Dramatic win moves Wranglers to 3-0
Austin Wranglers defensive specialist Donvetis Franklin made a touchdown saving pass breakup as time expired to hush the crowd of 16,200 at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, propelling the Wranglers to a 37-33 win over the Brigade.
Facing their first Southern Division opponent, the Wranglers air attack combined for a season-high 252 yards behind the arm of quarterback John Fitzgerald. On the day, Fitzgerald was 25-of-41 with three touchdowns and one rushing score.
Offensive specialist Derrick Lewis had his best game of the season, catching 10 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, the spark plug today was Franklin who had 3.0 tackles and two pass breakups, with the most important one coming in the final seconds to earn the Defensive Player of the Game.
In Kansas City's inaugural home opener, wide receiver/defensive back Sedrick Robinson took the opening kickoff to midfield, which led to a Todd Sievers 21-yard field goal.
The Brigade quickly answered back with quarterback Andy Kelly finding offensive specialist Jerel Myers for a seven-yard touchdown pass. Myers had two touchdowns on the day with 10 catches for 116 yards, earning the Offensive Player of the Game award.
Lewis got off to a good start as he caught a 29-yard bomb from Fitzgerald for the touchdown, his second on the season.
In an attempt to answer back, the Brigade drove down the field, but were stopped on the goal line as lineman Ramon Richardson forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive specialist Deveron Harper.
The Wranglers were unable to score as they stalled and were forced to kick a field goal. The kick ricocheted off the net structure, giving the ball back to the Wranglers. Again, Sievers missed a field goal, which gave the ball back to the Brigade.
Brigade kicker Tim Seder was successful on the ensuing drive as he hit from 23 yards out to even the score 10-10.
The Wranglers offense came back strong, finishing the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Kansas City native Kevin Nickerson.
Brigade's Kelly quickly found Myers for an eight-yard touchdown with 56.2 seconds remaining in the first half.
Driving down the field in the final minute of play, the Wranglers looked impressive in crunch time as a poised Fitzgerald handed off to Nickerson for his second score of the game to go ahead 24-17 with 10.5 remaining in the half.
Everyone thought the half was over, including the Wranglers team as they had left the field, but a last-minute timeout by the Brigade allowed for a Seder field goal attempt, which proved no good to end the half.
With 12:12 remaining in the third quarter, fullback/linebacker Dawan Moss scored on a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game 24-24 out of halftime.
With the Wranglers first possession of the second half, a muffed snap proved costly as Moss recovered the Fitzgerald fumble. This led to a James Jordan touchdown to put the Brigade up 30-24 after a missed PAT by Seder.
Getting his first receiving touchdown with the Wranglers was Robinson as he burst into the end zone to set the Wranglers ahead 31-30 with the successful PAT.
A missed field goal by Seder kick gave the ball back to the Wranglers.
Fitzgerald immediately found Lewis to put the Wranglers deep in Brigade territory. This set up a two-yard Fitzgerald touchdown run, his fourth in three games. The Brigade partially blocked the PAT try, which put the Wranglers ahead by just a touchdown.
As the Brigade's passing game stumbled, they looked to Seder to give the Brigade three more to narrow the Wranglers lead to four, 37-33 with 9:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Two fourth down conversions helped the Wranglers move the ball to the Brigade three yard line, but they weren't able to convert on the third attempt as a Fitzgerald pass intended for Lewis went incomplete.
With the one minute warning sounding, the Brigade made a last ditch effort down the field. Six penalties between the two teams led to a Kelly attempt at the end zone with 3.3 remaining in the game. The pass was broken up by Franklin to end the game.
The Wranglers remain undefeated and sit atop the AFL's Southern Division following today's game. Next week, the Wranglers will face intra-state rivals the Dallas Desperados on Friday, February 17 at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on FSN Southwest and can also be heard on AM 1300, The Zone with Kent Koen and Glyn Milburn.
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