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Dorados Look to Check Out of Heartbreak Hotel

June 28, 2004 - arenafootball2 (af2) - Rio Grande Valley Dorados News Release

HIDALGO, TX: June 28, 2004 – One week after losing in overtime 66-59 at Bossier City, the arenafootball2’s (af2) Rio Grande Valley Dorados were focused on ending their six-game winless streak and the Birmingham Steeldogs perfect 6-0 home record Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama, but their hearts would be broken again with a 59-58 loss to the Steeldogs. The loss pushes the Dorados record to 3-8 and extends their winless streak to seven heading into this week’s contest against the Wichita Stealth back at the Dodge Arena.

The Dorados were limited to only one practice last week due to arena availability and inclement weather and they had to cancel their walk-through in Birmingham because their luggage and equipment missed the team’s connecting flight in Houston. The limited time to prepare was an advantage for Birmingham, who jumped out with a 19-3 first quarter lead led by a pair of 8-yard touchdown receptions by Carlos McNeary from quarterback Jeff Aaron. Kicker Eric Houle provided the Dorados only points in the quarter with a 34-yard field goal. Rio Grande Valley got their timing down in the second quarter and changed the tone of the game. After Dorados fullback Ronnie Nicks capped a 7-play 40-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge for his first rushing touchdown, Raymond Baylor blocked Rhett Gallego’s 24-yard field goal attempt on Birmingham’s ensuing possession and recovered the block in the endzone for a Dorados touchdown, which cut the Steeldogs lead to 19-17. The two teams then exchanged a pair of touchdowns and Gallego closed the first half with a 24-yard field goal as time expired to give the Steeldogs a 28-23 halftime lead.

Rio Grande Valley began the second half on offense and with an opportunity to take the lead, but quarterback Caleb Slover fumbled a 6-yard carry and Birmingham’s Eugene Philips recovered the fumble on their own 12 yard line. Birmingham converted on the Dorados miscue three plays later with a Dontae Walker 1-yard rushing touchdown to build the Steeldogs lead to 35-23. Craig Cole picked up his second touchdown of the game on the next Dorados possession with a 21 yard touchdown reception from Slover, but the Steeldogs answered back on a one-play drive as Aaron connected with Carlos McNeary for a 36-yard touchdown to close out the third quarter scoring and giving the Steeldogs a 42-29 lead. Slover hooked up with Cordell Thornton for a 15-yard touchdown reception on the following possession to cut the Birmingham lead to 42-36. Dorados linebacker McKinley Bowie came up big for the Dorados on the next Steeldogs possession. After Aaron tossed a 33-yard pass to Stevland Sills to the Rio Grande Valley 15 yard line, McKinley, who tackled Sills, came up with tackles on the next three consecutive plays, including a sack of Aaron to force fourth down. Gallego nailed the 24-yard field goal to put the Steeldogs up 45-36, but then momentum shifted towards the Dorados as Ronshay Jenkins returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards for a touchdown. Jenkins then collected his 3rd interception of the year on Birmingham’s next offensive play, returning the interception 20 yards to the Birmingham 3 yard line. The Dorados, trailing 45-43 with 5:42 remaining, had their second opportunity to take the lead, but like the first opportunity, the Dorados turned the ball over. On the very next play after the interception, Slover, weaving through backfield traffic, was seeking to hit Manwell Talbert in the right corner of the endzone while rolling out, but the pass was a little behind him and Larry Huntington jumped in front of Talbert and intercepted the pass in the endzone. The Steeldogs marched down from their own five yard line three plays later and a one-yard rushing touchdown by Quincy Jackson gave the ‘Dogs a 52-43 lead with 4:01 remaining. Rio Grande Valley converted on their following drive by tossing to an unknown source. Slover faked the pitch and tossed to a wide open lineman-tight end Karleton Thomas for an 8-yard touchdown reception. The touchdown was the second-year pro’s first catch of his career and it put the Dorados down 52-50 with just under a minute remaining. The Dorados attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and it was recovered by Birmingham’s Anthony Jordan, who returned the kickoff 14-yards for a touchdown with 46-seconds remaining. The touchdown allowed almost turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If Birmingham recovered the kick and was tackled short of the goalline, they could have ran the clock out, but with the touchdown, it put all the pressure on Gallego’s extra point with the score 58-50 (one possession game). Gallego pushed the game to a two possession game though, by nailing the extra point to mark the score 59-50. Slover and the Dorados began their next drive from their own 24 yard line and Slover threw three consecutive incompletions before converting on fourth down and 10 with a 12-yard strike to Jenkins. The Dorados scored a touchdown on the next play, as Talbert grabbed a 15-yard toss in the left corner of the endzone with 13-seconds left. A bad snap on the extra point sent Abel Gonzalez sprawling to the turf for possession and preventing Houle to kick the extra point. Gonzalez grabbed the ball, jumped up on his feet, faked a roll out to the right, spun back to the left side and pinballed his way down the left side from the ten yard line all the way into the endzone for the un-designed two-point conversion to make the score 59-58. The Dorados attempted another onside kick, but again, Birmingham recovered and ran out the clock two plays later to finalize the game.

McNeary claimed the game’s Baby Ruth Offensive Player of the Game honor with 107 receiving yards off of 5 receptions and 3 touchdowns for the Steeldogs. Caleb Slover helped lead the Dorados to their second consecutive 50-plus point performance and third of the season by completing 21 of 40 passes for 228 yards and 5 touchdowns. Craig Cole caught 7 passes for 71 yards and provided 2 touchdowns to lead Dorados receivers.

The loss not only nearly vanishes any postseason hopes for the Dorados but continues to leave them mind-boggled over their current seven-game winless streak. The Dorados average margin of defeat has been 7.3 points per loss. On the season, the Dorados have allowed just 35 more points to their opposition than their offense has produced. To compare around the league, Columbus has a 6-6 record and has allowed 107 more points than they have scored, Peoria has a 5-6 record and has allowed 83 more points to their opposition, Macon is 3-9 allowing 127 more points to their opposition and 2-9 Laredo has allowed 207 more points to their opposition.

Rio Grande Valley stands determined to end their current winless streak and they will attempt to end it this Saturday night at the Dodge Arena against the Wichita Stealth, who started the streak. The Stealth defeated the Dorados 35-28 on May 8th at the Dodge Arena and have since gone 2-4. Wichita was on a bye week this past week and their last game was a 62-34 loss against Tulsa. The last time the two teams faced off, Will Burch was the signal caller for the Dorados and Aaron Sparrow was the quarterback for Wichita. Both players are no longer on the team’s rosters and Wichita now has former Kansas State standout Jonathan Beasley running the offense. Beasley is averaging 175 yards per game and has thrown 23 touchdowns in 5 games.

It will be a patriotic celebration this Saturday, as Airastar national recording country music artist and Alice, Texas native Kelly Kenning will be performing at the BudZone FanZone outside the Dodge Arena beginning at 4 PM and he will play until the Dorados 7:30 PM kickoff against the Wichita Stealth, in which the Dorados will be wearing special commemorative patriotic themed jerseys. The jerseys are made possible by the United States Border Patrol and they will be auctioned off to the fans immediately following the game. Individual tickets are currently on sale and may be purchased by stopping by the Dodge Arena offices (2600 N. 10th St. in Hidalgo, Tx) or ordering by phone at 956-843-7825. Additional ticket information and corporate opportunities are available by contacting the Dorados offices at 956-843-7825 or visit the Dorados online at www.doradosfootball.com.

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