Austin Wranglers game notes
#5 Philadelphia Soul (9-7) at
#4 Austin Wranglers (10-6)
Date: Sunday, May 21, 2006
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (CST)
Site: The Frank Erwin Center (14,866)
Officials: Referee: Dave Lambros; Umpire: Rick Podraza; Head Linesman: Bill Ward; Line Judge: Dana McKenzie; Back Judge: Joe Duncan; Supervisor: Jim Lapetina
Series Record: Austin holds series lead 2-1
Skip Foster, AW - 3rd season (24-24)
Bret Munsey, RECORD
TV: Televised on NBC (KXAN-Austin), with Ted Robinson (Play-by-Play), Charles Davis (Analyst) and Roger Wallace (Sideline)
Radio: KVET, AM 1300, The ZONE with Kent Koen (Play-by-Play), Bucky Godbolt (Analyst) and Kevin Dunn (Sideline)
The Austin Wranglers television partners are NBC, OLN and FSN. All Wranglers playoff games can be seen locally on KXAN-Austin.
The Austin Wranglers radio home is AM 1300, The Zone.
DERRICK LEWIS IS THE AFL'S RECORD BREAKING ROOKIE
On Friday, May 12, Derrick Lewis rewrote the AFL's record books, breaking Troy Bergeron's rookie receiving yardage record he set in 2005. A rookie of the year candidate, Lewis finished the regular season with 1,411 yards off 113 receptions. He ranks 7th in yards and tied for 10th in receptions.
WRANGLERS SCORE MOST POINTS OF 2006, BEAT ORLANDO
The TD Waterhouse Centre was the site of the Wranglers' first victory three years ago, and in the same arena the Wranglers secured their first home playoff game in team history with a 67-43 win over the Predators in <
SERIES HISTORY - AUSTIN HOLDS SERIES LEAD 2-1
Having met three times previously, the Wranglers hold the edge 2-1. In their meeting this past March, Austin battled back from an early deficit to win 43-38, despite a last minute push by Philadelphia QB Tony Graziani. The Wranglers kicking game struggled, as long snapper Dane Krager DNP.
2006 AFL PLAYOFF PAIRINGS
1. Dallas Desperados (13-3)
2. Orlando Predators (10-6)
3. New York Dragons (10-6)
4. Austin Wranglers (10-6)
5. Philadelphia Soul (9-7)
6. Georgia Force (9-7)
Dallas will host divisional round on May 27.
Orlando will host divisional round on May 28.
New York will host Georgia on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Austin will host Philadelphia on Sunday at 2 p.m.
1. Colorado Crush (11-5)
2. San Jose Sabercats (10-6)
3. Arizona Rattlers (8-8)
4. Nashville Kats (8-8)
5. Chicago Rush (7-9)
6. Utah Blaze (7-9)
Colorado will host divisional round on May 27-28.
San Jose will host divisional round on May 27-28.
Arizona will host Utah on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Nashville will host Chicago on Sunday at 2 p.m.
2006 WILD CARD WEEKEND
The Arena Football League's Wild Card Weekend matchups have been set following the conclusion of the regular season.
The Arizona Rattlers (8-8) host the expansion Utah Blaze (7-9) at US Airways Arena in Phoenix on Saturday, May 20 at 4 p.m. CST on OLN.
The Georgia Force (8-8) travel to Nassau Coliseum in New York to face the New York Dragons (10-6) on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. CST on NBC.
The Austin Wranglers (10-6) host the Philadelphia Soul (9-7) at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. CST on NBC.
The Nashville Kats (8-8) play the Chicago Rush (7-9) at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. CST on NBC.
The Dallas Desperados (13-3), Colorado Crush (11-5), Orlando Predators (10-6) and San Jose SaberCats (10-6) all received byes and will host divisional round games in two weeks.
ArenaBowl XX will be played in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, June 11 at 2 p.m. CST on NBC.
WEEK 16 TOP PERFORMANCES
Here's a look at the best performances of Week 16 for Austin:
Krager: Rushed six times for 30 yards and three touchdowns on offense. Also made three tackles.
