Austin Wranglers game notes
Grand Rapids Rampage (5-9) at
Austin Wranglers (8-6)
Date: Sunday, May 7, 2006
Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. (CST)
Site: The Frank Erwin Center (14,866)
Officials: Referee: Bill Athan; Umpire: Matt Jordan; Head Linesman: Tim Podraza; Line Judge: Art Lucky; Back Judge: Scott Helverson
Series Record: Austin holds series lead 2-0
Coaches (Records Reflect Regular Season with Current Team):
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (22-24)
Sparky McEwen, GRR - 2nd season (9-21)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Erin Hogan (Play-by-Play), Bucky Godbolt (Analyst) and Kevin Dunn (Sideline)
Web: AFL Net and austinwranglers.com
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.
IT'S PRIME TIME IN AUSTIN
On Wednesday, April 26, the Wranglers announced that former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders has joined the team's ownership group. Last Saturday night, Sanders was introduced to Wrangler fans prior to the game. With Sanders at the game were Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, Hall of Fame basketball player Nancy Lieberman and former Dallas Cowboy Nate Newton. Sanders plans on attending Sunday's game against the Grand Rapids Rampage.
THIS WEEK IN WRANGLERS FOOTBALL
The Wranglers look toward Sunday's match-up against the Grand Rapids Rampage that has immense playoff implications. Austin could clinch a playoff berth with the following: Austin Win + Either of these three teams losing (Georgia, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay)
*Grand Rapids at Austin is the only Sunday game, which means both teams will know their playoff chances prior to kickoff*
WRANGLERS LOSE HEARTBREAKER TO DESTROYERS, 40-33
For the second consecutive home game, <
SERIES HISTORY - AUSTIN HOLDS SERIES LEAD 2-0
Sunday marks the first trip to Austin for the Rampage as the two previous meetings took place in Grand Rapids. Last season, both teams were winless until the Wranglers came from behind to win 73-61, despite eight touchdown passes from Rampage QB Michael Bishop. The Wranglers recovered two onside kicks late in the game to earn their first win of 2005.
*Grand Rapids is 0-7 in road games this season*
WEEK 14 TOP PERFORMANCES
Here's a look at the best performances of week 14 for Austin:
Chiaverini: Caught a team-record 14 passes for 140 yards in his first game after missing 10 games due to injury. Also made three tackles on defense.
Lewis: Made six catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
Nickerson: Scored a touchdown and made two catches for 33 yards. Also made two tackles.
Franklin: Made nine tackles and a pass breakup.
Marshall: Made 7.5 tackles on defense.
Mason: Had seven tackles and two pass breakups for the Wrangler defense.
Fitzgerald: Passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns.
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 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
41.0 total sacks
191 total tackles
FB/LB HENRY BRYANT
10 rushing touchdowns
2 receiving touchdowns
134 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
1,709 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
66 games played
14,097 yards passing
230 passing touchdowns
1,208 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
321 total tackles
83 pass breakups
OL/DL AARON HUMPHREY
9.5 total sacks
10.0 total tackles for loss
8 forced fumbles
61.5 total tackles
FB/LB DANE KRAGER
17 rushing touchdowns
353 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
38 receiving touchdowns
1,957 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
809.5 total tackles
132 games played
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
61 receiving touchdowns
4,088 receiving yards
21 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.
#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 8-6 start in 2006, adding nine rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - four sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 142 yards and ranks 4th 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, 76/88 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 - 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 TIME:
GRAND RAPIDS vs. AUSTIN
2/19/05 - AUSTIN 73, Grand Rapids 61
John Fitzgerald went 15-of-25 for 270 yards and threw six touchdowns as the Austin Wranglers (1-3) picked up their first win of the season in a 73-61 victory over the Grand Rapids Rampage. Wranglers' WR/DB Kevin Nickerson earned Ironman of the Game honors after catching five balls for 108 yards and scoring three touchdowns. OS Tacoma Fontaine reeled in four catches for 104 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown reception, which set a record as the longest touchdown pass/catch in Wrangler history. Rampage QB, Michael Bishop, continued to play well in his starting role for the Rampage and was named Offensive Player of the Game. Bishop went 20-of-32 for 337 yards and eight touchdowns in the loss and also threw one interception. The Rampage (0-3) got on the scoreboard first when Bishop hit WR Chris Jackson on a 30-yard touchdown strike. The scoring play marked the first time since the 2004 meeting with the Wranglers (May 1, 2004) that the Rampage scored before their opponent to start a game. On the ensuing kickoff, the Rampage took a gamble by trying a surprise onside kick, but the Wranglers recovered and moved the ball inside the 1-yard line. FB/LB Henry Bryant busted over the goal line on the next play to tie the score at 7-7.
INSTANT OFFENSE OFF THE NETS...
Austin and Grand Rapids rely on quick-strike weapons at kick returner, and both teams feature returners producing at the highest level this season.
Austin WR/DB Sedrick Robinson leads the League with 1,658 kick return yards through 14 games. Robinson has returned an AFL-high five kicks for touchdowns in 2006. One of the most prolific return men in League history, Robinson also has 334 receiving yards and 15 rushing yards this season. He had a League-high 227 return yards and two touchdowns against San Jose, along with a team-record 276 all-purpose yards.
