLERS, 61-29
A slow start doomed the Austin Wranglers against the Georgia Force on Sunday, as a shaky offensive performance and special teams mistakes led to a 25-point halftime deficit and a 61-29 loss in front of 11,464 fans at the Frank Erwin Center. WR/LB Greg Brown led the team with 8.5 tackles and caught a touchdown from fellow Longhorn Chance Mock in the fourth quarter. Texas-Ex Aaron Humphrey also contributed two tackles, one tackle for a loss of eight yards, three quarterback hits and a fumble recovery. Jackson led the Force with 12 catches for 117 yards and a receiving touchdown. Jackson was named ADT Offensive Player of the Game for his performance. Georgia quarterback Matt Nagy benefited from Jackson's exploits, completing 23-of-30 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns for Georgia (7-4). Derek Lee used his 6-foot-5 inch frame to pull down six catches for 104 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown, earning Ironman honors. Austin quarterback John Fitzgerald completed 21-of-33 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns for the Wranglers (7-4). One of Fitz's two INTs was returned 35 yards for a touchdown by Georgia WR/LB Jamin Elliott, who was named Defensive Player of the Game. Austin OS Derrick Lewis had 10 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns for the Wranglers.
SERIES HISTORY - TAMPA BAY HAS DOMINATED, 4-1
The Wranglers have struggled in this Southern Division matchup over the past two seasons, dropping four consecutive games to the Storm. The last meeting was earlier this season in Tampa Bay, when four second-half turnovers cost the Wranglers their lead and the ballgame, losing 58-48.
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 11 TOP PERFORMANCES
Here's a look at the best performances of week 11:
Robinson: Had four receptions for 32 yards, along with seven kick returns for 108 yards.
Nickerson: Tallied six receptions for 41 yards and added two tackles on defense.
Lewis: Scored two touchdowns off eight catches for 147 yards and ranks fourth in the AFL in receiving yards.
Humphrey: Made two tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits.
Brown: Made 8.5 tackles, including two for losses, and caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from former Longhorn teammate Chance Mock.
Mock: Threw his first AFL touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and completed three-of-five passes for 31 yards.
AFL THIRD YEAR HEAD COACHES
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*
AUSTIN IS IN A THREE-WAY TIE FOR FIRST
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
129 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
1,569 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
63 games played
13,263 yards passing
217 passing touchdowns
1,137 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
399.5 total tackles
82 pass breakups
OL/DL AARON HUMPHREY
9.0 total sacks
9.5 total tackles for loss
8 forced fumbles
59.0 total tackles
FB/LB DANE KRAGER
15 rushing touchdowns
342 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
33 receiving touchdowns
1,645 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
791.5 total tackles
129 games played
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
60 receiving touchdowns
3,819 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 7-4 start in 2006, adding eight rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - 3.5 sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 131 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 - 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 - three-time 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 - threw first AFL TD in week 11
#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:
TAMPA BAY vs. AUSTIN
2/25/06 - TAMPA BAY 58, Austin 48
Turnovers proved to be the story of the game for the Wranglers as they fell to the Tampa Bay Storm 58-48. The loss is the first on the season for the Wranglers and came on the fourth game of a five-game road trip. The Wranglers had a one-point lead heading into halftime, but the second half proved to be the team's downfall. During the course of the second half, the Wranglers turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions, resulting in 21 Storm points. This deficit proved to be too much for Austin to overcome, and the Wranglers winning streak was halted at four games. The loss came despite a career-best 131 yards receiving from offensive specialist Derrick Lewis and a Wranglers franchise-high 169 yards off six kickoff returns by Sedrick Robinson.
THE LAST TIME IN AUSTIN:
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. After 11 games, he leads the League in passing yards (3,345) and completions (276). Last week in the Storm's 52-43 loss to the SaberCats, Stafford completed 23-of-39 passes for 252 yards and six touchdowns, but was intercepted twice.
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 11 games, Samuels is 10th in the AFL with 944 receiving yards. Against San Jose, Samuels had six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Earlier this season, he broke the all-time receiving yards record held by Stevie Thomas. Defensively, Samuels broke the all-time Storm mark for tackles previously held by Tracey Perkins.
DS JONATHAN ORDWAY - Tampa's defensive specialist and team leader in tackles has 73 on the year, which places him fifth in the League. Ordway had 9.5 tackles and four pass breakups against San Jose last week. As the season progresses, look for his numbers and his ranking to keep climbing. Ordway also ranks third with 19 pass breakups this season.
OS FREDDIE SOLOMON - One of the leading receivers in franchise history, Solomon ranks second on the 2006 Storm with 894 receiving yards. The four-year veteran from South Carolina State also has 16 touchdowns. Prior to his time with the Storm, Solomon played four seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles (1995-98). He was also the third selection of the Cleveland Browns in the 1999 Expansion Draft. In 43 career NFL games, Solomon made 58 catches for 773 yards and four touchdowns.
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.
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: 39.5 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 11 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 nine sacks this season, including one against the Tampa Bay Storm by Aaron Humphrey. Against Philadelphia, the Wranglers defense forced two field goal attempts and made a goal line stand to cement the win for Austin.
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 235-of-363. 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 86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked seventh 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 70 catches for 660 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 seven 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.
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. While playing 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...
6,866 - total yards on his career from kick returns
3,819 - total receiving yards on his career
130.5 - total tackles on his career
77 - total rushing yards over career, which is good for 20 touchdowns
77 - 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 15 receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also has 44 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...
AROUND THE LEAGUE
With the tremendous improvement on the field, the Wranglers have moved their way up the AFL standings in 2006.
FOURTH DOWN EFFICIENCY: In fourth down situations, the Wranglers convert at a 75.0. percent clip, with 15-of-20 conversions.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: Austin has 28 rushing touchdowns, four more than any other AFL team.
SACKS PER PASS PLAY: The Wranglers line has done a great job protecting Fitzgerald. They have allowed just two sacks through 11 games.
RUSHING YARDS IN AFL: Dane Krager is second in the AFL with 131 rushing yards this season.
KICKOFF RETURN DEFENSE: The Wranglers allow opponents a mere 15.2 yards per kickoff return.
KICK RETURNER: WR/DB Sedrick Robinson is third in the League, averaging 21.4 yards per kick return.
RUSHING YARDS PER GAME: The Wranglers average 30.8 yards on the ground.
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE: Austin averages 19.4 yards per return.
WEEK TWELVE AFL SCHEDULE
(all times Central)
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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