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Austin Wranglers game notes

April 25, 2006 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Austin Wranglers News Release

QUICK FACTS
Columbus Destroyers (6-7) at
Austin Wranglers (8-5)
Date: Saturday, April 29, 2006
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. (CST)
Site: The Frank Erwin Center (14,866)
Officials: Referee: David Lambros; Umpire: Wes Fritz; Head Linesman: Neil Brunner; Line Judge: R.G. Detillier; Back Judge: Tony Lombardo

Series Record: Austin holds series lead 1-0

Coaches (Records Reflect Regular Season with Current Team):
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (22-23)
Doug Kay, CD - 1st (6-7)

Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Erin Hogan (Play-by-Play), Bucky Godbolt (Analyst) and Kevin Dunn (Sideline)
-Extended pre-game following UT Baseball
Web: AFL Net and austinwranglers.com

TUNE IN
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.

LISTEN UP
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.

MASON REACHES 800 CAREER TACKLES
Damon Mason became the first player in history to reach 800 career tackles. Needing just 3.5 entering Saturday's game, Mason reached the milestone late in the first half. He finished the game with six tackles to put his career total at 802.5. Mason, a nine-year veteran, was the first player to 700 tackles and led the last season with a League single-season high of 133.5.

THIS WEEK IN WRANGLERS FOOTBALL
After a short trip to California, the Wranglers return home for their final two home games of the regular season. This Saturday, the Wranglers host the Columbus Destroyers of the National Conference's Eastern Division. The Eastern Conference can help dictate the Wranglers playoff fate as the Wranglers will clinch a playoff berth if:
1. Austin win + Tampa Bay loss
2. Austin win + Philadelphia loss + Georgia loss

SABERCATS RALLY TO BEAT WRANGLERS, 63-59
Despite leading by 22 points at one point in the first half, the Wranglers were shocked by the SaberCats 63-59 in front of 12,214 at the HP Pavillion in <>. Fitzgerald was shaken up at the end of the first half and struggled for the remainder of the game, finishing 21-of-32 for 249 yards and four touchdowns with a lone interception. Taking the final lead of the game with 17 seconds remaining, San Jose QB Mark Grieb found an open WR/DB James Roe in the endzone for the five-yard score. With the SaberCats wisely finding the slack net for a touchback in the final seconds, the Wranglers were out of timeouts and the clock expired following a 30-yard reception by WR/DB Sedrick Robinson. In the loss, Robinson still managed two more kickoff returns for touchdowns, giving him five on the season and 23 in his six-year career. Both 54-yard returns helped propel Robinson to 224 total return yards, which is a 2006 season high in the . He was named the Ironman of the Game as he added three receptions for 52 yards and one touchdown on offense and two tackles on defense. He finished the game with a new Wranglers single-game high of 276 all-purpose yards. Special teams contributed to the Wranglers early dominance as SaberCats WR/DB Charles Pauley struggled with opening kick, as <> DS Damon Mason forced a fumble and DS Deveron Harper recovered. Three plays later, FB/LB Dane Krager barreled into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown. On the next two SaberCats series, the Wranglers defense applied heavy pressure to Grieb. FB/LB Henry Bryant took the Wranglers next possession in for a one-yard touchdown to extend the lead early. Both Bryant and Brown were not finished as the defense forced Grieb to throw an interception to Brown who was in the right place at the right time. Brown got involved offensively, catching a five-yard touchdown pass, his fourth of the year. For Brown's performance, he was named the Defensive Player of the Game, adding three tackles to his fumble recovery and interception, which was the first of his career.

SERIES HISTORY - AUSTIN HOLDS SERIES LEAD 1-0
The lone meeting between these two teams occurred last season when Wranglers kicker Todd Sievers kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired to secure the win for the Austin 58-55.

WEEK 13 TOP PERFORMANCES

Here's a look at the best Austin performances of week 13:

Robinson: Ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns and totaled 224 yards. Also caught three passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Nickerson: Tallied five receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown and added six tackles on defense.

Lewis: Scored a touchdown and made seven catches for 70 yards.
Bryant: Forced a fumble, made a sack and added a rushing touchdown.

Brown: Made three tackles, recovered a fumble and made an interception on defense. Also caught two passes for eight yards and a touchdown.

Mason: Had six tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Now has 802.5 career tackles.

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:

TEAM
COACH
RECORD
Austin
Skip Foster
22-23
Colorado
Mike Dailey
34-14
(Arena Bowl XIX Champions)
Dallas
Will McClay
25-19-1
*All three of these coaches' teams are currently in playoff contention*

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
CAREER
41.0 total sacks
191 total tackles
FB/LB HENRY BRYANT
CAREER
10 rushing touchdowns
2 receiving touchdowns
134 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
CAREER
170 receptions
1,569 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
CAREER
65 games played
13,795 yards passing
227 passing touchdowns
1,183 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
CAREER
312 total tackles
14 interceptions
82 pass breakups
OL/DL AARON HUMPHREY
CAREER
9.5 total sacks
10.0 total tackles for loss
8 forced fumbles
61.5 total tackles
FB/LB DANE KRAGER
CAREER
117 carries
16 rushing touchdowns
347 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
CAREER
37 receiving touchdowns
1,924 receiving yards
171 receptions
DS DAMON MASON
CAREER
802.5 total tackles
131 games played
37 interceptions
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
CAREER
61 receiving touchdowns
4,047 receiving yards
20 rushing touchdowns
23 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.

