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Indiana Firebirds game notes

February 10, 2004 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Albany/Indiana Firebirds News Release

Indiana Firebirds (0-1)
at New Orleans VooDoo (1-0)
Date: February 14, 2004
Kickoff: 3:00 pm (EST)
Site: New Orleans Arena (15,500)
Officials: Referee: Bill McCabe,Umpire: Doug Wilson,
Head Linesman: Royce Cooley, Line Judge: Kent Payne
Back Judge: Jimmy Buchanan
Series Record: First Meeting
Coaches: Steve DeBerg (1st Season, 0-1)
Mike Neu (1st season with VooDoo, 1-0,
7-8 overall)

NBC TV: WTHR - 13 (Indianapolis)
Firebirds’ Radio Network: ESPN RADIO 950 AM, WPZZ 95.9 FM, ESPN Radio 1130 AM (Brazil, IN), & ESPN Radio 1300 AM (Terre Haute, IN) w/ Rob Blackman (Play-by-play) and Barry Krauss (color commentary).

The Firebirds look to regroup after dropping their opening game to Columbus 54-48. Indiana led early, and were successful on the ground with Jeff Cogell and Leroy Thompson, but failed to hold a fourth quarter lead. Indiana is looking to rebound from a 6-10 season. 2003 was the first time in six years the Firebirds missed post-season play. New head coach Steve DeBerg is only one of many key acquisitions for Indiana. Kevin Daft, San Jose’s back-up in 2003, was named the starter by DeBerg, after beating out af2 Player of the Year Tony Zimmerman and free agent Adrian McPherson. OS Mike Horacek joins the Firebirds, after being one of the top receivers in the league over the past few seasons, leading the AFL in receptions in 2003 (135) and 2002 (118). Leroy Thompson resigned with the Firebirds in the off-season, and the team’s all-time leading rusher will once again guide the Indiana ground game. Indiana hopes to improve on a Defensive unit that was ranked 11th in points allowed last season. WR/DB Evan Hlavacek may be the top two-way player in the league and is very dangerous on special teams, recovering a fumble on a kickoff for a touchdown in week one against Columbus.

The New Orleans VooDoo franchise joined the AFL for the 2004 season. Led by former Carolina Cobras Head Coach Mike Neu, the VooDoo won their first contest, against the Philadelphia Soul. OS Aaron Bailey led New Orleans with nine receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns. FB/LB Dan Curran showed that Indiana is not the only team in the AFL with a solid ground game, rushing for 45 yards and two touchdowns on five carries. VooDoo QB John Fitzgerald was impressive in passing for 206 yards, four touchdowns, and led New Orleans to scores on every second half possession.
Date Opponent Time Result Streak
2/7 COLUMBUS 7:00 L 54-48 Lost 1
2/14 at New Orleans 3:00
2/23 at Detroit 7:30
2/29 CHICAGO 3:00
3/6 At Orlando 7:30
3/14 at Austin 3:00
3/20 GEORGIA 7:00
3/26 GRAND RAPIDS 7:30
4/3 at Colorado 3:00
4/11 CAROLINA 2:00
4/17 at Grand Rapids 6:30
4/25 ARIZONA 2:00
5/2 at Las Vegas 2:00
5/8 DETROIT 7:00
5/16 COLORADO 2:00
5/23 At Chicago 2:00

Date Opponent Time Result Streak
2/8 at Philadelphia 3:00 W42-34 Won 1
2/14 INDIANA 3:00
2/22 at Georgia 3:00
2/29 at Las Vegas 3:00
3/7 TAMPA BAY 12:00
3/12 DETROIT 8:00
3/18 At Arizona 1:00
3/27 CAROLINA 8:00
4/9 at Orlando 7:30
4/11 CAROLINA 2:00
4/18 COLUMBUS 3:00
4/25 at Austin 3:00
5/1 at San Jose 1:30
5/9 ORLANDO 3:00
5/15 GEORGIA 8:00
5/23 At TAMPA BAY 3:00
5/30 AUSTIN 4:00

If INDIANA Defeats NEW ORLEANS, it would…
· Give Indiana first win over New Orleans franchise.
· Snap Indiana’s two-game losing streak, dating back to last season.
· Give Indiana First win of 2004.
· Be the Firebirds first road win of the season.

If NEW ORLEANS Defeats INDIANA, it would…
§ Avoid the first franchise loss for the VooDoo.
§ Give VooDoo their first home win.
§ Get New Orleans (2-0) out a good start in the Southern Division.

Steve DeBerg (0-1, 1st year): Steve DeBerg is in his first season as Firebirds head coach. DeBerg played 18 seasons as a quarterback in the NFL, ranking as one of the all-time greats in many offensive categories. DeBerg served as quarterback’s coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 1999, and the New York Giants in 1996. In 2001 he opened a quarterbacks training camp for top college quarterbacks. DeBerg tutored NFL starting quarterbacks Byron Leftwich (Jacksonville), Quincy Carter (Dallas), and Rex Grossman (Chicago). DeBerg played for seven teams, passing for over 34,000 yards and 196 touchdowns during his NFL career.