Robinson: Had four kick returns for 154 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown. Also ran twice for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Lewis: He set a new AFL record for single-season receiving yardage as a rookie. For the game, Lewis had 46 yards and a touchdown on three catches.
Harper: Made his first AFL interception on Friday night.
Nickerson: Caught six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Franklin: Made 7.5 tackles and an interception.
Arp: Had a sack and an interception.
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 Will McClay are both making their first playoff appearances with their respective teams.
Take a look at their records:
(Arena Bowl XIX Champions)
*All three of these coaches' teams qualified for the 2006 AFL playoffs*
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
137 rushing yards
WR/LB DARRIN CHIAVERINI
1,778 receiving yards
QB JOHN FITZGERALD
68 games played
14,503 yards passing
236 passing touchdowns
1,241 pass completions
DS DONVETIS FRANKLIN
334.5 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
22 rushing touchdowns
408 rushing yards
1 receiving touchdown
WR/DB KEVIN NICKERSON
40 receiving touchdowns
2,067 receiving yards
DS DAMON MASON
823.5 total tackles
134 games played
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
61 receiving touchdowns
4,262 receiving yards
22 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 10-6 record in 2006, adding nine rushing scores
#49 Aaron Humphrey, OL/DL - four sacks in 2006
#40 Dane Krager, FB/LB - 197 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 - 14/25 in field goals, 90/105 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 in Week 15
#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:
PHILADELPHIA vs. AUSTIN
3/31/06 - AUSTIN 43, Philadelphia 38
The Wranglers topped the Soul 43-38 at the Wachovia Center. In what was a tale of two halves, the Wranglers overcame a 14-0 deficit to begin the game. Wranglers quarterback John Fitzgerald completed 23-of-38 passes for 296 yards and six touchdowns. After the rocky start, Fitzgerald found a wide-open Sedrick Robinson on a 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 Ironman of the Game honors. The obvious difference maker was offensive specialist Derrick Lewis, who had his most dominating performance of his short AFL career. Lewis tallied 150 yards on eight catches with four touchdowns to lead all receivers. With touchdowns of 15, 17, 30 and 49 yards, Lewis earned his first Offensive Player of the Game honor. Getting over a rough first quarter, the Wranglers defense picked up dramatically, giving Soul quarterback Tony Graziani much less time to pass while eliminating the open passing lanes. 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. After two botched snaps, the Wranglers were successful on a Todd Sievers kick from 54 yards out, his longest of the season.
THE LAST TIME IN AUSTIN
1/30/05 - Philadelphia 66, AUSTIN 35
New Philadelphia quarterback Tony Graziani tossed touchdowns on each of the Soul's first six possessions and led Philadelphia to a 66-35 rout of the Austin Wranglers. Graziani threw eight touchdowns in total in his Soul debut with fellow newcomer Steve Smith being the recipient of five of them. The Soul (1-0) scored points on all seven of their first half possessions and held the Wranglers (0-1) scoreless in the first quarter in jumping to a 45-21 halftime lead. Graziani finished 24-for-37 for 352 yards. Smith led all receivers with nine catches for 131 yards. Wide receiver/linebacker Sean Scott grabbed six balls for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Austin offensive specialist Tacoma Fontaine made six catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.
SOUL AND WRANGLERS CONNECTIONS
Wranglers OL/DL Donovan Arp played the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Soul, and was often used at a FB/LB. With the Soul in 2005, he was second on the team with four sacks. Soul Head Coach Bret Munsey was an assistant with the Predators, so he is very familiar with Foster and the Wranglers.
PHILADELPHIA - PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB TONY GRAZIANI
The five-year veteran is the only quarterback in AFL history to throw 90 or more touchdown passes in three consecutive seasons. For his exploits, Graziani is the highest-paid player in Arena Football. The former Oregon star finished the regular season with 2,989 passing yards and 41 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He missed several games because of injuries.
