Austin Wranglers game notes
Friday, May 12, 2006 - 6:30 p.m.
AUSTIN WRANGLERS NEWS AND NOTES
Austin Wranglers (9-6) at
Orlando Predators (10-5)
Date: Friday, May 12, 2006
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. (CST)
Site: Hummer Field at TD Waterhouse Centre (13,692)
Officials: Referee: Riley Johnson; Umpire: Rick Podraza; Head Linesman: Julian Mapp; Line Judge: Paul Engelberts; Back Judge: Bud McCleskey; Supervisor: Jim Lapetina
Series Record: Orlando holds series lead 3-2
Coaches (Records Reflect Regular Season with Current Team):
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (23-24)
Jay Gruden, OP - 7th season (74-42)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Kent Koen (Play-by-Play) and Glyn Milburn (Analyst)
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.
DERRICK LEWIS TO SET NEW ROOKIE RECEIVING MARK
Currently sitting at 110 receptions for 1,365 yards and 22 touchdowns, Derrick Lewis needs just nine yards to break the AFL's rookie receiving yardage mark set last season by Troy Bergeron, who played with Georgia in 2005. Lewis has set a new Wranglers team record in single-season receiving yards, and he is just five receptions away from breaking Darrin Chiaverini's single-season receptions mark of 114.
THIS WEEK IN WRANGLERS FOOTBALL
The Wranglers travel to Orlando this Friday to face the Southern Division winners in the Predators. Having clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Rampage, the Wranglers are playing to host a home playoff game. With a win on Friday, the Wranglers will play at home on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. If Austin loses, there is still a chance to play at home if Columbus and Georgia lose this weekend.
WRANGLERS CLINCH FIRST PLAYOFF BERTH IN TEAM HISTORY
Austin clinched its first playoff berth in franchise history, jumping out to an 18-point halftime lead and never trailing in a 57-38 victory over Grand Rapids in front of 10,178 fans at the Frank Erwin Center on Sunday. The Wranglers (9-6) rushed for 51 yards and five touchdowns against the Rampage (5-10), and Austin dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Austin's offense scored on every possession. A strong Wrangler pass rush and tight coverage in the secondary limited Rampage quarterback Chad Salisbury to only nine completions on 20 attempts in the first half and a 29-of-41 performance in the game. Austin seized complete control in the first 30 minutes with its best defensive performance of the season, surrendering only six points. The Wranglers made four possession stops on the afternoon behind several timely breakups by the Austin secondary. Defensive specialist Damon Mason was named ADT Defensive Player of the Game after making 10 solo tackles and two pass breakups. Grand Rapids drew within four points early in the third quarter, but the Wranglers responded with a 45-yard touchdown catch by Kevin Nickerson to ignite the party at Ambush Arena. Dane Krager led the Wrangler rushing attack, gaining 25 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Krager added 1.5 tackles and a quarterback hit, and received Ironman of the Game honors. Foster brought in backup quarterback Chance Mock as a running threat on the goalline, and Mock didn't disappoint, scoring two touchdowns on the ground. Darrin Chiaverini and Henry Bryant also barreled in for first-half scores. Offensive specialist Derrick Lewis continued his strong rookie season with seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for the Wranglers.
SERIES HISTORY - ORLANDO HOLDS THE SERIES LEAD 3-2
On their way to winning the Southern Division, the Predators came to Austin earlier this season and stole a game from the Wranglers, 47-37. Despite OS Derrick Lewis singing the national anthem during pre-game, the Predators' offensive specialist was the real story, as it was Jimmy Fryzel's first game back after being diagnosed with diabetes.
WEEK 15 TOP PERFORMANCES
Here's a look at the best performances of week 15 for Austin:
Krager: Rushed five times for 25 yards and two touchdowns on offense. Also made 1.5 tackles and a quarterback hit.
Mason: Had 10 tackles and two pass breakups.
Lewis: Made seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Mock: Came in around the goal line and rushed for two touchdowns at quarterback.
Nickerson: Caught two passes for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Franklin: Made six tackles and a pass breakup.
