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Greensboro Prowlers Game Notes

July 21, 2003 - arenafootball2 (af2) - Greensboro Prowlers News Release

QUICK FACTS:
Greensboro Prowlers (8-7) at Norfolk Nighthawks (7-7)
Date: Saturday, July 26, 2003
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. EST
Site: Norfolk Scope Arena (8,965)
National Anthem: TBA
Officials: TBA
Series Record: Nighthawks lead series 4-3.
Last Meeting: Greensboro defeated the Nighthawks at the Greensboro Coliseum 59-52.
Streaks: Prowlers have won two straight games for the first time in team history; Richmond won their first game of the season last Saturday after starting with two losses.
Coaches: Norfolk— Rick Frazier (6-5) Greensboro—Steven Jerry (8-7)

THE STAKES: Greensboro has the opportunity to win their fourth straight game, and second victory over the Nighthawks this season. The victory will give either Greensboro or Norfolk the American Atlantic Division Championship, as well as the first such accolade for either franchise. Greensboro began its first ever four-game winning streak with a victory over Norfolk on June 28th, and by facing divisional opposition in the last five games of the season, Greensboro has moved into a first place tie with the Nighthawks.

THE SERIES: With the series dating back to the 2000 season, Greensboro and Norfolk split the series, with each team winning at home until last year. It was then that Norfolk won 63-36 at the Scope, and would win 39-32 at the Greensboro Coliseum.

THE IFs:

If Greensboro defeats Norfolk, it would …
· Continue the Prowlers franchise long four-game winning streak.
· Give the Prowlers their first ever divisional championship, following a loss by the Cape Fear Wildcats.
· Move the all-time series between Greensboro and Norfolk to 4-4.

LAST SERIES MEETING: There were many great performances for the Greensboro Prowlers 59-52 victory over the Norfolk Nighthawks, but two in particular were the showcase. Slover became the Prowlers all-time leader in touchdown passes, surpassing the record previously held by Travis Pender, on his second of eight touchdowns on the evening. As for Sippio, he made six receptions for 134 yards, five kickoff returns with a combined 125 yards, as well as pulling down an interception with a return of 22 yards to lead the Prowlers.

The Prowlers (5-7) began their scoring after a Nighthawks drive that began the game at their own two-yard line. Bobby Sippio pulled down a 15-yard pass from Slover, that tied the Prowlers all-time record with Pender. Andrew Layton then caught a touchdown pass at the 1:45 mark of the first quarter, giving Greensboro a 14-7 lead, as well as setting the record for Caleb Slover.

In the second, Greensboro lost momentum in the second when they allowed two consecutive Nighthawks (6-6) touchdowns by Travis Burns from 39-yards and 7-yards. This gave Norfolk a brief 21-14 lead at the 5:13 mark. Andrew Layton, a two-week veteran of the Prowlers, then responded with his second touchdown of the night on a 2-yard pass from Slover and knotted the game at 21-21 ending the first half.

Greensboro took the first play of the second half to the end zone when Bobby Sippio made a 47-yard touchdown catch and streaked past the Nighthawk defenders to give Greensboro a lead it would never relinquish. Norfolk’s Kevin Fuller caught a 15-yard pass from Aaron Sparrow, putting Norfolk within one game of the lead. Greensboro then answered with two consecutive scores, the first coming from Bobby Sippio on a 14-yard pass, and followed by a 21-yard field goal by James Thomas, gave Greensboro a 38-27 lead to end the third quarter.

The Prowlers began the fourth quarter scoring by allowing a field goal, cutting the deficit to eight. Slover and Sippio then got the Prowlers back on track with a 20-yard touchdown connection. Norfolk would then score to cap a five play drive, and Travis Burns cut the lead to 45-38 at 7:19. Prowlers Offensive Specialist David Hill then hauled in a 33-yard grab from Slover, making the lead 52-38. After a second touchdown by Burns in the quarter, Bobby Sippio once again made a big play with a 31-yard touchdown catch, and a the Prowlers lead with one minute remaining. A late Norfolk touchdown, made the final 59-52 in favor of Greensboro.

