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Indiana Firebirds game notes

February 17, 2004 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Albany/Indiana Firebirds News Release

Indiana Firebirds (0-2)
at Detroit Fury (1-1)
Date: February 23, 2004
Kickoff: 7:30 pm
Site: The Palace of Auburn Hills (14,826)
Officials: Referee: Riley Johnson; Umpire: Paul Frerking;
Head Linesman: Darrel Leftwich; Line Judge: Paul Engelberts; Back Judge: Bud McCleskey
Series Record: Indiana leads 4-1
Last Meeting: The Firebirds defeated Detroit, 66-57, to open the 2003 season. The game was played at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Coaches: Steve DeBerg (1st Season, 0-2)
Tom Luginbill (1st Season, 1-1)

Firebirds’ Radio Network: ESPN RADIO 950 AM, WIJY 95.9 FM, ESPN Radio 1130 AM, & ESPN Radio 1300 AM (Rob Blackman and Barry Krauss).

The Firebirds look to regroup after starting the season with two losses. Indiana looked impressive throughout most of the second half in New Orleans, outscoring the VooDoo 24-13, however they came up just short, allowing a game-winning touchdown as time expired to fall 41-40. In week one, the Firebirds failed to protect a lead as Columbus rallied for a 54-48 victory in Conseco Fieldhouse. Indiana is looking to rebound from a 6-10 season as 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. 2003 af2 Player of the Year, Tony Zimmerman, and free agents Adrian McPherson and John Turman will fight for playing time after an injury to starter Kevin Daft. 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 (135) in 2003. Leroy Thompson re-signed with the Firebirds in the off-season and will once again guide the Indiana ground game. Indiana also hopes to improve on a defensive unit that was ranked 11th in points allowed last season.

The Detroit defense stole the show as the Fury defeated Arizona (0-2) 48-31, for their first victory of the 2004 season. Arizona was held scoreless in the opening and final quarters and quarterback Andy Kelly led the Detroit offense with a strong showing. He completed 20 of 37 attempts, resulting in four touchdowns and 204 passing yards. OS David Hill led the receivers with seven receptions for 55 yards. Thabiti Davis was named the Ironman of the game and had four receptions for 95 yards. The Fury lost their home game, falling 58-43 to San Jose in week one.

Date Opponent Time Result Record
2/7 COLUMBUS 7:00 L 54-48 0-1
2/14 at New Orleans 3:00 L 41-40 0-2
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 Record
2/6 SAN JOSE 3:00 L58-43 0-1
2/13 At Arizona 9:00 W48-31 1-1
2/23 INDIANA 7:30
3/04 At Colorado 9:00
3/12 At New Orleans 8:00
3/18 AUSTIN 7:30
3/28 At Chicago 3:00
4/1 GEORGIA 7:30
4/10 GRAND RAPIDS 7:30
4/16 At Los Angeles 10:30
4/25 At Las Vegas 3:00
5/2 CHICAGO 3:00
5/8 At Indiana 8:00
5/15 ARIZONA 7:30
5/23 COLORADO 3:00
5/29 At Grand Rapids 7:30
Steve DeBerg (0-2, 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.

Name Years Record
Steve DeBerg 2004 0-2
Mike Dailey 1997-2003 63-44
Mike Hohensee 1994-1996 30-14
Rick Buffington 1990-1993 19-24

Tom Luginbill (1st season 1-1): Tom Luginbill made Detroit his fourth coaching stop in the past four years. Luginbill spent 2002 with the Dallas Desperados of the AFL, serving as the Offensive Coordinator. Under Luginbill’s leadership the Dallas expansion team set a record for points by a first-year franchise, ranked first in the league in red-zone efficiency, and advanced in the postseason. In 2001 Luginbill worked as a quarterbacks’ coach under his father on the LA Xtreme, where he coached current Pittsburgh Steelers QB Tommy Maddox. Luginbill served as head coach of the Tennessee Valley Vipers of af2 in 2000, leading the Vipers to the 2000 Arena Cup. During his college career Luginbill started for Palomar Junior College, Georgia Tech and Eastern Kentucky University. Luginbill earned a degree from Eastern Kentucky University and added a Master’s in health and Physical Education from Marshall.