Name Years Record
Steve DeBerg 2004 0-1
Mike Dailey 1997-2003 63-44
Mike Hohensee 1994-1996 30-14
Rick Buffington 1990-1993 19-24

Mike Neu ( 2nd year, 1st with VooDoo): Mike Neu was named the first coach in VooDoo franchise history. Neu was the head coach for the Carolina Cobras in 2002, posting a 6-8 regular season record, and giving Carolina its first ever postseason victory. Neu has been associated with the AFL since 1996, when he joined the Orlando Predators as a Quarterback. In 1998 he was named as the quarterbacks coach for the Nashville Cats. The following season Neu was promoted to the Offensive Coordinator position. In 2000 Neu was the Head Coach and Director of Football Operations for the Augusta Stallions of AF2. In 2001 Neu came back to the AFL as the Offensive Coordinator of the Carolina Cobras, and took over the reigns of the Cobras in 2002. Neu was a graduate of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. At BSU, Neu was a four-year starter and earned MAC MVP, and Offensive Player of the Year in 1993, his senior season. Neu has a wife, Charmin, and they have two children; daughter, Graycen, and son, Carson.


Player Pos Injury Status
Van Tuinei OL/DL Knee Short-TermIR
Greg Krause OL/DL Knee Short TermIR
Anthony Herron OL/DL Shoulder Short TermIR
Adrian McPherson QB Back Short Term IR

This will be the first meeting between the Firebirds and VooDoo franchises.

Start End
Tues. February 10, 2004 11:15am 1:15pm

Wed. February 11, 2004 11:15am 1:15pm

Thurs. February 12, 2004 11:15am 1:15pm

Fri. February 13, 2004 Travel to New Orleans
Depart @ 7:30AM
Sat. February 14th, 2004 3:00pm ET Kickoff

All practices are held at the SportsZone (6601 Coffman Road, Indiana polis, IN 46268). Media are encouraged to get interviews 15 minutes prior to, or following, each practice session.

Score First……………………………………..0-1
Lead After 1st Quarter………………………..0-0
Trail After 1st Quarter………………………..0-1
Lead After 2nd Quarter……………………….0-1
Trail After2nd Quarter……………………….0-0
Lead After 3rd Quarter……………………….0-1
Trail After 3rd Quarter……………………….0-0
Overtime Games………………………………0-0
On NBC………………………………………..0-0
Win Turnover Battle………………………….0-0
Lose Turnover Battle………………………...0-1
Score Over 50 Points………………………...0-0
Score Over 60 Points………………………..0-0
Allow Under 40 Points….…………………..0-0
Allow Under 30 Points………………………0-0

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,” he said. “We’re gonna have to start concentrating on trying to stop the mental mistakes we made tonight”

The Firebirds will stay on the road, as they travel to Detroit for a Monday Night game. The teams played in week 1 last season, with the Firebirds winning 66-57. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM. The Detroit Fury went 8-8 last season, nearly missing an ArenaBowl berth, but fell to San Jose, 58-43, last Thursday night in the AFL 2004 kickoff game.

Firebirds Head Coach Steve DeBerg on…
Week 1 Loss: “In general, I’m very disappointed. 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.”
On Kevin Daft: “Yeah, he got dinged and lost some feeling in his arm. A couple of passes he should have just thrown away and then I decided to switch quarterbacks.”
On the Rushing Game: “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 [Saturday] as it takes a little heat off Daft since it was his first start.”
On key 4th down play:: “We tried a quick count on them but they got a good jump. You’ve gotta give them credit.”

Firebirds FB/LB Leroy Thompson on…
Week 1: “I was overall pleased. 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.”
4th down play: “They played it well defensively. We didn’t get the surge that we needed on the quick count and they got good penetration in our line. Also, it helped them when they blitzed from the outside.”


Game - Opponent U.S. Army Ironman Baby Ruth Offensive Player ADT Defensive Player
2/7 - COL Sedrick Robinson (COL) Brett Bech Anthony Derricks

Injuries plagued the Firebirds in 2003, keeping them out of the postseason for the first time in six seasons. Indiana lost quarterback Raymond Philyaw and WR/LB Brett Bech for significant periods of the season. Despite the turmoil, the Firebirds nearly slid into the postseason, being eliminated by a 46-43 overtime loss at Chicago on the final weekend of the season. Some Firebirds gave fans lots of reasons to have hope in 2004; including Kicker of the Year Clay Rush; and All-Iron Man Team members Evan Hlavacek, and Rich Young. Wide Receive Eddie Brown led the team in receptions with 90, and played defense for the first time in his career, recording 18.5 tackles.

