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Avengers Win Overshadowed by Huge Loss

by Tim Peterson
April 10, 2005 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Los Angeles Avengers

(Los Angeles)- The Los Angeles Avengers beat the New York Dragons 66-35 Sunday before 11,708 fans at Staples Center, however, the victory was overshadowed by the death of offensive/defensive lineman Al Lucas.

Lucas was involved in a tackle on a kick off return by the Dragons midway through the first quarter. After lying on the turf and being treated by team physicians for about 20 minutes, Lucas was carted off the field on a stretcher.

About 30 minutes following the conclusion of the game, the Avengers Vice President of Communications issued a written statement from Avenger owner Casey Wasserman that read as follows.

“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Al Lucas. At this time, the thoughts and prayers of the entire Avenger organization are with his wife, and family.”

Also in the statement, team physician Dr. Lugo Podesta said “During the game today, Al Lucas suffered a presumed spinal cord injury and was brought to California Hospital where all attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at 1:28 PM today.”

Lucas, a 6’1” 300 pound lineman, was in his second season with the Avengers after playing all of last year with the team. He won the Arena Bowl as a member of the Tampa Bay Storm as an AFL rookie in 2003. Last year with the Avengers, he led the defensive lineman with 18.5 tackles. He also had three quarterback sacks and three fumble recoveries while playing in all 16 games.

“We are heartbroken today. Al Lucas was a player of great passion and our sympathy goes to his family,” said Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker. “We’re trying to work our way through this and trying to recover from it. Our prayers are for his family and for the Avenger organization. It’s a difficult day for all of us and it puts the game in perspective.”

Several players made their way out of the locker room in tears after hearing the tragic news. The death was so sudden and inconceivable that the entire organization was in shock.

“My heart and prayers all go out to Al’s family. It’s devastating and right now I’m praying for him and his family,” said Avenger Coach Ed Hodgkiss as he struggled to get the words out. “This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he added about telling the team of his player’s death.

The Avengers led 32-14 at halftime and remained in control though out the second half as they eased into the win. John Kaleo threw for 261 yards and five touchdowns. The defense forced the Dragons into three turnovers including a fumble recovery in the endzone by Sean McNamara for a touchdown.

With the win the Avengers improved to 6-4 and will travel to Tennessee to take on Nashville next week.

All of that seemed trivial however in light of Lucas’ passing. Lucas attended Troy Sate University where as a senior in 1999 he received the “Buck Buchanan Award” given to the nation’s most outstanding NCAA Division 1-AA defensive player.

He also spent time in the NFL playing 20 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2000-’01 seasons. Lucas was 26 years old.

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