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Los Angeles Avengers game notes

February 17, 2004 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Los Angeles Avengers News Release

QUICK FACTS:
Game: San Jose SaberCats at Los Angeles Avengers
Date: Sunday, Feb. 22, 2004
Kickoff: Noon (Pacific)
Site: Los Angeles, California
Arena: STAPLES Center (17,942)
Television: NBC (Tom Hammond, Pat Haden, Lewis Johnson)
Radio: XTRA Sports 690/1150 (Larry Kahn, Troy West)
Web Radio: http://www.xtrasportsradio.com
Line: TBA
Series Record: San Jose leads, 6-2
Last Meeting: San Jose 47, Los Angeles 43 – May 17, 2003, HP Pavilion
Officials: Bill Athan (R), Rick DiBernardo (U), Tim Podroza (HL), Roger McMinn (LJ), Rob Vernatchi (BJ)
Head Coaches: Los Angeles -- Ed Hodgkiss (third season, 21-11). San Jose SaberCats -- Darren Arbet (sixth season, 54-19).


THE AVENGERS: Determined to establish themselves as a strong contender for ArenaBowl XVIII, the Avengers posted two victories on the road to open the 2004 season. But on Sunday, they’ll face their toughest challenge yet as the powerful San Jose SaberCats make pay their annual visit to STAPLES Center. Last year, the Avengers rode their quick-strike offense to an 11-5 regular season record, earning the first-round bye that goes along with the No. 4 postseason seed. This season, defense has keyed both victories. In the season opener, L.A. pressured Arizona quarterback Sherdrick Bonner into throwing a career-high four interceptions. Last week, WR/DB Kevin Ingram broke up a pass play with no time remaining to preserve a 62-55 victory at Las Vegas. One of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, the Avengers averaged 57.8 points last season and could be even more potent in 2004. Quarterback Tony Graziani, who threw 96 touchdowns last year, has tossed 13 already this season. Offensive specialist Chris Jackson, who earned last season’s AFL “Offensive Player of the Year” award, has been on the receiving end of four touchdowns and the passing end once. Another featured pass catcher, WR/DB Kevin Ingram, has been a star in all three phases of the game, earning U.S. Army “Ironman of the Game” honors in both Avenger victories this season. OL/DL Al Lucas, FB/LB Josh Jeffries and DS Cornelius Coe have led the L.A. defense.

THE SABERCATS: After a 58-43 victory over the Detroit Fury on opening day and a bye in Week 2, the SaberCats are looking to win for the 13th time in their last 15 regular-season games. San Jose quarterback Mark Grieb was the AFL’s “Offensive Player of the Year” in 2002, and followed that up by throwing for 3,966 yards and 72 touchdowns last season. Among the talented set of receivers Grieb has to choose from are offensive specialist James Hundon, WR/LB James Roe and six-time AFL “Ironman of the Year” Barry Wagner. The SaberCats beat L.A. in last year’s regular-season finale to earn the Western Division title and top seed in the playoffs, but their run ended with a loss to Arizona in the semifinals.

LOS ANGELES AVENGERS (2-0)
Date Opponent Result Score
Feb. 8 @ Arizona Win 51-32
Feb. 14 @ Las Vegas Win 62-55
Rest of Season
Opponent Time (PST)
Television
Feb. 22 San Jose Noon NBC
Mar. 1 Georgia 7:30 Fox Sports Net 2
Mar. 14 @ Grand Rapids 9 a.m. NBC
Mar. 21 @ Dallas 1 p.m. Fox Sports Net 2
Mar. 26 @ San Jose 7:30 Fox Sports Net 2
April 3 Austin 7:30 Fox Sports Net 2
April 10 Colorado 7:30 Fox Sports Net 2
April 16 Detroit 7:30
April 25 @ Chicago Noon NBC
May 1 Arizona 7:30 Fox Sports Net 2
May 9 @ Tampa Bay Noon NBC
May 16 @ New York Noon NBC
May 22 Las Vegas 7:30 Fox Sports Net 2
May 30 Orlando 1 p.m. NBC

