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Game Preview (week 17): Stockton Lightning At Amarillo Dusters

July 18, 2009 - arenafootball2 (af2) - Stockton Lightning News Release

QUICK FACTS:

Stockton Lightning (5-9)

at Amarillo Dusters (2-12)

Date: July 18, 2009

Kickoff: 5:05 p.m. PT

Site: Amarillo Civic Center (5,001)

Internet: www.NiFTyTV.com/af2 (Mike Benton)

Officials: Referee - Chris George Snead; Umpire - Oscar Shorten; Head Linesman - Wayne Bernier; Line Judge - Brad Rodgers; Back Judge - Lo van Pham

Series Record: Series tied, 1-1

Coaches: Chad Carlson (Stockton - 14-25 overall, 2nd season)

Ben Bennett (Amarillo - 66-54, 7th season)

THE STAKES: With the playoff future in the National Conference all decided for eight teams, Week 17 is a battle featuring momentum versus pride. The Lightning, coming one week off clinching their first wild card berth in franchise history, aim to improve their seeding possibilities for the upcoming ArenaCup Playoffs with a victory and head into postseason with momentum. Amarillo, coming one year off a postseason run to the National Conference championship game, will miss the postseason for the third time in four seasons and look to end their home slate for the 2009 season on a high note with a victory. The teams last met on 5/17 of last season and the Lightning defeated Amarillo, 40-31 to level the all-time series, 1-1.

If Stockton defeats Amarillo it would ...

- Help the Lightning surpass last season's win total (5) and tie the franchise single-season record for wins (6)

- Give the Lightning a 2-1 all-time series lead over Amarillo

- Give the Lightning a

- Help the Lightning clinch at least a tie for a National Conference wild card berth (STK win plus TRI, CC losses clinches Lightning postseason berth outright)

ARENAFOOTBALL2 PLAYOFF RACE

For the third straight season the af2 playoffs will feature a format where 16 teams have the opportunity to claim the league's ultimate prize. The four-week race for the 2009 ArenaCup title begins with eight first round affairs on the weekend of July 31-August 2.

The eight qualifying teams in each conference consist of the three division champions and five Wild Cards, determined by best overall record. Seeding in each conference is based on overall record, with the top three seeds in each conference reserved for the division champions, regardless of record.

In the First Round (July 31-August 2), the first three seeds in each conference are the three division winners. The next five teams are seeded by next best five overall records. Teams ranked 1-4 earn home playoff games with 1 hosting 8, 2 hosting 7, 3 hosting 6 and 4 hosting 5.

In the Second Round (August 7-9), the winner of the 1-8 game plays the winner of the 4-5 game. The winner of the 2-7 game plays the winner of the 3-6 game. The home team is decided by the team with the higher seed.

The winners of the Second Round will meet for the Conference Championships on the weekend of August 14-16. The winners of the Conference Championships face off in the 2009 ArenaCup on the weekend of August 21-23 in Las Vegas at Orleans Arena.

2009 af2 PLAYOFF STANDINGS (as of 7-12-09)

American Conference Standings 1. W-B/Scranton (11-3) - xy - East Division Champion

2. Tennessee Valley (10-4) - y - Current South Division Leader

3. Iowa (10-4) - y - Current Midwest Division Leader

4. Kentucky (9-5) - y - Owns point differential advantage in HTH meetings over SGW (28-6)

5. South Georgia (9-5) - y

6. Green Bay (8-6)

7. Manchester (7-7)

8. Florida (6-8) - Owns HTH advantage over ALB

--------------------------------------------

9. Albany (6-8)

10. Peoria (5-9) - Owns point differential advantage in HTH meetings over MKE (16-5)

11. Milwaukee (5-9)

12. Quad City (5-10)

13. Mahoning Valley (1-13)

NATIONAL CONFERENCE STANDINGS 1. Spokane (13-1) - y - Current West Division Leader

2. Tulsa (12-2) - xy - Central Division Champion

3. Arkansas (10-4) - y - Current Southwest Division Leader

4. Boise (12-2) - y

5. Bossier-Shreveport (9-5) - y

6. Rio Grande Valley (7-7) - y

7. Oklahoma City (7-8) - y

8. Stockton (5-9) - y

-------------------------------------------------

9. Central Valley (3-11)

10. Tri-Cities (2-12)

11. Corpus Christi (2-12)

12. Amarillo (2-12)

x - clinched division; y - clinched playoff spot

*Teams in bold currently lead their respective division; HTH = Head-to-head; SOS = Strength of schedule

HEAD COACH PROFILES:

Chad Carlson - Stockton: Chad Carlson is the third Head Coach in Lightning history, named to the team's top post on an interim basis on May 27, 2008, succeeding Doug Murray. Carlson was appointed to the position on a full-time basis on August 13, 2008.