Player Pos Injury Status
Kevin Daft QB Neck OUT
Doug Lytle OL/DL Knee OUT
Kerry Brown WR/LB Thumb OUT
Greg Krause OL/DL Knee Questionable
Adrian McPherson QB Back Questionable
Delvin Hughley DS Hand Questionable

The Firebirds lead the all-time series 4-1, and have won the past three meetings. Indiana defeated Detroit 66-57 in week one of 2003, marking their last meeting in Auburn Hills. Detroit’s last victory over Indiana came in the form of a 66-58 win to close out the 2001 season.

PRACTICE SCHEDULE FOR February 17th THROUGH February 23rd
Start End
Tues. February 17, 2004 11:15am 1:15pm

Wed. February 18, 2004 11:15am 1:15pm
(to be held at OFF THE WALL SPORTS, 1423 Chase Ct., Carmel, IN 46032 – WED ONLY)
Thurs. February 19, 2004 11:15am 1:15pm

Fri. February 20, 2004 11:15am 12:15pm

Sat. February 21, 2004 TRAVEL TO DETROIT

Sun. February 22, 2004 WALK-THRU IN DETROIT

Mon. February 23, 2004 7:30 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.

At Home………………………………………..0-1
On the Road……………………………………0-1
Vs. National Conference……………………..0-2
Vs. American Conference……………………0-0
Vs. Southern Division………………………..0-1
Vs. Eastern Division………………………….0-1
Vs. Western Division…………………………0-0
Vs. Central Division………………………….0-0
Score First……………………………………..0-2
Lead After 1st Quarter………………………..0-0
Trail After 1st Quarter………………………..0-2
Lead After 2nd Quarter……………………….0-1
Trail After2nd Quarter……………………….0-1
Lead After 3rd Quarter……………………….0-1
Trail After 3rd Quarter……………………….0-1
Overtime Games………………………………0-0
On NBC………………………………………..0-1
Win Turnover Battle………………………….0-1
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

Late TD Run Halts Firebirds Rally
New Orleans FB/LB Dan Curran ran the ball in from two yards out with no time remaining on the clock to lift the VooDoo to a 41-40 victory over the Indiana Firebirds Saturday afternoon, in front of 14,236 fans at the New Orleans Arena. The Firebirds (0-2) outscored New Orleans (2-0) 24-13 in the second half, but fell one play short of earning their first win of the season.

DS Anthony Derricks, who finished the game with a team-high seven solo tackles and four pass breakups, forced a fumble with 2:40 left to play and the Firebirds leading 40-34, but a Clay Rush 56-yard field goal attempt fell about six inches short, giving the VooDoo one last chance to win.

Indiana QB Tony Zimmerman, starting his first career game in the AFL, started off slowly, but picked it up in the second half, finishing the game 19-of-34 for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Evan Hlavacek brought his all-around game to the table in New Orleans, catching a team-high six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.

The Firebirds trailed 28-26 at the half when Hlavacek returned the opening kickoff of the second half 56-yards to paydirt, bringing the visitors within five. A defensive stop, followed by Hlavacek's 14-yard scoring reception got the Firebirds in front for the first time in the game, leading 30-28.

New Orleans QB John Fitzgerald, named the Game MVP, then hit Calvin Spears for the first of two second half touchdowns for the VooDoo. Rush converted his second field goal of the day (41, 27) and another defensive stop got Indiana the ball with 9:00 left in the game.

Zimmerman then found OS Mike Horacek for a 30-yard touchdown, which was followed by DS Delvin Hughley's recovery of the Derricks forced fumble.

The Firebirds will return to Indiana and play host to the Chicago Rush (2-0). Chicago will bring to town a number of former Firebirds including starting quarterback Raymond Philyaw, who starred for Indiana last season. The Firebirds ousted the Rush in a low-scoring affair 28-23 at Conseco Fieldhouse early last season. Chicago took revenge on Indiana with a 46-43-overtime victory in the final week of the season that kept Indiana out of the playoffs.