Greensboro was led on the defensive side of the ball by Michael Posey, who made 8.5 tackles, while Bobby Sippio added six tackles, defended two passes and one interception.

HEAD COACHES: Steven Jerry is in his first season as head coach of the Prowlers. Jerry joins the Prowlers from the now-defunct Roanoke Steam, where he finished 8-8 last season and 15-17 overall in his two years as head coach. Before that, Coach Jerry was the offensive coordinator for the af2’s Norfolk Nighthawks. Coach Jerry played his college football at the University of North Carolina as a quarterback and receiver. He also played in the AFL as a WR/DB with the Albany Firebirds, Grand Rapids Rampage, and New England Sea Wolves.

Rick Frazier comes to Norfolk after spending the 2002 season with the Toronto Phantoms of the AFL. Frazier served the Phantoms as their Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator. Frazier spent his previous 7 seasons with the Milwaukee Mustangs, the last 4 years of which he served as their Head Coach (1998-2001). Frazier also served as Defensive Coordinator (1996-1997) after originally joining the team as an assistant coach (1995). In 1996, his Mustang “D” was the top-ranked unit in Arena Football leading the league in total defense, pass defense and quarterback sacks.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES:

OFFENSIVE/DEFENSIVE LINEMAN BULL BROWN: “Ever since the victory over Norfolk four weeks ago, a lot of things have clicked for us both offensively and defensively. Caleb is finding out receivers in great positions, the line is blocking up front, and most important we have come together as a team.”

FOUR-FOR-FOUR: Sometimes the football gods giveth and other times they taketh away. The Richmond Speed (6-9) experienced both tonight in a 61-49 loss to American Northwest Division rivals the Greensboro Prowlers (8-7) in their season home finale at the Richmond Coliseum.

This game featured a match-up between two teams who have excellent scoring capabilities, but less powerful defenses meaning the 3,401 fans at the Coliseum should have been in for a high-scoring treat. In the end they got what they came for, but at the close of the first quarter, both teams had scored just one touchdown apiece, the Speed’s coming on QB Joel Gordon’s one-yard dash with 3:52 remaining in the quarter.

The Speed had the momentum going into the second quarter, but it was taken away from them when OL Lawrence Lewis fumbled James Thomas’ missed field goal which was recovered in the endzone by Greensboro for a touchdown. But a penalty negated the score and the Prowlers kicked and missed the field goal again. The Speed got a lucky break, but it was a bad sign.

In the first quarter, Richmond’s star OS Damon Thompson was shaken up on a play in which he was blocking, but mid-way through the second quarter he did further damage to his knee and had to be carried from the field. He did not return to the game, and although the Speed offense did not collapse, it was not the same without Thompson, the leading receiver in af2.

Shortly after Thompson was lost, the Prowlers scored a touchdown on QB Caleb Slover’s three-yard run. A successful PAT put the Speed down 14-7.

But just when things looked grim for Richmond, the Speed grabbed the momentum right back when three plays later Gordon threw a 20-yard TD strike to WR Jeff Townsley. K Peter Martinez’s extra point tied the game at 14, but that was the last time the Speed would tie a game which they never led.

Richmond seemed to have regained control, but the Prowlers took it away from them scoring on a 23-yard touchdown pass to OS David Hill on the next play from scrimmage. The Speed tried to regroup but on their next drive WR PJ Winston had the ball taken away from him by DB Victor White who returned the ball 15 yards for a touchdown. At halftime, Richmond trailed 28-14.

In the second half the Prowlers kept control by scoring another touchdown on a 13-yard pass to WR Bobby Graham just 2 minutes into the half. But the Speed took the momentum back, scoring a touchdown of their own on their next possession when, three plays after a 40-yard kickoff return by Townsley, Gordon had a two-yard touchdown run. After the extra point, the Speed trailed 35-21. This was the scoring battle the fans had expected and the remainder of the game would not disappoint. Unfortunately for the Speed, the Prowlers scored again just five plays later to up the ante to 42-21.

