Destroyers’ comeback bests Firebirds

February 7, 2004 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Albany/Indiana Firebirds News Release

Columbus DS JoJo Polk returned a Tony Zimmerman pass four yards for a touchdown with 4:30 remaining to cap off a 26-point fourth quarter as the Destroyers won their inaugural game, 54-48. In the process, the Firebirds set a franchise attendance record with 14,007 fans Saturday night, the most in their 15-year history.

Zimmerman, who came on in relief of starting QB Kevin Daft, completed 3-of-7 passes for 46 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown strike to Brett Bech that accounted for the Firebirds’ only score of the fourth quarter. Daft left the game with an arm injury after completing 14-of-22 passes for three touchdowns and an interception.

Firebirds coach DeBerg was unhappy with the way his team came out.

“In general, I’m very disappointed,” he said. “Right now, we should have played better. It’s all on us, we just made too many mistakes especially on special teams and the interception. We just need to keep progressing.”

He did see a positive in the form of the ground attack, which gave the Firebirds some versatility on offense. The team accumulated 66 yards on the ground including two touchdown runs of 10+ yards. “We did some good things on the rushing game. We had some good long runs and I’m a believer in the running game and it just kind of fell into place tonight as it takes a little heat off of Daft since it was his first start,” he said.

The Destroyers’ began their comeback when QB Ryan Vena hooked up with Cornelius White on a 9-yard touchdown toss. Two minutes later, White picked off a Kevin Daft pass and returned it to paydirt to tie the score at 41 apiece. After Zimmerman hooked up with Bech, Vena threw a 17-yard touchdown to Sedrick Robinson. However, Chris Janek blocked the ensuing extra point to keep the Firebirds ahead by a point.

FB/LB Leroy Thompson saw the problem as being more mental than physical. “We just made some mistakes in the middle of the 4th quarter but you’re going to have that with young players. We’re gonna have to start concentrating on trying to stop the mental mistakes we made tonight.”

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