Grand Rapids WR/DB Timon Marshall ranks second in the AFL with 2,391 all-purpose yards. He is one of only two players with over 1,000 yards on both returns and receptions this season.
THEY GO WAY BACK...
Two current Wranglers will be playing against their former teammates this weekend in Austin. DS Damon Mason starred in Grand Rapids last season after being picked up in the middle of the year. The Wranglers acquired OL/DL Desmond Byrd on April 19, and Byrd started the season in Grand Rapids with the Rampage.
COLUMBUS - PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB CHAD SALISBURY - In his seventh AFL season, Salisbury has completed 230-of-384 passes for 2,614 yards and 50 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He started 2005 with the Columbus Destroyers where he completed 33-of-63 passes for 380 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. From 2003-04, he was the backup with the Chicago Rush. Salisbury began his Arena career with the New England SeaWolves with 31 touchdowns and just six picks in his rookie season. He moved with the team to Toronto and spent two seasons with the Phantoms.
WR/LB ANTHONY HINES - Hines leads the Rampage with 21 touchdowns on 104 catches for 1,108 yards. One of the most exciting offensive specialists in the League, he has led each of his four teams in all receiving categories. Entering the season, Hines ranked ninth in Rampage history in receptions and receiving yards, while being 10th in receiving touchdowns in only 13 games played.
WR/DB TIMON MARSHALL - Marshall leads the Rampage with 1,154 receiving yards on 90 receptions. He also has 18 touchdowns. Marshall is one of the Rampage's top defenders this season, with 37.5 tackles and three interceptions. He spent two seasons in the af2 and won an ArenaCup title in 2003 with the Tulsa Talons under Wrangler Head Coach Skip Foster.
DS JOHNNIE HARRIS - One of the top defensive specialists in the AFL, Harris has a team-leading 72.5 tackles and six interceptions. He won the ArenaBowl in 1996 with the Tampa Bay Storm and was the 1998 AFL Defensive Player of the Year. Harris spent five seasons in the NFL (1999-01 with Oakland and 2002-03 with the NY Giants). He played in 58 NFL regular-season and four playoff games.
WR/DB JOSH BUSH - A scoring threat on both sides of the ball, Bush has scored 11 touchdowns at receiver, one at defensive back and another on a kick return. Bush ranks third on the team with 47.5 tackles and has three interceptions. He also has 44 catches for 511 yards on offense. Entering the season, Bush ranked sixth in team history in receiving yards, kickoff returns, kickoff return yards and all-purpose yardage.
2006 marks Sparky McEwen's second season as Rampage Head Coach & Director of Football Operations. McEwen's ties to the Rampage go back to the team's inaugural season in 1998. He appeared in five games and had a 2-1 record as the starting quarterback with 477 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and six rushing scores. In 2000, McEwen joined the team as a pro scout and assistant coach. A year later McEwen was promoted to offensive coordinator and helped guide the Rampage to their ArenaBowl XV win. For the 2004 season, McEwen was the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator for the Okalahoma City Yard Dawgz of arenafootball2. McEwen attended Ferris State University in Big Rapids from 1987-90, where he was a true Ironman and played quarterback, receiver, cornerback, safety and kick/punt returner.
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 are giving 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 15. 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: 41 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 14 games, the Wrangler 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 Wrangler line has 12 sacks this season, including one against the San Jose SaberCats by Henry Bryant. Against Philadelphia, the Wrangler defense forced two field goal attempts and made a goal line stand to cement the victory 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 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):
-Mason was the first player in AFL history to reach over 800 tackles
Pass Breakups: 127
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 306-of-458. 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 103 receptions for 1,260 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked fifth in the AFL in receiving yards and eighth 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 90 catches for 972 yards and 16 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.
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
After leading the team in receptions in 2005, Chiaverini expected to have another big year. However, injuries kept him out of 10 games this season. He made his return last week and picked up right where he left, catching 14 passes for 140 yards. Chiaverini is the Wranglers' third-leading receiver despite his injury problems.
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
Robinson's speed allows him to get behind opposing defenders, like on his leaping 41-yard catch against Columbus last week. He has 27 catches for 334 yards and seven touchdowns at receiver.
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.
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...
7,341 - total yards on his career from kick returns
3,916 - total receiving yards on his career
136.5 - total tackles on his career
78 - total rushing yards over career, which is good for 21 touchdowns
80 - 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 22 receptions for 188 yards and four touchdowns. He also has 56 tackles, an interception and three 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 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 a 19-point win.
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 statistical rankings in 2006.
FOURTH DOWN EFFICIENCY: In fourth down situations, the Wranglers convert at a 66.7 percent clip, with 16-of-24 conversions.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: Austin has 33 touchdowns on the ground.
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE: Austin averages 20.5 yards per kickoff return.
KICK RETURNER: WR/DB Sedrick Robinson leads the League with five kick return touchdowns.
SACKS PER PASS PLAY: The Wrangler line has done a great job protecting quarterback John Fitzgerald. They have allowed just two sacks through 14 games.
RUSHING YARDS IN AFL: Dane Krager is fourth in the AFL with 142 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.
RUSHING DEFENSE: Austin's defense allows only 2.1 rushing yards per attempt.
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