They were able to respond once again, however, when Townsley ran back the ensuing kickoff 56-yards for a touchdown. Richmond was then able to cause a major shift in momentum when DS DaShane Dennis recovered a fumble at the Greensboro seven yard-line. On the next play, WR Marcus Richardson hauled in a seven-yard TD pass from Gordon to put the score at 42-35 heading into the fourth quarter. Despite some bad luck, the Speed seemed poised to tie or even take the lead, but once again the momentum was taken from them when just 10 seconds into the quarter WR Bobby Sippio caught a touchdown pass to make the score 48-35. On the Speed’s next drive, Gordon threw an interception which was turned into a TD three plays later.

The game was getting out of hand for the Speed at 55-35 and Richmond had to score right away or the game would be effectively over. The team responded to the challenge when Gordon threw another touchdown pass to Townsley three plays later. A defensive stop on the next series would put Richmond in an excellent position. But a comeback was not to be. Trailing 55-42, Gordon threw another interception which the Prowlers turned into another touchdown for their final score of the game and a 61-42 lead.

Richmond’s situation was desperate and the Speed threw everything it had at Greensboro with the game winding down. With 15 seconds remaining, Townsley had another 56-yard kick return for a touchdown to put the score at 61-49. The Speed attempted an onside kick and did not initially recover, but Martinez caused the Prowlers to fumble the ball on the return. Gordon’s Hail Mary on the next play was intercepted in the endzone to end the game.

FORWARD MOTION: In the last week of the season, Greensboro will face the Norfolk Nighthawks. A victory over the Nighthawks, loss by the Cape Fear Wildcats sets up the opportunity for Greensboro to capture the American Atlantic Championship. For the first time in franchise history, Greensboro has been given the opportunity to battle for a divisional championship as well as a playoff position

TEAM NOTES/TRENDS

SINKING CLAWS INTO CAPE FEAR: It has been on the mind of the Greensboro Prowlers for nine weeks, and in one swift James Thomas extra point attempt, the Prowlers avenged a ghost and an early season loss to the Cape Fear Wildcats, won in overtime 69-68. The victory moves Greensboro to 7-7 on the season, and continues a franchise-high three game-winning streak.

Scoring began when Greensboro took the opening possession on a four-play drive that went for 45 yards, capped off on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Slover to Bobby Sippio. Answered directly by Cape Fear (8-6), Wilmont Perry rumbled 2-yards for a Wildcat strike to knot the game at 7-7. Closing out first quarter scoring, the Prowlers struck deep, as Bobby Sippio made a 45-yard scamper into the Wildcat endzone giving Greensboro a 14-7 advantage after the end of one quarter.

The second quarter marked the largest amount of scoring in the contest, when Greensboro began the quarter with a 23-yard strike to David Hill at the 14:39 mark. Cape Fear would answer with a second Wilmont Perry touchdown, and cut the deficit to 21-14. In a seesaw scoring battle, the Prowlers capped off a four play drive with the second touchdown to David Hill and stretch the lead back to 14 points. Cape Fear would retaliate with a seven-play drive of their own, and Anthony Hines scored on a 5-yard pass at the 3:37 mark, and the Wildcats would trail 28-21. Bobby Sippio scored the last touchdown of the half for the Prowlers, as Greensboro would take a 35-27 lead.

In the third quarter, the Wildcats would continue to scratch at the door, beginning the quarter in similar fashion as that of the first. Wilmont Perry scored on a 2-yard run to finish off and eight-play drive, and make the deficit 35-34. The Prowlers answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Ironman of the Game Caleb Slover into the hands of Shannon Gainey, and make the lead 41-34. After a second Cape Fear touchdown, Greensboro would get a huge lift with an Andrew Layton 15-yard reception, to put the Prowlers ahead 48-40, and end the third quarter.