The 36-yead old enters his third af2 head coaching venture after serving as General Manager/Head Coach for the Hawaiian Islanders (2002) and Head Coach of the Bossier City Battle Wings (2003), compiling an overall record of 6-12 before moving on to serve as a Volunteer Coach for the Arena Football League's Colorado Crush for the remainder of the 2003 season.

Carlson, who guided Hawaii to a 4-1 finish in the 2002 season after inheriting the team in the middle of the season, helped the Islanders finish second in the league for red zone offense (83.1 percent), tied for 10th in total offense (4,126 yards) and rank as the af2's leader in rushing offense (852 yards).

After Carlson inherited the Islanders offense that averaged 38 points per game through five contests, his offense went on to score an average of 50.4 points per game and finish 13th in af2 scoring offense.

Following two separate stints in the Canadian Football League with the Edmonton Eskimos (1994) and Ottawa Rough Riders (1996), the Portland, Oregon native spent the 1997 season with the AFL's Portland Forest Dragons as a wide receiver/defensive back and quarterback and was slated to sign with the Los Angeles Avengers of the AFL in 2000, but had his career cut short with a career-ending knee injury that he sustained during an indoor football campaign in 1999.

Converted from the quarterback position, Carlson finished his college career as a standout receiver at Lewis & Clark College (NCAA) and was named an NAIA All-American as a 1993 senior, leading the nation in yards per catch while creating accolades that still shine in Pioneer lore. Carlson's 209 receiving yards amassed in a game against Central Washington was the second-best single game output in program history at the time of his exit and he ranked 13th on Lewis and Clark's all-time list for receptions at the time of his exit.

A key member of an athletic family, Chad's wife, Monica, was a contestant winner in 2008 on the television show "American Gladiators" and plays the role of "Jet" on the current season. Chad and Monica reside in Portland, Oregon during the offseason with two twin daughters, Ellee Jo (8) and Emma Ray (8).

Ben Bennett - Amarillo: Entering his seventh season in the af2 coaching ranks, Ben Bennett began coaching in af2 during the 2002 season, when he led Florida to ArenaCup III in just his first season at the helm. Just two seasons later, in 2004, he won the ArenaCup with the Firecats, going 10-6 in the regular season and defeating Peoria to win the championship.

Before his time as a head coach, Bennett earned accolades as one of the best quarterbacks in Arena Football history. A graduate of Duke, where he played under Steve Spurrier, Bennett was taken in the sixth round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He went on to play with Chicago, Dallas, Orlando, San Jose, and Portland in the AFL, compiling 14,168 passing yards and 267 touchdowns over his ten year career. Three times he earned First-Team All-Arena accolades from 1988-1997. Bennett is in the Arena Football Hall of Fame, after having been inducted in 2000.

Bennett last coached with the Austin Wranglers in the af2's Southwest Division. He led the Wranglers to an 8-8 record in 2008, finishing just one game behind Bossier-Shreveport for the Division Championship. Never has Bennett had a losing record as the coach of an af2 team.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING (courtesy of The Record)

"I didn't set out to get into the playoffs. I was just trying to win a game against a very good football team," Carlson said. "Our defense up front got some good pressure on their quarterbacks and the back half played well. The defense had several opportunities to step up and take control of the game, and they did."

- Head Coach Chad Carlson after the Lightning beat Central Valley, 57-31 to clinch a wild card berth

"The coaches stressed technique all week and that's what I tried to do, plus stay focused on my angles," Brookins said. "On the (first) touchdown, he threw a nice pass over the shoulder, but unfortunately it was my shoulder, and I just pulled it in. A DB's first instinct is to take (an interception) back to the house, and I just used my blockers to cut back and make the play."

- DB Mervin Brookins Jr. on tying an af2 record with five interceptions in a game

LIKE A BROKEN RECORD:

MERVIN BROOKINS JR. (DB): Mervin Brookins Jr. entered the af2 record books by tying a league mark with 5 interceptions on 7/11 against the Central Valley Coyotes, two of which were run back for touchdowns. The five picks were part of a Lightning record nine turnovers forced against Central Valley.