RETURNING 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 8-5 start in 2006, adding nine rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - four sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 136 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, 1.5 sacks and two touchdown catches
#68 Angel Rubio, OL/DL - 23-yard reception vs. KC
#3 Todd Sievers, K - 12/23 in field goals, 73/83 PAT
#56 Eric Thomas, OL/DL - starting center
#9 P.J. Winston, WR/DB - in his second Austin season

NEWCOMERS
#73 Donovan Arp, OL/DL - played in 11 games in 2005 for Philadelphia
#4 Donvetis Franklin, DS - four-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 - ranks 3rd in AFL with eight interceptions in 2006, leading tackler in League 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:
COLUMBUS vs. AUSTIN

4/30/05 - AUSTIN 58, Columbus 55
Todd Sievers kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired to give the Austin Wranglers a 58-55 victory over the Columbus Destroyers before a crowd of 14,064 at Nationwide Arena. With the win, Austin snapped a three-game losing streak and handed Columbus its 10th consecutive setback. Sievers' heroics offset a Columbus comeback that saw the Destroyers erase a 55-41 fourth quarter deficit. After Austin's Dane Krager scored on a one-yard run at the 6:34 mark, Columbus' Damien Groce returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown. Steve Videtich's extra point brought the Destroyers to within seven at 55-48. Austin quarterback John Fitzgerald was intercepted by Jeremy Unertl on the next drive, setting up Ryan Vena's five-yard touchdown pass to Cornelius White with just :39 remaining. Videtich's extra point tied the game at 55-55. Austin led 14-7 after the first quarter and built a 27-13 lead late in the second quarter when Fitzgerald hit Tacoma Fontaine from 23 yards out with :09 remaining in the first half. Columbus responded with a 36-yard strike from Vena to Groce on the game's next play to cut the lead to 27-20 at the half. The Destroyers took the ensuing kickoff, drove down the field and tied the game at 27-27 on an eight-yard run by Wilmont Perry. The teams traded touchdowns on the second half's first six possessions before Columbus turned the ball over on downs trailing 48-41, which set up Krager's second touchdown of the night. The Wrangler attack was led by Fitzgerald, who completed 28-of-37 passes for 288 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Darrin Chiaverini made a game-high 11 catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns, while Kevin Nickerson added eight catches for 75 yards and a pair scores. Krager carried the ball seven times for 19 yards and two touchdowns.

THEY GO WAY BACK...
Six players in Saturday's game have played for both Austin and Columbus. Wrangler players Donovan Arp, Donvetis Franklin, Sedrick Robinson and Marcus McKenzie all played for the Destroyers. Arp, Franklin and Robinson were there last season. Columbus' John Kaleo and Ira Gooch both played key roles for the Wranglers, with Kaleo starting at quarterback in 2004.

COLUMBUS - PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB JOHN KALEO - In his 13th AFL season, Kaleo is among the League leaders in career passing yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions. He is playing for his 10th team after taking snaps for the Wranglers, Tampa Bay Storm, Los Angeles Avengers, Anaheim Piranhas, New England Sea Wolves, San Jose SaberCats, St. Louis Stampede, Cleveland Thunderbolts and Albany Firebirds. Kaleo was the starting quarterback for the ArenaBowl XVII champion Storm and holds Tampa Bay single-season records in passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns.

WR/LB THABITI DAVIS - The four-year AFL veteran has spent time in the NFL as well, beginning with Carolina in 1998. He played in 13 regular season games and three postseason games with the Giants in 2000. Davis started in the AFL in 2003 with the Orlando Predators and was named to the AFL's all-rookie team. In 2004 with the Detroit Fury, he caught a career-best 127 passes, which ranks eighth all-time in AFL history.

WR/LB DAVID SAUNDERS - In his sixth AFL season out of West Virginia, Saunders has caught a touchdown in nine consecutive games for the Destroyers. He leads the team with 14 touchdowns and has 58 catches for 666 yards this season. This season Saunders was reunited with quarterback John Kaleo. The tandem teamed up to win an ArenaBowl title with the Tampa Bay Storm three years ago.

DS JERALD BROWN - The third-year defensive specialist was the AFL Defensive Player of the Month in March after grabbing four interceptions during a four-week stretch. Brown leads the League with 10 interceptions this season. He spent his rookie season with the New York Dragons in 2004. He had only two interceptions in two seasons with the Dragons.

WR/DB MARCUS KNIGHT - A second-year player out of Michigan, Knight leads the Destroyers with 64 catches for 677 yards. He won the national championship with the Wolverines in 1997. After spending time in the NFL and Europe, Knight played in 11 games last season with Philadelphia. He caught 64 passes for 886 yards and 23 touchdowns for the Soul.