OS Mike Horacek 7th in AFL (12 points)
WR Brett Bech 7th in AFL (12 points)
Scoring on Kicks:
K Clay Rush 8th in AFL (6 points)
Rushing Yards:
FB/LB Leroy Thompson 2nd in AFL (29 yards/gm)
FB/LB Jeff Cogell 2nd in AFL (20 yards/game)
OS Mike Horacek 13th in AFL (6 receptions)
Receiving Yards:
WR Brett Bech 15th in AFL (74 yards)
Yards from Scrimmage:
WR Brett Bech 11th in AFL (80 yards)
Kick Return Average:
DS Anthony Derricks 6th in AFL (22.0 yards/return)

New Firebirds Head Coach Steve DeBerg was able to convince free agent FB/LB Leroy Thompson to return to the Firebirds, telling the veteran that he would have a very good chance to lead the league in rushing. Thompson is the 2nd leading rusher in AFL history, and the 2002 Built Ford Tough Iron Man of the Year. Thompson is back for his 9th season with Indiana. FB/LB Jeff Cogell, is also a threat out of the backfield. Cogell rushed for 29 yards on three carries, adding a rushing touchdown in Indiana’s opening week loss. Thompson added 29 yards, of his own, on seven carries and a score.
2004 AFL Leading Rushing Statistics
1.Dan Curran –NOVD 2 45
2. Leroy Thompson –IND 1 29
2. Jeff Cogell- IND 1 29
3. Bob McMillen – CHI 0 26
4. Shane Stafford – TB 1 23

The Firebirds went into training camp with three quarterbacks capable of seeing significant minutes on the turf this season. Kevin Daft has looked impressive at training camp and was named the starter, but he will have to fight off former Florida State standout Adrian McPherson, and 2003 af2 Player of the Year, Tony Zimmerman, for minutes down the stretch. The Firebirds struggled at the quarterback position last season following an injury to starter Raymond Philyaw.

Quarterback Kevin Daft had to leave last weekend’s game in the fourth quarter with a hand injury. Back-up Tony Zimmerman replaced Daft, and had one touchdown and an interception in limited minutes. At the time of this release Daft’s status for Saturday’s game at New Orleans is uncertain.

Mike Horacek, arguably the most dominant receiver in the AFL over the past two years will join the Firebirds receiving corps. Horacek was the Offensive Player of the Year in 2000, had 118 receptions in 2002, and 126 receptions in 2003. He played last season with Las Vegas. Horacek had six receptions for 59 yards in week one.

Receptions AFL LEADERS
1. Corey Fleming – ORL 13 151
2. Jason Shelly – DAL 10 122
3. Todd Doxzon – CAR 10 97
4. Aaron Bailey – NOVD 9 140
13. Mike Horacek – IND 6 59

The Indiana Firebirds have been defined by their Iron Men the past few seasons. The Built Ford Tough Iron Man of the Year in 2002 Leroy Thompson is back for his ninth season with the Firebirds. In 2003 Evan Hlavacek, and Rich Young were named to the All Iron Man team.

After 18 successful seasons as an NFL quarterback, Firebirds coach Steve DeBerg will have a new type of challenge as a head coach. DeBerg is one of the most respected quarterback minds in the game, serving as quarterback coach for the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants, and tutoring among others, Byron Leftwich, Rex Grossman, and Quincy Carter. DeBerg is the fourth head coach in Firebirds history.

Former Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson, signed a free agent contract with the Firebirds this off-season. McPherson, a highly regarded quarterback prospect, put up dynamic numbers in two seasons at FSU. The opportunity to study under Coach DeBerg drew McPherson to Indiana.

Indiana acquired 6’3, 300lbs center/nose guard Doug Lytle from the LA Avengers in a trade on February first. The four-year AFL veteran played 15 games for Dallas last season. Indiana sent rookie DB Robert Bean to LA to complete the deal.

Firebirds kicker Clay Rush led the league in scoring by a kicker. He also ranked among league leaders in Field Goal percent and PAT percent.

Kicking Points FG PAT
1. Rob Bironas - CAR 11 1-4 8-9
2. Dan Frantz - SJS 10 1-2 7-8
3. Ian Howfield – TAM 10 1-1 7-7
4. Remy Hamilton – LAA 9 1-3 6-7
8. Clay Rush - IND 6 0-0 6-7

Returns No. Yards Avg
1. Sedrick Robinson – COL 2 75 37.5
2. Rashied Davis - SJS 5 127 25.4
3. Will Pettis - DAL 5 125 25.0
4. Ron Carpenter – DET 3 72 24.0
4. Steve Smith - GRA 7 168 24.0
6. Anthony Derricks - IND 3 66 22.0
In a continued effort to put a unique stamp on the league, all teams will use a new Spaulding Football in 2004. The ball is mostly oatmeal colored, but features a blue stripe.