OS STEVE SMITH
After leading the Soul in receiving last season, Smith signed with Kansas City in the offseason, only to be traded to the Soul in the middle of the year. He had eight catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back in a Soul uniform. Smith has 83 receptions for 953 yards and 14 touchdowns this season with Kansas City and Philadelphia.
WR/DB MIKE BROWN
In his third AFL season out of Charleston Southern, Brown has been one of Graziani's favorite targets, pulling down 79 passes for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns. Defensively, he has made 45.5 tackles and four interceptions.
WR/DB SEAN SCOTT
The Philadelphia native has made the most out of time with the Soul after making the inaugural team in an open tryout three years ago. Scott leads the Soul with 87 catches for 999 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. He also has 115 rushing yards. Scott has 44.5 tackles and two interceptions at defensive back.
DS EDDIE MOTEN
The Dallas native leads the Soul with 104 tackles and 13 interceptions this year. Philadelphia had a League-high 28 interceptions in the regular season. Moten has 168 return yards off his forced turnovers. Moten also has broken up 18 passes. He starred at Texas A&M-Kingsville and is the first player from the af2 Rio Grande franchise to make the AFL. Moten had one of his best games of the year against Dallas in Week 15 and earned Defensive Player of the Game honors.
Bret Munsey is in his first year as a head coach in the AFL. He is the third head coach of the Philadelphia Soul in their three-year history. Munsey served on the Orlando Predators staff for three years under Jay Gruden. He began his coaching career with the Augusta Stallions of af2 in 2000 as the defensive coordinator. Munsey had his first head coaching job with the Tennessee Valley Vipers of af2 and led the team to a 15-3 record and was named the "af2 Coach of the Year." Before his role with the Predators, Munsey served as the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Cobras. After joining the Predators in 2003 as the team's offensive coordinator and wide receivers/defensive backs coach he was promoted to assistant head coach in August of 2003.Before going into coaching, Munsey played for the Predators, spending most of his five seasons (1991-1995) on the team's practice squad.
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 91.5 and in pass breakups with 17. Returned his first interception of the season 33 yards against Orlando.
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 his first AFL interception Friday against Orlando.
In 16 games, the Wrangler defense has emerged as one of the stingiest in the AFL. The defense has recorded 13 interceptions with eight coming from Damon Mason and one each by Sir Mawn Wilson, Greg Brown, Deveron Harper, Donovan Arp. The Wrangler defense has 12 sacks this season, including three against Orlando in week 16. Earlier this season 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: 131
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 339-of-508 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.
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 114 receptions for 1,411 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2006. He is ranked seventh 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 98 catches for 1,082 yards and 18 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, 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 39 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns and one rushing TD.
WR/DB SEDRICK ROBINSON
Robinson's speed allows him to get behind opposing defenders, like his 41-yard catch against Columbus. He has 28 catches for 351 yards and seven touchdowns at receiver.
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...
7,554 - total yards on his career from kick returns
4,105 - total receiving yards on his career
138.5 - total tackles on his career
89 - total rushing yards over career, which is good for 22 touchdowns
82 - 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 Austin's 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 25 receptions for 235 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 66.5 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 Orlando Predators (5/12/06),
Austin Wranglers at Arizona Rattlers (2/3/06), 53-34 (19)
WHERE THE WRANGLERS RANK...
With the tremendous improvement on the field, the Wranglers moved their way up the AFL statistical rankings in 2006.
FOURTH DOWN EFFICIENCY: In fourth down situations, the Wranglers convert at a 65.4 percent clip, with 17-of-26 conversions.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: Austin has 43 touchdowns on the ground, seven more than San Jose.
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE: Austin averages 20.9 yards per kickoff return.
KICK RETURNER: WR/DB Sedrick Robinson leads the League with six kick return touchdowns.
RUSHING YARDS IN AFL: Dane Krager is first in the League with 197 rushing yards on 59 carries 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 16 games.
RUSHING DEFENSE: Austin's defense allows only 2.1 rushing yards per attempt.
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