CHAD CAVENDER (QB): Chad Cavender threw for 10 touchdown passes against the Rio Grande Valley Dorados in Week 8, shattering the Lightning single-game record which finished two off the af2's all-time mark (Brett Dietz of Louisville in 2006).

ANDY COLLINS (QB): Collins set a Lightning record in a Week 4 loss to Central Valley, rushing for four touchdowns against the Coyotes. Through 3 games, Collins led the af2 in rushing touchdowns (9) before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury and actually broke his own franchise record he originally set, with 3 rushing touchdowns in a Week 1 victory at Central Valley.

STEPHEN IRVINE (K): In just his second game this season and his first returning from non-active status, Australian-bred Stephen Irvine connected on 11-of-12 point-after kicks against Rio Grande Valley on 5/16, setting a new Lightning single-game record. Irvine's feat finished two successful kicks shy of the af2 all-time record, held by Rich Ehmke (San Diego, 2004).

JUSTIN TAPLIN (WR): Taplin's assault on the Lightning record books continued with a 7-touchdown catch effort against Rio Grande Valley in Week 8, one off the af2 single-game record, following a Lightning single-game record with 216 receiving yards in Week 5 against the Spokane Shock, additionally hauling in three touchdown receptions and 14 catches, which was one off the Lightning record (Phil Goodman, 2006).

RARE COMPANY: The Lightning lost 57-54 to the Boise Burn on June 20 at Qwest Arena but took the loss with a moral victory. Against what was the 4th best defense in the af2 (Boise allowed 39.2 points per game), the Lightning put up 54 points at Qwest Arena, including a 19-0 run in the fourth quarter. The Lightning became the second team, joining the Spokane Shock (twice), to score 50 points or more against the Burn this year.

TRIPLE-DIGIT HEAT: QB Chad Cavender threw a 107.32 pass rating five weeks ago against the Tri-Cities Fever, marking the fifth straight game the rookie signal-caller has breached the triple-digit, pass efficiency mark since the first start of his af2 career. Cavender threw no interceptions, completed 19-of-35 passes for five touchdowns and threw for 204 yards in a convincing 53-37 win against Tri-Cities.

HANGING (AROUND) CHAD:

Once a backup to begin the af2 season, Chad Cavender has been thrust into the af2 spotlight with the injury of Andy Collins and has taken the reigns at full grip. Cavender, a product of the University of Sioux Falls, threw five touchdowns in his Lightning debut against the Spokane Shock on April 25 - tied for the third best output in a Lightning QB debut:

MOST TOUCHDOWN PASSES - LIGHTNING DEBUT

Evan Gray (vs. Spokane, 4/28) 7

Chad Elliott (at Tri-Cities, 3/28) 6

Chad Cavender (vs. Spokane, 4/25) 5

Derrick Crudup (at Spokane 5/31) 5

Andy Collins (at Spokane, 5/31) 4

COLLINS HAULS IN THE WEEK 1 HONORS:

Lightning QB Andy Collins was named Russell Athletic af2 Offensive Player of the Week for Week 1. Collins (6-2, 215, Occidental College) led the Lightning to a 68-54 Week 1 road victory at West Division rival Central Valley. The 25-year old signal caller completed 24-of-28 passes (85.7 percent) in the contest for 287 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. He also scored a career-high three rushing touchdowns to lead the Lightning to their biggest offensive output to open a season in team history. This is the first af2 weekly award of Collins' career.

DYNAMIC DUO TAKE WEEK 8 HONORS:

The offensive pair of QB Chad Cavender and WR Justin Taplin were named Russell Athletic af2 Co-Offensive Players of the Week for Week 8, becoming the first duo to share the award in seven years (Russell Copeland and Tim Lester, Memphis - Week 3 of 2002). Cavender, in his first af2 campaign and Taplin, in his third af2 season, both had career nights in Stockton's 83-56 upset win at home in Week 8 against Rio Grande Valley. The 6-foot, 190-pound Cavender, in his third career start, set a team record with 10 touchdown passes and Taplin set a Lightning single-game record with seven touchdown catches. He finished the night with nine receptions for a game-high 172 yards.