HEAD COACHES

DOUG KAY
Columbus

Doug Kay was named head coach of the Columbus Destroyers on July 14, 2005. Kay becomes the third coach in Columbus Destroyers history and sixth in the Buffalo/Columbus franchise history. He has more than 40 years of football experience including 12 seasons in the Arena Football League. Overall Kay's teams have made the postseason in 10 of his 12 AFL seasons.

His AFL experience began in 1993 as defensive coordinator of the ArenaBowl VII champion Tampa Bay Storm. Four years later, Kay was once again defensive coordinator of a championship team, as the Arizona Rattlers captured ArenaBowl XI in 1997.

Kay will be guiding his third club in the AFL. He was head coach of the Charlotte Rage in 1995 and returned to Charlotte as the head coach of the Carolina Cobras in 2000 and 2001. Prior to the AFL, Kay spent four seasons in the United States Football League with Boston/New Orleans Breakers and Tampa Bay Bandits.

SKIP FOSTER
Austin

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.

GETTING DEFENSIVE

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 are giving the Wranglers in 2006.

MORE THAN THE HAIR:
DONVETIS FRANKLIN

Donvetis Franklin is easy to pick out on the field. Why? Because of the hair... Franklin's trademark dreadlocks set him apart from the rest. He cites his most embarrassing moment when he was on the field and some of his dreadlocks got ripped out in a play.
With his hair, he also brings intensity and ability to the Wranglers this season. He has his own style! Here is a look at how Franklin has made his way through the AFL ranks:

2006: Named the Defensive Player of the Game 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.

DEFENSIVE OUTBURSTS
In 13 games, the Wranglers defense has emerged as one of the strongest in the AFL. The defense has recorded 10 interceptions with eight coming from Damon Mason, one from Greg Brown and one from Sir Mawn Wilson. The Wranglers line has 12 sacks this season, including one against the San Jose SaberCats by Henry Bryant. Against Philadelphia, the Wranglers defense forced two field goal attempts and made a goal line stand to cement the victory for Austin.

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 Mason's only strength; he also set new career-highs in 2005 in pass breakups.

Here's a breakdown of Mason's career accomplishments:

AFL Career Highs (Career):
Tackles: 802.5
-Mason was the first player in AFL history to reach over 800 tackles
Interceptions: 37
Pass Breakups: 125

AFL Career Highs (Season):
Tackles: 133.5
-Set AFL record for most tackles in a single season
Interceptions: 8
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)

***DURABLE***
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.

FITZGERALD'S WEAPONS

Wranglers starting quarterback John Fitzgerald emerged last season as one of the League's most underrated QBs. Thus far in 2006, Fitzgerald is 281-of-425. He has also added nine rushing touchdowns with 21 carries for 42 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 is one of Fitzgerald's favorite targets. Lewis currently leads the team with 97 receptions for 1,196 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked fifth in the AFL in receiving yards and sixth in receptions.

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 88 catches for 939 yards and 15 touchdowns, including three against Tampa Bay. He also has six rushing touchdowns. Nickerson led the team in receptions and yards in week 12 with 13 catches for 184 yards and was named the Offensive Player of the Game.

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 136 yards rushing on 45 attempts with seven 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. At 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. Robinson played with Wranglers DS Donvetis Franklin last season in Columbus, and the duo 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...

7,253 - total yards on his career from kick returns
3,875 - total receiving yards on his career
136.5 - total tackles on his career
77 - total rushing yards over career, which is good for 20 touchdowns
79 - games Robinson has played in
61 - 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 - kick return touchdowns in last week's Wrangler game at San Jose

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 at Texas and in the NFL. Brown is the starter with Chiaverini injured. Thus far in 2006, he has tallied 21 receptions for 180 yards and four touchdowns. He also has 51 tackles, an interception and three fumble recoveries.

MORE MASON

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)

WRANGLERS WIN...BIG!

In Wrangler 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),
64-46 (18)
WHERE THE WRANGLERS RANK...
AROUND THE LEAGUE
With the tremendous improvement on the field, the Wranglers have moved their way up the AFL statistical rankings in 2006.

#1

FOURTH DOWN EFFICIENCY: In fourth down situations, the Wranglers convert at a 69.6 percent clip, with 16-of-23 conversions.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: Austin has 31 touchdowns on the ground, three more than any other team.
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE: Austin averages 20.4 yards per kickoff return.
KICK RETURNER: WR/DB Sedrick Robinson leads the League with five kick return touchdowns.

#2

SACKS PER PASS PLAY: The Wranglers line has done a great job protecting quarterback John Fitzgerald. They have allowed just two sacks through 13 games.

#3

RUSHING YARDS IN AFL: Dane Krager is third in the AFL with 136 rushing yards this season.
INTERCEPTIONS: DS Damon Mason ranks third in the AFL with eight interceptions. Mason's picks come in bunches, including a three-interception game against Arizona.

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