The fourth quarter became a defining one for the Prowlers, when Cape Fear marched down the field to tie the game at 48-48 as Mitch Galloway would haul in a 28-yard touchdown, and Cape Fear made a two-point attempt. Following a Greensboro miscue on their own one-yard line, only to have Perry score his fourth touchdown of the game, and give Cape Fear a brief 54-48 advantage. In one of the most amazing runs of the Prowlers history, quarterback Caleb Slover was not to be outdone by his rival QB Bryan Snyder, and battled his way to a 16-yard touchdown, giving Greensboro a 55-54 advantage with just 6:52 remaining. Following a Cape Fear strike to Anthony Hines, the Prowlers David Hill made a nine-yard touchdown catch with one minute remaining, and forced the game into overtime with a 62-62 tie.

In the overtime, Cape Fear won the initial toss and would drive 43-yards to lead the game on a Marcus Whitehead reception with 11:28 remaining in the overtime frame. Having the opportunity to retaliate, Greensboro fought off a fourth down miscue, as Cape Fear committed a critical pass interference violation, and Andrew Layton grabbed a 15-yard pass from Slover to knot the game. Following a James Thomas extra point attempt, the Prowlers continue to break franchise records for victories in a season. Ironman of the Game Caleb Slover completed 21 of 30 passes for 321 yards, nine touchdowns, and ran his way to the endzone with a critical 16-yard run, that gave Greensboro the momentum for the remainder of the game.

PLAYOFF FORMAT NOW COMES INTO PLAY: The 2003 af2 playoffs will feature 12 teams and span four weeks with the American Conference champion meeting the National Conference champion in the 2003 ArenaCup on the weekend of August 22.

Six teams from each the American and National Conferences qualify for the postseason. Within each conference the two division champions with the best overall records have a bye in the first round. The remaining division champion hosts the lowest seeded wildcard team, while the other two wildcard teams play each other at the venue of the team with the better overall record.

In the second round, the two division winners that had a bye in the first round host the winners of the first round games. The division winner with the best overall record hosts the lowest seeded winner from round one, while the other division winner hosts the other first round winner.

Winners of second round games meet for the Conference Finals, with the host being the team with the better overall record. The American Conference champion meets the National Conference champion in the 2003 ArenaCup. The participating team with the better overall record hosts the championship game.

UP TO SECOND: The Prowlers have not yielded a sack to the opposition in the since May 30th when they faced the Charleston Swamp Foxes. When the Swamp Foxes Antoinne Scott reached the Prowlers backfield and quarterback Caleb Slover, on in Week 8 of the af2 season it was the first time since a Greensboro quarterback was brought to the turf since April 11 at the Macon Knights. Against Albany, Florida and the Nighthawks the Prowlers offensive line returned to its old form, not allowing Caleb Slover to be introduced to the turf by way of a sack. Greensboro currently ranks in second in the af2 with four sacks allowed, trailing only Tennessee Valley, who is 13-0 on the season for the fewest sacks allowed (2). The Prowlers sit three in front of Quad City and four in front of Macon, and seven in front of Wichita. In the history of the league, the two teams with the fewest sacks allowed in a season are the Lincoln Lightning (2001) and Birmingham Steeldogs (2002).

MR. EXCITEMENT MAKES HIS IMPACT KNOWN: Bobby Sippio has moved into second among the Prowlers all-time leaders in Kick Returns with 796 yards in 33 returns, along with 2 TDs. Demeco Archangel leads the team in all-time yards with 839 yards, and is tied with Walter Ford in TD’s with five.

In the game against the Norfolk Nighthawks, Sippio not only amassed 124 yards in kickoff returns, but also made a nine yard missed field goal return to go along with an offensive game that six grabs for 138 yards and 5 TDs, and a defensive burst that included six tackles and an interception with a 22-yard return. He earned Most Valuable Player of the Game honors for his effort, and looks to improve on his numbers which include 33 receptions for 17 touchdowns.