LEAGUE TOP 10s: Players from the Lightning and Dusters who rank among the af2's statistical leaders:

Lightning

Player Rank Category Stat

Cavendar, Chad 6 Total offense 247.2

Taplin, Justin 5 Scoring 17.4

Cavendar, Chad 7 Pass Attempts 237.1

Taplin, Justin 4 Receptions/GM 9.00

Taplin, Justin 4 Rec. Yds/GM 120.3

Brookins, Mervin T-3 INT TD Returns 2

Dusters

Player Rank Category Stat

Watson, Alex 4 Yards/Catch 58.8

Iizuka, Keita 6 Field Goals Att. 22.2

TALE OF THE TAPE:

(A look at the Lightning vs. Dusters in 2009)

Statistical LIGHTNING DUSTERS

Category Rank Stat Rank Stat

Scoring Offense 17 49.1 T-22 43.0

Scoring Defense 16 56.1 22 57.9

Total Offense 12 286.1 18 258.4

Total Defense 18 287.5 20 291.6

Pass Offense 10 261.2 18 230.8

Pass Defense 21 278.3 17 259.2

Rushing Offense 11 24.9 8 27.6

Rushing Defense 1 9.2 24 32.4

Pass Rating 19 93.8 20 93.7

Pass Def. Rating 13 105.1 22 114.7

Kickoff Returns 17 17.7 22 16.3

Turnover Margin 16 -0.07 20 -0.86

Field Goals T-18 .286 22 .167

PAT Kicking 17 .759 23 .712

Sacks By T-22 15 23 10

Sacks Against 23 33 T-18 117

First Downs 12 275 18 251

Opp. First Downs 14 269 17 276

Penalties 16 67.3 9 47.6

Opp. Penalties 23 44.4 3 71.6

Onside kick success 5 40.0 T-6 37.5

DROPBACK: DB Mervin Brookins Jr. recorded an arenafootball2 record-tying five interceptions and ran two back for touchdowns to help the Stockton Lightning (5-9) clinch their first National Conference wild card berth in franchise history, defeating the Central Valley Coyotes 57-31 before 3,802 fans at Stockton Arena on Saturday in Week 16 of af2 play.

The Lightning advanced to ArenaCup postseason play with some help, as Corpus Christi was bounced from postseason contention with a 57-47 loss to Arkansas while the Boise Burn eliminated the Tri-Cities Fever in a 63-21 rout. The Lightning win officially sealed the playoff picture for the top eight teams with two weeks remaining in the regular season schedule.

"We got massive pressure on the quarterback," said Lightning head coach Chad Carlson. "Mervin had soft hands and was one half of what the defense was producing tonight. I didn't set my mind on the playoffs before tonight - I set my mind on beating a good rival. But congratulations to our franchise - it's an awesome thing for the city of Stockton. We need to keep going though and not just be satisfied with tonight's mark."

Brookins' record setting night, coming a month after he was assigned by the Lightning as a free agent, tied the league record shared by Alvin Ray Jackson of Albany, set earlier this year against Mahoning Valley. Brookins notched ADT Defensive Player of the Game, JLS Ironman of the Game and The Big Catch of the Game honors which included a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

"I wasn't even aware that it was a record until after the game," said Brookins. "The key was practice. Intensity of practice this week was at an all-time high. Our coaches stress technique and angles. We had to stay focused; as long as our defensive backs play angles correctly and play their technique, it comes down to playing the ball.."

In total, Stockton forced Central Valley into coughing up the football six consecutive times which induced a 29-0 run for the Lightning.

Central Valley drew first blood on a 16-yard touchdown pass from QB Ryan Porter to John Roberson with 9:12 left in the first quarter before the Lightning roared back with a 29-0 blitz which spanned two quarters. QB Chad Cavender threw two 19 and 11 yard touchdown passes to Brandon Horace and Troy McBroom to help Stockton assume a 13-7 lead after one quarter.

Following FB Peter Tuialuuluu's one-yard blast and Stephen Irvine's 19-yard field goal, Brookins sent the Stockton Arena crowd into delirium with the game's highlight play, nabbing Porter's bomb down the left sideline in the end zone and eluding a series of Coyote tacklers for the 54-yard return, hiking the Lightning lead to 29-7.

Central Valley made the Lightning sweat with a goal-line stand at the end of the first half and followed with Porter's three-yard TD bullet to former Lightning receiver Phil Goodman which cut the Lightning edge to 29-14 with 7:54 left in the first half.

McBroom's 35-yard touchdown bomb from Cavender and Maurice Holmes' 17-yard TD interception return off backup QB Joe Taula helped the Lightning answer with a 43-14 led with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter. Taula, who stepped in for Porter after leaving the game with a foot injury, connected with Roberson on a 27-yard touchdown missile with 2:07 left to cut the Lightning lead 43-21.