SAN JOSE SABERCATS (1-0)
Date Opponent Result Score
Feb. 6 @ Detroit Win 58-43
Next 10 games
Opponent Time (PST)
Television
Feb. 22 @ Los Angeles Noon NBC
Feb. 28 Grand Rapids 7:30
Mar. 7 @ New York 9 a.m. NBC
Mar. 14 Colorado 5 p.m.
Mar. 20 Las Vegas 7:30
Mar. 26 Los Angeles 7:30 Fox Sports Net 2
April 4 @ Tampa Bay 9 a.m. NBC
April 10 @ Dallas 5:30
April 16 Chicago 7:30
April 25 @ Georgia 9 a.m. NBC

THE HEAD COACHES: One of the brightest offensive masterminds in the AFL, Ed Hodgkiss is in his third season as the head coach of the Avengers. In his first two seasons at the helm, he directed Los Angeles to a 19-11 record. No head coach in AFL history has won more games in his first two seasons than Hodgkiss, who was the runner-up for the 2003 AFL “Coach of the Year” award. Last season, the Avengers won a franchise-best 11 games and earned a first-round bye in the AFL Playoffs. Hodgkiss oversaw the league’s most efficient offense, which scored 122 touchdowns (most in the AFL) on only 619 total plays (least in the AFL). Particularly lethal through the air, the 2003 Avengers averaged a league-leading 13.8 yards per reception. Hodgkiss became the head coach of the Avengers on Oct. 5, 2001, and signed a five-year contract extension shortly after a 2002 season that saw him adroitly pilot the team to an 8-6 mark. In 2002, Hodgkiss not only led the Avengers into the postseason for the first time in franchise history, he also instantly established the L.A. offense as one of the most feared in the AFL. In the final 2002 league statistics, the Avengers ranked at No. 2 in passing efficiency (115.0) and No. 5 in scoring (52.2). Prior to his arrival in Los Angeles, Hodgkiss served as the offensive coordinator for the Indiana Firebirds for three seasons (1999-2001) … Darren Arbet, who is in his sixth season as the San Jose head coach, led the SaberCats to their first ever ArenaBowl world championship in 2002. In doing so, his team went 13-1 in the regular season and won a total of 16 games, both league records. Arbet was honored as AFL Coach of the Year in 2002, an honor he also earned in 2000, and his overall record in the league now sits at 54-19, which ranks him first in AFL history with a winning percentage of .739.

THE LEAGUE’S TWO HOTTEST TEAMS: Winners in 10 of their last 13 regular-season games, the Avengers are now 17-7 in their past 24 outings. Only the San Jose SaberCats, who are 19-5, own a better mark over that span of games.

THE SERIES: San Jose leads the series, 6-2. The teams split two games last season. The Avengers won in dramatic fashion at STAPLES Center, 73-72, on Feb. 9, 2003. In that game, FB/LB Mathias Vavao’s one-yard touchdown dive as time expired and a successful two-point conversion completion from quarterback Tony Graziani to WR/LB Greg Hopkins won it for Los Angeles. In the 2003 regular-season finale, San Jose got its revenge with a 47-43 victory at the HP Pavilion, which determined the Western Division championship and the top seed in the AFL playoffs.

THE SERIES AT STAPLES: The Avengers and SaberCats have split the four games played between the two teams at STAPLES Center. Three of the four have been decided by three points or less, with L.A. winning two of those nail-biters. The Avengers has scored 70 or more points five times in franchise history and two of those outbursts occurred in games versus San Jose at STAPLES Center. The 73 points L.A. scored in last season’s thriller remains the team’s highest scoring total at home in a non-overtime contest.

THE NEXT GAME: The Avengers will play their second consecutive home game on Monday, March 1, as they take on the Georgia Force in a special “Monday Night Football” experience at STAPLES Center.

STEADY IMPROVEMENT: The Avengers had their most successful regular season in franchise history last year, winning 11 games. After combining for eight wins in the franchise’s first two seasons, Los Angeles had its first winning season in 2002, under the direction of head coach Ed Hodgkiss.