UNPRECEDENTED: Never before in the history of the Greensboro Prowlers have two players received af2 honors following their performances. However, after a 69-68 overtime victory over the Cape Fear Wildcats, it was obvious that it would take a remarkable performance to snatch Offensive Player of the Week from Prowlers QB Caleb Slover, and an even more outstanding game to dethrone WR/DB Bobby Sippio as Ironman of the Week. According to the arenafootball2 league office, neither was attainable, and Slover and Sippio were named as the recipients as the respective awards.

For the first time in the history of the arenafootball2 league, a player has captured the Ironman of the Week honors four times during a season. What makes this distinction unique is that WR/DB Bobby Sippio will also be the recipient of the Ironman Award for the third consecutive week, following his performance against the Cape Fear Wildcats. On the offensive side, Sippio made six receptions for a team-high 110 yards, while making three first half touchdowns. However, it was Sippio’s defensive play that proved key in the Prowlers victory, making his team-leading fifth interception of the season at the 8:21 mark of the fourth quarter that would help give the Prowlers a 55-54 lead. Sippio was also key on special teams, amassing 80 yards on five kickoff returns.

As for Slover, the Prowlers prolific passer completed 21 of 30 passes, for 321 yards and nine touchdowns, along with one rushing. His nine passing touchdowns set the mark for the af2 in a single game this season, and ties 12 players all-time. Instrumental in one of the biggest plays in the game, Slover also made 16-yard run for a touchdown that gave him 10 total TDs in the game, following the Sippio interception, to give Greensboro a 55-54 lead with just over six minutes remaining. “It was the most gutsy run that I have ever seen by a quarterback, and a definite momentum swing for the team”, Head Coach Steven Jerry said of the play. “They are playing well together right now, and after a period of time adjusting to the habits of the other, I am glad that they are enjoying success, and I look forward to more production from each.”

QUIET STORM: With the Greensboro Prowlers heading down the stretch run of the arenafootball2 season, the three teams (Richmond, Cape Fear, and Norfolk) remaining on the schedule have a combined 11-3 all-time record against the Prowlers. However, in mold in 2003 has been broken, and there is one big reason why these combined records and team milestones have been shattered—Prowlers Head Coach Steven Jerry (featured in the right photo, behind David Hill).

The definition of the word rivalry, according to Webster’s dictionary, is “to be in competition with, to strive to equal or excel: emulate, to possess qualities or aptitudes that approach or equal (those of another).” According to that definition both Richmond and Cape Fear would be defined as having a rivalry with the Prowlers. In Cape Fear the Prowlers face their only in-state competition, and two very close games between them. When the Wildcats last visited the “Jungle” of the Greensboro Coliseum they won a tough 49-39 contest. In the fourth quarter, it was Cape Fear that outscored Greensboro 17-6, and would later go on to win the American Atlantic Division crown. Earlier this season, Greensboro would be cat nipped again, following a 21-yard touchdown by Caleb Slover to offensive specialist Corey Sullivan, when Josh Jones was unable to convert an extra point attempt and possibly send the game into overtime.

Most important in the loss, the Prowlers defined themselves throughout the game, because of the character of Coach Jerry, as a team that would not back down from any challenge. Having gone through varying turmoil with coaches in the past, Jerry brings a proven leader to a team that was in search of those qualities. At halftime trailing 26-22 to the Wildcats in a unique first half of action, it was Coach Jerry and his coaching staff that illustrated to the players that important edge of confidence that has been used throughout the remainder of the season, realizing that the Prowlers were facing a defining moment.

