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Blanchard, Jones and Drakeford Earn Semifinal Honors

August 12, 2008 - arenafootball2 (af2) News Release

CHICAGO - Tennessee Valley wide receiver/defensive back TRAVIS BLANCHARD, Manchester quarterback BRIAN JONES and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defensive back BARRY DRAKEFORD have been named the JLS Ironman, Schutt Offensive Player and ADT Defensive Player of the Week, respectively, for the Conference Semifinal Round of the 2008 af2 Playoffs. In addition to these three awards, the Cutters Catch of the Week Award for the Conference Semifinal Round goes to Amarillo wide receiver JIM LUKOWIAK.


Blanchard (5-11, 185, Mississippi) had an impressive all-around effort for Tennessee Valley in the team's 34-30 upset victory on Saturday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Conference Semifinals. The third-year player from Mississippi was a factor all over field as Tennessee Valley snapped the Pioneers' 21-game home win streak, a streak that began late in the 2006 season. On offense, Blanchard had one rushing touchdown and one receiving score. On the defensive side, he recorded two solo tackles, including one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery and one interception. Blanchard also accumulated 63 yards on four kickoff returns. This is the second af2 Ironman of the Week honor of Blanchard's career. He was also recognized for his strong overall efforts earlier this season in Week 8. Blanchard, who recently earned a spot on the af2's All-Ironman Team, led the Vipers with 13 rushing TDs during the regular season and also accumulated 37.5 total tackles and three interceptions on defense.


Jones (6-2, 210, Toledo) had a stellar individual effort for Manchester in the team's 55-54 upset win on the road Saturday at Green Bay in the American Conference Semifinals. The veteran signal caller from Toledo, in his fourth af2 campaign, filled in for injured starter James Pinkney and led the Wolves past the favored Blizzard in just his third start of 2008. Jones completed 24-of-36 passes (66.7 percent) for 194 yards and six touchdowns with one interception. He also scored two rushing touchdowns. Jones was clutch in the late moments as he threw a 17-yard TD pass with one second left to pull team within one point, 54-53, and then converted the game-winning 2-point conversion run. This is the fifth Offensive Player of the Week Award of Jones' career and his first of 2008.


Drakeford (5-10, 195, Kent State) was a playmaker on defense for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton but it wasn't enough as the No. 1 seed Pioneers lost at home to Tennessee Valley, 34-30, Saturday night in the American Conference Semifinals. Despite the result, the second-year defensive back from Kent State made his presence felt with nine total tackles (8 solo, 2 asst) and two pass breakups. Drakeford also recorded his first career playoff interception as time expired in the first half which he returned 47 yards for a touchdown. This is the first af2 weekly league honor of his career. Drakeford had a strong campaign for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2008, finishing the regular season second on the team in total tackles (68.5), interceptions (8) and pass breakups (13). He also tied for the team lead in fumble recoveries with four.


Lukowiak (6-1, 205, Southern Connecticut State) is the Conference Semifinal Round recipient of the Cutters Catch of the Week Award, a weekly honor that emerged in 2006 to highlight the player who makes the best catch of the week. Lukowiak's catch was a leaping, 21-yard touchdown grab with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter that clinched Amarillo's 59-45 road win against Bossier-Shreveport. The victory enabled the underdog Dusters to advance to their first-ever National Conference Championship. Lukowiak finished the night with a game-high 10 catches for 129 yards, five of which went for scores (2008 postseason-high). The Southern Connecticut State alum has been one of the league's top playmakers in 2008, his first full season in af2. Lukowiak finished third in the league in receptions (124) and receiving touchdowns (38) and ranked fourth in receiving yards (1,602).

JLS Ironman of the Week candidates included:

Bossier-Shreveport's P.J. Winston, Manchester's Bradly Chavez, Green Bay's Tyre Young and Central Valley's Jomo Wilson.

Schutt Offensive Player of the Week candidates included:

Amarillo's Julian Reese, Amarillo's Jim Lukowiak, Bossier-Shreveport's Gary Cooper, Tennessee Valley's Alonzo Nix, Green Bay's Scott Burnoski and Spokane's Katon Bethay.

ADT Defensive Player of the Week candidates included:

Bossier-Shreveport's Marvin Byrdsong, Amarillo's Gerard Washington, Tennessee Valley's Eric Scott, Green Bay's Rusty Midlam, Manchester's Dahnel Singfield and Spokane's Sergio Gilliam.

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