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Avengers Finish off VooDoo in Opener

by Tim Peterson
March 1, 2008 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Los Angeles Avengers

(Los Angeles) - The beginning was ugly. It wasn't the way the Avengers drew it up. After Wendall Williams of New Orleans returned the opening kick off 54 yards for a touchdown and Sonny Cumbie threw an interception on the Avengers first play from scrimmage, the fans were squirming in their seats.

The squirms turned to stunned silence less than five minutes later when Steve Bellisari found a wide open Zach Hilton in the corner of the endzone for a 13-0 Voo Doo lead with 8:12 left in the first quarter.

LA was still down 33-28 at halftime. All was right with the world however when the Avengers recovered to shut down New Orleans 31-9 in the second half and rolled to a 59-42 win over the Voo Doo to open the 2008 Season before 13, 209 at Staples Center.

"I think we had a little bit of first game jitters but we finally got ourselves going," said Avenger Coach Ed Hodgkiss "But we did a good job. I'm always happy to get a win."

The Avengers got the win by not only getting the offense started but also by playing lock down defense in the second half. They kept New Orleans out of the end zone nearly the entire second half. The Voo Doo finally scored a touchdown with 48 seconds left in the game.

The Avengers defense forced Bellisari into three interceptions- all in the second half. Terrell Maze, Damen Wheeler and Eddie Canonico all had picks to halt drives. New Orleans managed only a field goal on its first possession of the second half before finally scoring late in the fourth. Meanwhile the Avengers racked up 31 points to pull away.

Cumbie hit Timon Marshall for a 41 yard touchdown on the Avengers first possession in the second half to give LA the lead. Later in the period Kevin Ingram hauled in an 18 yard pass from Cumbie for a 42-36 LA advantage.

A 14 yard strike from Cumbie to Marshall early in the fourth and a one handed grab of a Cumbie bullet in the zone by LaShaun Ward with 3:19 left put the game out of reach.

Marshall's debut as an Avenger was one to remember. He caught nine passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned three kicks for 64 yards.

"I was excited to get the first one under my belt. I hope the fans accept me. The team has already accepted me," Marshall said. "We were rolling. I think the second half is a preview of what we can do."

Cumbie completed 23 of 38 for 268 yards and seven touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions but was really only hurt by the first one.

He connected with Marshall, Ward and former Texas Tech teammate Jarrett Hicks in the first half to keep the Avengers close.

Wheeler made the defensive play of the game in the first half. With 5:22 left in the second quarter, Wheeler literally ripped the all away from Williams and sprinted 15 yards for a touchdown to give LA it first lead at 28-23.

"He tried to run me over and when I stood up the ball was in my stomach," Wheeler explained. "So I just took it from him. I knew I was taking it but I didn't know I would just walk into the end zone."

Cumbie was able to spread the wealth on offense. Ingram caught eight passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, Ward had three receptions and two went for scores and Hicks caught three passes for 21 yards and a touchdown.

"We got a lot of playmakers around me and lot of good receivers," Cumbie said. "I knew we were going to have a good night because our plays were really working against their schemes."

For New Orleans B.J Barre led the way with seven receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Bellisari threw for 210 yards and three scores before giving way to Danny Wimprine late in the game.

The Avengers now have nine days off before traveling to Arizona for Monday night football on March 10.

"We got Arizona on a Monday night. It's a divisional game and on the road so it's going to be tough. We're excited about it. It's the next challenge," Hodgkiss added.

NO 16 17 3 6 42

LA 7 21 14 17 59

Passing: NO: Bellisari 20-28-210-3-3, Wimprine 4-12-84-1-0. LA: Cumbie 23-38-268-7-3.

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