On May 2nd, Greensboro had faced another ghost from the past when taking on the Richmond Speed. The Prowlers came into the game with a 3-1 record, following victories over Wilkes-Barre, Florida, and Mohegan, and facing a Richmond team that was beginning to get back on track at 1-2. The nemesis was once again Richard Davis, who has compiled a 4-0 all-time record against Greensboro, despite close contests that included margins of 36-31 (6/24/2000); 66-57 (5/18/2002); and the largest margin on July 13, 2002 with a 46-21 win. It was Richmond once again that derailed thoughts of a Prowlers victory, when the Speed’s Richard Holland made a 20-yard reception with one minute remaining. It was obvious from the sideline that Greensboro was not about to lay down despite trailing 59-44, and sustained a four play, 25-yard drive that pushed the final total to 59-52. Following the drive it was obvious that Jerry was “the quiet storm”, as he once defined himself, giving the opposition an example of the reasons why he is one of the most feared offensive minds in the af2.

The final game of the season against the Norfolk Nighthawks may prove to be one of the most defining games in Prowlers history. Norfolk leads the all-time series against Greensboro with a 4-3 record, as the Prowlers won the most recent meetings between the two franchises 59-52. With Norfolk, rivalry is not the common definition of the game, but rather domination by one team or another. Entering the 2003 season when Greensboro visits the Norfolk Scope, the Prowlers face a house of horrors, being outscored 162-71 all-time. However on a complete reversal of fortune, the Nighthawks have a difficult time in “The Jungle” as they are grounded 106-74.

Ironically the history between Coach Jerry and the Nighthawks franchise goes much deeper than just two meetings each season when he was with the Roanoke Steam, and now with the Prowlers. In 2000, he served as the Offensive Coordinator while working with QB’s and Wide Receivers, and compiled a 10-6 record with Norfolk. In 2000, the Nighthawks finished second in the American Conference behind Augusta, and won the opening game of the playoffs 41-28 over the Jacksonville Tomcats. Just one week later, Norfolk fell to the eventual Arena Cup champion Quad City Steamwheelers 75-27. “There are only so many things that you can do in arena football, and with Quad City they just had much better personnel than everyone else,” Coach Jerry said about facing Quad City.

With the opportunity to work alongside Coach Jerry, there is no question that he is the best coach that Greensboro Prowlers have ever hired. Having not met Tyrone Willingham in person, only watching his persona in interviews, Coach Jerry would be the best parallel to Willingham in many facets—ranging from his demeanor, the way that he carries himself, and most important in that he a winner on the gridiron, and a gentleman off the field. Spending time with his wife and two sons, Coach Jerry is both a devout man with Christian ideals and family man. As the Prowlers face the stretch run of the 2003 season, and the push for the af2 playoffs get tighter in the American Atlantic Division, there is definitely a quiet storm in Greensboro.

NIGHTHAWKS MOST RECENT GAME: The Cape Fear Wildcats offensive specialist Anthony Hines, had a career high 19 receptions for 222-yards and six touchdowns in the victory over the Nighthawks. The Wildcats take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic division with one game remaining. Cats’ QB Bryan Snyder was 30-of-38 for 287-yards and six touchdowns.

Defensive specialist Phil Crumb had 4.5 tackles and two interceptions for 17-yards for the Wildcats. Norfolk shutout the Wildcats in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead, but the Wildcats outscored the Nighthawks 48-27 to seal the victory. Nighthawks QB Chris Wallace was 10-of-14 for 142-yards and three touchdowns and OS Travis Burns had seven receptions for 106-yards and three touchdowns.

PLAYERS/MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Prowlers WR/DB Bobby Sippio: In his first season with the Prowlers, Sippio has been one of the most pleasant surprises for Head Coach Steven Jerry and his staff. Sippio has moved to the front of the pack amongst Prowler receivers with 45 receptions for 797 yards (72.5), and 23 touchdowns. This puts Bobby first in total points (162). On the defensive side of the ball, Sippio has made five interceptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. He also ranks first in tackles with 46 on the season, 38 on the solo side. Another key ingredient for Sippio is his impact on special teams with 33 kickoff returns, 796 yards, and two touchdowns.

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