Fitzgerald: Passed for 247 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
11 rushing touchdowns
2 receiving touchdowns
136 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
1,737 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
67 games played
14,344 yards passing
233 passing touchdowns
1,224 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
327 total tackles
84 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
19 rushing touchdowns
378 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
39 receiving touchdowns
2,005 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
819.5 total tackles
133 games played
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
61 receiving touchdowns
4,105 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 9-6 start in 2006, adding nine rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - four sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 167 yards and ranks 1st in the AFL 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 - 13/24 in field goals, 82/96 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 5th in AFL with eight interceptions in 2006, leading tackler in League history
#5 Chance Mock, QB - ran for two TDs 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
#96 Bernard Holsey, OL/DL - NFL veteran who played with the Desperados in 2002
THE LAST TIME:
ORLANDO vs. AUSTIN
3/25/06 - ORLANDO 47, Austin 37
In a game marred by 23 penalties, Orlando made bigger plays and fewer mistakes, as the Predators won 47-37 in Austin. Orlando QB Joe Hamilton's 28-yard touchdown pass to OS Jimmy Fryzel converted a back-breaking third-and-long and put the Predators up 10 points with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter. The Predators also added a late rushing touchdown. With the Predator victory already secured, Austin QB John Fitzgerald hurled a wild Hail Mary pass that bounced off the net and two Orlando defenders before landing in OS Derrick Lewis' hands. Hamilton was 23-of-33 for 255 yards and threw four touchdowns, including three to Fryzel. The Orlando offensive specialist pulled down six catches for 72 yards and earned Offensive Player of the Game honors. The game was Fryzel's first action since being diagnosed with diabetes last month. Austin DS Donvetis Franklin was named Defensive Player of the Game after making seven tackles and returning a fumble for a touchdown. Franklin's 36-yard return gave the Wranglers a 21-10 lead in the second quarter. The Wranglers led 24-16 at halftime, but the Predators (5-4) pitched a shutout in the third quarter and outscored Austin 31-14 in the second half to take the road victory.
THE LAST TIME IN ORLANDO
3/25/05 - ORLANDO 51, Austin 21
The Orlando Predators and QB Joe Hamilton outgunned the Austin Wranglers, 51-21. Making a game-time decision, Wranglers Head 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 touchdown strike to Jimmy Fryzel on the Predators' ensuing drive. The Wranglers managed a late score when Pesavento hit Gooch for a 12-yard touchdown to cut Orlando's lead to 44-21. Predators backup QB, Chris Sanders, would come in to throw a late touchdown to Jimmy Fryzel.
COLUMBUS - PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB JOE HAMILTON
The 1999 Heisman runner-up and former Georgia Tech star quarterback leads the Predators' passing attack. Hamilton completed 18-of-22 passes for 175 yards and five touchdowns in a victory over Kansas City last week. On the season, he has thrown for 3,670 yards and 67 touchdowns. When Hamilton faced the Wranglers earlier in the season, he had thrown 12 interceptions in eight games, but since then, he has only been picked off three times.
OS JIMMY FRYZEL
The Central Florida product is having another outstanding season despite missing time after being diagnosed with diabetes. In his second AFL season, Fryzel leads the Predators with 1,026 yards and 22 touchdowns on 82 receptions. He made his return to the field after the diagnosis against Austin in Week 9 and caught three touchdowns.
WR/LB JAVARUS DUDLEY
The rookie had a solid game for the Predators against the Brigade, catching seven passes for 79 yards and two 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 in kick returns and has 820 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He also is near the top of the Predators' defensive charts, with 57.5 tackles and five fumble recoveries.
DS KENNY MCENTYRE
A defensive specialist in his eighth AFL season, McEntyre has 69.5 tackles and four interceptions this season. He has received ADT Defensive Player of the Year honors three times in his illustrious career. McEntyre has been a regular on the All-Arena team for his exploits with the Predators.
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 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. Ranks 2nd on team in tackles with 85 and in pass breakups with 17. 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: 46.5 tackles, including three fumble recoveries and five pass breakups thus far. Against Dallas, had a game-high six tackles. Had 5.5 tackles and forced a fumble against Orlando.
In 15 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 defense 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.
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: 129
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 has completed 322-of-482 attempts. 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 110 receptions for 1,365 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked sixth in the AFL in receiving yards and 10th 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 took notice of 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 92 catches for 1,020 yards and 17 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 against Columbus and caught a team-record 14 passes for 140 yards. Chiaverini is the Wranglers' third-leading receiver despite his injury problems, with 32 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown.
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
Robinson's speed allows him to get behind opposing defenders, like on his 41-yard catch against Columbus. He has 28 catches for 351 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.
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.
SED STEPS INTO GEAR
Robinson does it all... rushing, receiving, passing, tackling and kick returns...
7,397 - total yards on his career from kick returns
4,105 - 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
81 - 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 24 receptions for 230 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 59.5 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 38 touchdowns on the ground, four more than San Jose.
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE: Austin averages 20.2 yards per kickoff return.
KICK RETURNER: WR/DB Sedrick Robinson leads the League with five kick return touchdowns.
RUSHING YARDS IN AFL: Dane Krager is first in the League with 167 rushing yards this season.
SACKS PER PASS PLAY: The Wrangler line has done a great job protecting quarterback John Fitzgerald. They have allowed just two sacks through 15 games.
KICKOFF RETURN COVERAGE: The Wranglers allow only 15.2 yards per kick return.
RUSHING DEFENSE: Austin's defense allows only 2.0 rushing yards per attempt.
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