Firebirds Head Coach Steve DeBerg on…
Tony Zimmerman: "At the beginning, it was a matter of Zimmerman getting comfortable. We had some big-play opportunities that we missed, but you can't blame a guy in his first start.”
On VooDoo Defense: "They've got a real good defense, and they made some plays when they needed them."
Rec. TD Rush TD Return TD Total TD
1 0 1 (KO) 2
On Indiana’s Offense: "I still have a lot of confidence in our ability to move the football and score points.Some of it is inexperience at quarterback. Next week, we'll have a quarterback playing in his second game."

Firebirds QB Tony Zimmerman on …
The New Orleans game: “We didn't start off as well as we would have liked, and I definitely didn't start as strong as I wanted to. We fought back and gave ourselves an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter. We just came up a little bit short."

Game - Opponent U.S. Army Ironman Baby Ruth Offensive Player ADT Defensive Player
2/7 - COL Sedrick Robinson (COL) Brett Bech Anthony Derricks
2/14 - NOV B.J. Cohen (NOV) John Fitzgerald (NOV) Chris Pointer (NOV)

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 member Evan Hlavacek.

Scoring on Kicks:
K Clay Rush 5th in AFL (16 points)
Rushing Yards:
FB/LB Leroy Thompson 6th in AFL (30 yards)
FB/LB Jeff Cogell 7th in AFL (29 yards)
Kick Return Average:
WR/DB Evan Hlavacek 9th in AFL (21 yards/return)
DS Anthony Derricks 12th in AFL (20.6 yds/return)

WR/DB Evan Hlavacek’s TD Tracker…

Yards/Game 17 16
Rushing Yards/Game 4 13
Passing yards/Game 17 16
First Downs/Game 10t 6t
3rd Down Efficiency 13t 11t
4th Down Efficiency 9t 9t
Kickoff Return Average 7 12
Points/Game 15 13
FG % 3t 3t

New Firebirds Head Coach Steve DeBerg was able to convince free agent FB/LB Leroy Thompson to return to the Firebirds by telling the veteran that he would have a very good chance to lead the league in rushing. Thompson, back for his 9th season with the Firebirds, is the leading rusher in team history and the 2002 AFL Built Ford Tough Man of the Year. FB/LB Jeff Cogell, is also a threat out of the backfield. Cogell rushed for 29 yards on three carries including 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 4 49
2. Bob McMillen – CHI 1 43
3. Chris Ryan - PHI 1 35
6. Leroy Thompson –IND 2 30
7. Jeff Cogell- IND 1 29

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. With his next touchdown Thompson will pass Nelson Garner and move into fourth on the Firebirds all-time leading scorers list.

Firebirds All-Time Leading Rushers
Leroy Thompson 805
Chad Dukes 803
Rodney Smith 311
Tim Brown 245
Eddie Brown 204

It appeared that the Firebirds went into training camp with three quarterbacks capable of seeing significant minutes on the turf this season. Kevin Daft was named the starter, but a week one injury has sidelined him indefinitely. Standout Florida State QB Adrian McPherson was not eligible to play in week two, forcing Indiana to sign 2003 AF2 Rookie of the Year Johnnie Turman to back-up 2003 af2 Player of the Year, Tony Zimmerman. Last season, the Firebirds struggled at the quarterback position following an injury to starter Raymond Philyaw.

Mike Horacek, arguably the most dominant receiver in the AFL over the past two years has joined 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, and currently ranks 20th in the league with 11 receptions for 124 yards.

The Indiana Firebirds have been defined by their Iron Men the past few seasons. The Built Ford ToughMan of the Year in 2002 Leroy Thompson is back for his ninth season with the Firebirds. Rookie FB/LB Jeff Cogell won the same award in af2 that season and in 2003 Evan Hlavacek, was named to the All IronMan 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. McPherson will be activated this week.