The Firebirds suffered in week one, from two forth quarter interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The Birds did have a takeaway when Evan Hlavacek recovered a Clay Rush kickoff in the endzone. When the Firebirds struggled last season, they failed to protect the football. During a five game losing streak they turned the ball over 14 times and lost the turnover battle in four of those five games. To regain the success the Firebird franchise has enjoyed, the team will have to avoid turnovers in 2004.

In 2003 the Firebirds went 4-4 away from Conseco Fieldhouse. The ‘Birds were only 2-6 at home. The Firebirds 2004 road season opens February 14th in New Orleans.

Firebirds DS and return man Anthony Derricks put up impressive numbers in week one. Derricks is currently sixth in the AFL in kickoff return average at 22 yards per return. Derricks was also named the ADT Defensive Player of the Game by the media.

In 2003 the Firebirds season was a tale of two teams. The Firebirds started the season 3-0, including 2 road victories. Unfortunately, Indiana faltered, with losing streaks of five and three games as the year progressed. The Firebirds hope to be more consistent in 2004 under Coach DeBerg, and look to avoid a two-game losing streak to open the 2004 season, when they play New Orleans.

The Firebirds hope to continue the success they enjoyed last February, when they went three and one. Indiana showed a lot of potential with the strong February last season, until injuries and turnovers plagued the season. The Firebirds have lost their only February game this season.

INDIANA QUARTERBACKS VERSUS NEW ORLEANS DEFENSE: Indiana added three quarterbacks capable of playing big minutes in the off-season. Kevin Daft, and Tony Zimmerman each played in week 1, and each showed signs of excellence. However, neither quarterback could help the Firebirds offense put away the Destroyers, and each threw fourth quarter interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The VooDoo Defense was among the league leaders in takeaway margin in week one (+2) and was led by DS Chris Pointer’s eleven total tackles. Indiana’s quarterbacks will have to protect the ball against this aggressive defensive unit.

Join ESPN RADIO 950’s Rob Blackman every Wednesday night from 6-7 pm for ‘Birds Blitz, a weekly variety show broadcast on the entire Indiana Firebirds Radio Network, covering the Firebirds, the Arena Football League, and recent happenings around the world. The show is located at Daddy Jack’s Restaurant on 96th and Meridian. The public is invited to attend.


FB/LB Leroy Thompson: Rushed seven times for 29 yards and a touchdown in week 1. In 2002 Leroy had his best season as a pro. Thompson rushed the ball 37 times for 118 yards and ten touchdowns. Defensively, he recorded 21 tackles and six sacks on his way to being named the Arena Football League’s Built Ford Tough Man of the Year. Last season, Leroy led the Firebirds in rushing for 167 yards on 53 carries.

DS Evan Hlavacek: Defensive specialist named to the AFL All-Iron Man team in 2003. Led Firebirds in 2000 with 98 tackles. Ranked 9th in AFL in All-Purpose yards in 2003 (134.9/game).

OL/DL Chris Snyder: First team All-Arena in 2002. Totaled 11.5 sacks and 49 tackles through four years in the AFL.

OS Mike Horacek: Had two receiving touchdowns in week one, and team-high six receptions. Led the AFL with 126 receptions in 2003, with Las Vegas. Ranked among league leaders in points, and receiving yards. Led the AFL with 118 receptions in 2002. Named AFL “Offensive Player of the Year” in 2000.

New Orleans VooDoo:
OS Aaron Bailey: Bailey sparked the New Orleans offense as they topped Philadelphia last week. Bailey totaled 140 yards receiving on nine receptions, and two touchdowns. In three previous AFL seasons the receiver from the University of Louisville has compiled 167 receptions for 2,262 yards and 39 touchdowns.

FB/LB Dan Curran: Curran led the ground attack for New Orleans last week, putting up 45 yards and two touchdowns on only five carries. In 2003 Curran rushed 53 times for 117 yards and 8 touchdowns. He added 16.5 tackles and 2 sacks on the defensive side of the ball

QB John Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald struggled at times during New Orleans win last week, but finished with impressive numbers, throwing for 4 touchdowns and 206 yards. His best AFL season came in 2002 when he started 7 games for the Carolina Cobras, under coach Mike Neu. Fitzgerald finished that season 171-280 passing the football, for 1,907 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

With 29 yards rushing in week one, Leroy Thompson became the Firebirds all time leading rusher. Thompson who has been with the franchise since 1996 has 804 career rushing yards. The record was held by Chad Dukes, who had 803 rushing yards between 1996 and 1998 for the Firebirds.

Firebirds All-Time Leading Rushers
Leroy Thompson 804
Chad Dukes 803
Rodney Smith 311
Tim Brown 245
Eddie Brown 204

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