Taula found LaMonte Jones on a eight yard touchdown lob with 9:59 left in the game to help the Coyotes slash the deficit to 43-28 but the Lightning jettisoned any Coyotes rally hopes on the ensuing series. Cavender found Horace on a 44-yard bomb with 7:30 left and Brookins followed with his af2 record-tying fifth pick of the game and 28-yard touchdown return with 5:11 left, putting the Lightning ahead 57-28.

Kyle Hooper wrapped up the scoring with a 38-yard field goal for Central Valley with 1:11 left. The Lightning, who were led in the absence of WR Etu Molden with Horace's seven receptions and 122 receiving yards, eliminated the Coyotes from postseason contention for the first time since 2005, breaking a three-year postseason run.

FORWARD MOTION: The Lightning have two regular season games left on the schedule and wrap up the regular season slate on Friday, July 24 against the Peoria Pirates at Stockton Arena. The Pirates are the only inter-conference opponent this season for the Lightning. In regular season finishes, the Lightning carry a record of 1-2 and defeated Tri-Cities, 66-40 last year to close the 2008 regular season at Stockton Arena.

AMARILLO ON THE WEEKEND: This week's matchup against Amarillo is the third, lifetime between both teams and marks the second of three games the Lightning will play against opponents outside of the West Division (6-5 lifetime record). The Lightning previously defeated Rio Grande Valley, 83-56 on Week 8 at Stockton Arena. Amarillo, who was eliminated from postseason contention last week, is a member of the National Conference's Central Division. The Lightning have one more inter-divisional game this season (vs. Peoria on 7/24).

The Lightning are 3-0 in the last three interdivisional games, including a 47-41 overtime victory at Tennessee Valley last season, who eventually won the 2008 ArenaCup championship. The Lightning are tied, 1-1 in the lifetime series against Amarillo and last beat the Dusters, 40-31 on May 17, 2008 - two weeks before the debut of Lightning head coach Chad Carlson.

Below is a look at past Lightning games in an interdivisional format:

All-time Interdivision Stockton games (6-5)

Score Date Site

Oklahoma City 60, Lightning 50 4/22/06 Oklahoma City

Lightning 60, Quad City 4/22/06 Quad City

Memphis 73, Lightning 54 6/3/06 Stockton Arena

Lightning 68, Green Bay 62 (OT) 6/10/06 Stockton Arena

Lightning 51, Bossier-Shreveport 41 6/24/06 Stockton Arena

Amarillo 66, Lightning 53 6/15/07 Amarillo

Corpus Christi 57, Lightning 50 7/28/07 Stockton Arena

Iowa 47, Lightning 24 4/26/08 Iowa

Lightning 40, Amarillo 31 5/17/08 Stockton Arena

Lightning 47, Tennessee Valley 41 (OT) 6/27/08 Tennessee Valley

Lightning 83, Rio Grande Valley 56 7/14/09 Stockton Arena

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

CHAD CAVENDER (QB) - Stepping in for injured QB Andy Collins 10 weeks ago in his first taste of af2 action, Chad Cavender has winged 56 touchdown passes in nine games, connecting for 10, a Lightning record, against Rio Grande Valley on May 16 en route to earning Russell Athletic af2 Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors. Even though he did not play the full game, Cavender's pass rating of 144.52 in his debut vs. Spokane shattered the Lightning single-game best, previously held by Evan Gray in 2007 (129.69 vs. Everett). Cavender's last outing against Boise produced five touchdown passes, a 20-for-37 effort and 273 passing yards on May 23.

Cavender was named the Offensive Player of the Game against Tri-Cities in a Week 7 loss, throwing for a 27-for-40 rate along with a career-best 318 passing yards and five touchdown tosses.

TROY McBROOM (WR) - Back for his second season in a Lightning uniform, the Manteca, Calif. native McBroom ranks second among Lightning receivers in touchdown receptions (14) and first in receiving yards (1227) and receptions (101). McBroom erupted for a career-high 159 yards on eight catches against Rio Grande Valley on May 16, helping the Lightning upset the Dorados 83-56. Stepping in place of Justin Taplin in Week 13, McBroom tallied a career-high 12 catches in a 57-54 loss vs. Boise.

MERVIN BROOKINS JR. (DB) - In just one month after facing uncertainty for the direction of his football career, Mervin Brookins Jr. erupted after joining the Lightning with an af2 record-tying five interceptions (vs. Central Valley on 7/11) and the JLS af2 Ironman of the Week award for Week 16. Through four games, the rookie defensive back has accumulated 20 tackles, five pass breakups and a team best six interceptions.

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