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
1t. Rob Bironas - CAR 23 3-9 14-15
1t. Remy Hamilton – LAA 23 3-5 14-15
3. Anthony Brenner - COL 20 3-6 11-11
4. Mark Lewis – DET 17 2-4 11-11
5t. Clay Rush - IND 16 2-4 10-12

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, finishing the first game minus-1 in turnover ratio. When the Firebirds struggled last season, they failed to protect the football. In week two Indiana won the turnover battle, but lost the game by a point. During a five game losing streak last season, 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 during this critical stretch run.

Through the first two weeks of the season, Indiana is tied with the Austin Wranglers for first in red zone efficiency. The Firebirds have scored touchdowns all three times they have had the ball in the red zone.

In 2003 the Firebirds went 4-4 away from Conseco Fieldhouse. The ‘Birds were only 2-6 at home. The Firebirds led late in their first road game of 2004, but a last second touchdown beat the Birds, as they fell 41-40 to New Orleans.

Firebirds DS and return man Anthony Derricks put up impressive numbers in week one. Derricks is currently 12th in the AFL in kickoff return average at 20.6 yards per return, slightly behind teammate Evan Hlavacek who is 9th with 21 yards/return. Hlavacek added a return touchdown at New Orleans. Hlavacek now has 10 career kickoff returns for touchdowns, while Derricks brings his 16 career return scores to the team for 2004.

Returns No. Yards Avg TD
1. Sedrick Robinson – CLB 6 192 32 2
2. Tyronne Jones - PHI 3 85 28.3 1
3. Charlie Davidson - AUS 2 51 25.5 0
4. Rashied Davis - SJS 5 127 25.4 0
9t. Evan Hlavacek - IND 6 126 21 1
12. Anthony Derricks - IND 5 103 20.6 0

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.

INDIANA DEFENSE VERSUS DETROIT QB ANDY KELLY: Indiana looked impressive on the defensive side of the ball throughout the first two games of the 2004 season. The late touchdown by the VooDoo won last week’s game, but only gave them 13 points in the half. In week one, Indiana was killed by two fourth quarter interceptions by Columbus that were ran back for scores, while the defense surrendered only three touchdowns in the game. The Firebirds secondary can expect to see a balanced passing attack from Kelly, who has also been the biggest rushing threat for Detroit. With rookie quarterback Tony Zimmerman heading into his second career AFL start, the defensive unit will have to step up again and keep the ‘Birds in the game.


QB Tony Zimmerman: Zimmerman moved into the starting role after an injury to Kevin Daft, and looked impressive at times in the loss at New Orleans. Zimmerman was 19-34 for 178 yards and two touchdowns. If Zimmerman struggles coach DeBerg may use rookie Adrian McPherson.

WR/DB Evan Hlavacek: Hlavacek is once again showing that he is a true IronMan in the AFL. After leading the Firebirds with six receptions against New Orleans, he now has seven catches, eight returns and three total touchdowns. In week one, Hlavacek recovered a fumble on kickoff coverage for his first score of the season, and then in week two, caught a touchdown and ran back a second-half kickoff to being his total to three.

OS Mike Horacek: Had two receiving touchdowns in week one, and team-high six receptions. Has caught a team-high 11 passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns. Led the AFL with 126 receptions with Las Vegas during the 2003 season. Named AFL “Offensive Player of the Year” in 2000.

Detroit Fury:

QB Andy Kelly: Has thrown for 421 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions, in two games this season. Capable of rushing the ball, as displayed by his 18 yards on the ground against Arizona, on only two carries.

OS David Hill: Leading receiver for Detroit with 13 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Recorded seven receptions in week two, totaling 55 yards. Teams with Thabiti Davis in one of the more explosive receiving combinations in the American Conference.

WR/LB Thabiti Davis: Named the U.S. Army Ironman of the Game in week two, a 48-31 victory over Arizona, totaling four receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown, while recording one unassisted tackle on defense.

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