Avenger History
Season (head coach)
Record
2000 (Stan Brock) 3-11
2001 (Stan Brock/Robert Lyles) 5-9
2002 (Ed Hodgkiss) 8-6 (playoffs 0-1)
2003 (Ed Hodgkiss) 11-5 (playoffs 0-1)
2004 (Ed Hodgkiss) 2-0


THE “IF” SECTION:
If the Avengers defeat the SaberCats, it would …
- Would be L.A.’s fifth win in its last six games (all versus Western Division foes)
- Be the Avengers’ third victory over San Jose at STAPLES Center in the last four seasons
- Give L.A. its third consecutive victory in its home opener
- Tie the franchise record for wins to open a season


THIS WEEK’S QUOTES:

Avenger head coach Ed Hodgkiss on the win in Las Vegas: “We fought through some adversity due to being without one of our defensive specialists (Damen Wheeler). The offense responded over and over, touchdown for touchdown, and we kept our composure. We were able to make a play at the end when it counted, and I’m proud of the team for that. All in all, we could have played better but we still played like a champion and got out of there with a win.”

Hodgkiss on the rivalry with San Jose: “I don’t know how much of a rivalry it is to them, but for us it is real big. They have been one of the best teams in the league, year in and year out for the last five years. They have stuck with pretty much the same staff and are always tough because they are so efficient on offense and defense. They are always around at the end and anytime you can get a win against them it is huge.”

Hodgkiss on San Jose quarterback Mark Grieb: “He’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He has a lot of weapons and an excellent completion percentage, which means he rarely turns the ball over. He’s a all-around smart guy, which makes him hard to compete against.”

Hodgkiss on what it will take to win: “With San Jose, it’s going to come down to turnovers. You know that they are going to be efficient going in and hopefully we are going to be efficient as well. In past games interceptions and fumbles have proved to be huge. I believe the team that wins the turnover battle will be the team that wins the game.”



AMONG THE ELITE: Ed Hodgkiss’ first two seasons as a head coach in the AFL places his name among some of the game’s all-time greats. The Avenger head coach nearly won more games in his first two seasons than any head coach in AFL history. His record currently stands at 19-11. John Gregory won 19 games in his first two seasons with the Iowa Barnstormers (1995-96). Both Darren Arbet of the San Jose SaberCats (1999-2000) and Lary Kuharich of the Tampa Bay Storm (1992-93) won 18 games in their first two seasons in the league.

TOP CATS: Avenger head coach Ed Hodgkiss is currently in fifth-place on the AFL’s all-time winning percentage chart, which follows below (regular season only, minimum 25 games, active coaches *):

All-Time AFL Top Winning Percentages
Head Coaches Record Winning %
1. Darren Arbet * 54-19 .739
2. Tim Marcum * 134-48 .736
3. Perry Moss 75-28-1 .726
4. Danny White * 110-52 .679
5. Ed Hodgkiss * 21-11 .656
6. Pat Sperduto 25-15 .643
7. Jay Gruden 35-21 .625
8. John Hufnagel 17-11 .607
9. Mike Dailey * 60-42 .588
10. John Gregory 66-48 .579

DEFENDING THE HOME FRONT: In the “Ed Hodgkiss Era,” which began at the beginning of the 2002 season, the Avengers have been particularly stingy on defense at home, allowing just 45.5 points per game at STAPLES Center (683 points in 15 games).

“IRONMAN” INGRAM: In his last 12 games for the Avengers, WR/DB Kevin Ingram has been selected as the “U.S. Army Ironman of the Game” six times. L.A. won each of those games, which includes both victories this season. In last week’s win at Las Vegas, Ingram doubled up, also earning “ADT Defensive Player of the Game” honors.

QUICK STRIKE OFFENSE: Ninety of L.A.’s 139 offensive touchdowns over the course of the past two seasons were scored on “drives” of three plays or less. In fact, 27 of them were one-play “drives,” including 10 touchdown catches by offensive specialist Chris Jackson. Ironically, two of the 49 “long” drives were quite notable as well. One was the six-play, 13-yard game-winning march in the victory over San Jose that consumed 25 of the final 26 seconds (Feb. 9, 2003). The other was the eight-play, 30-yard touchdown drive that killed off the final 34 seconds at New York (March 9, 2003). The Avengers scored on six “zero-play drives” last season, including the longest play in franchise history, which came on a 57-yard kickoff return by Siaha Burley (currently a member of the Arizona Ratters) in the regular-season finale at San Jose.

IN THE ZONE OUT EAST: When their travels take them cross-country this season, the Avengers could feel good about their chances, having won six of their last seven games in the Eastern Time Zone, including victories over Orlando, New York and Indiana last year. L.A.’s victory at Orlando on March 30, 2003, marked a third consecutive road game within the Eastern Time Zone.

PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS WEEK:

Avenger QB Tony Graziani: Coming off a huge performance in Las Vegas, Graziani looks to continue his success against another Western Division opponent. Last Sunday versus the Gladiators, Graziani was 23-of-30 for 265 yards and seven touchdowns. In his two games against San Jose last year, he threw for 585 yards and 11 scores, but he also tossed four interceptions in each contest. With a history of shootouts between these two foes expect Graziani to pick up where he left off in Las Vegas.

SaberCat QB Mark Grieb: In two games versus the Avengers last season, Grieb tossed 13 touchdown passes. In the season opening victory at Detroit, he didn’t post his usual numbers, throwing for just 148 yards and two scores, but was as efficient as ever, completing 15-of-19 and finishing with a passer rating of 134.2 (No. 1 in the AFL).

Avenger WR/LB Greg Hopkins: After recording only 40 yards receiving in the opener, Hopkins responded last week with a team-high eight catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns. He was the leading Avenger receiver in each of the two games against San Jose last season. In the memorable 73-72 victory at STAPLES Center on Feb. 9, 2003, Hopkins recording seven receptions for 133 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to the game-winning two-point conversion catch with one second left.

SaberCat DS Clevan Thomas: In each of his two seasons in the AFL, Thomas has come away with the ADT “Defensive Player of the Year” award. He led the league in interceptions last year with 13, and picked three of them off in games against the Avengers. Thomas even returned one of them for a score the last time he was in Los Angeles. Also a special teams threat, he racked up 210 return yards in two meeting against the Avengers last year.


NO-CAL, SO-CAL CONNECTIONS: Avenger OL/DL Mike Ulufale, who is beginning his second season in Los Angeles, previously posted 30 tackles and 11.5 sacks in three seasons with the SaberCats … other than SaberCat star lineman Sam Hernandez, Ulufale is the only player since 1997 to lead the SaberCats in sacks with 4.5 in 2002 … Avenger FB/LB Kevin Clemens started his AFL career with the SaberCats in 1998 season … Avenger defensive coordinator Doug Kay spent one season as offensive coordinator for San Jose State in 1976 and worked with SaberCat head coach Darren Arbet on the coaching staff of the 1994 Albany Firebirds … Avenger line coach Bill Dobson coached the offensive line at San Francisco State in 1986 … Avenger rookie OL/DL Jeremy Staat played with SaberCat lineman Albrey Battle at Arizona State … Avenger OL/DL Chris Butterfield was an AFL teammate of San Jose OL/DL Chuck Reed with both the Portland Forrest Dragons and Oklahoma Wranglers and was also coached by SaberCat defensive coordinator Michael Church in Portland … Avenger OL/DL Sean McNamara played with San Jose FB/LB Matt Kinsinger with the Houston ThunderBears in 2001 … Avenger WR/LB Greg Hopkins was a teammate of San Jose OL/DL Joe Jacobs with the Albany Firebirds in the late 1990s.

LAST WEEK’S GAME

L.A. LEAVES LAS VEGAS AS A WINNER, 62-55

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 22, 2004) -- Kevin Ingram scored three touchdowns in the Los Angeles Avengers’ 62-55 victory over the Las Vegas Gladiators on Saturday, but none of them were his biggest play of the afternoon.

Ingram’s top moment came after the final buzzer as he batted down a pass that denied Terrill Shaw his fifth touchdown reception of the game and kept the Avengers undefeated at 2-0. In losing their home opener before 7,862 at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Gladiators fell to 0-2.

Playing without defensive specialist Damen Wheeler, who was sidelined with an injured hamstring, the Avengers won despite allowing Las Vegas to score touchdowns on eight of their 11 possessions.

“We were just waiting for that one stop,” said Ingram, who was selected as the U.S. Army Ironman of the Game for the second consecutive week and the sixth time in his last 12 games, dating back to last season. “Our defense was struggling out there a little bit, so we just had to buckle down.”

Avenger quarterback Tony Graziani was 23-of-30 for 265 yards and seven touchdowns. His final touchdown pass was also veteran wide receiver/linebacker Joe Douglass’ first reception as an Avenger. The 27-yard score on a crucial third-and-17 play put L.A. up 62-55 with 1:53 remaining.

After the ensuing kickoff, Gladiator quarterback Clint Dolezel got the football at his own 14-yard line and completed four passes, driving Las Vegas to the Avenger three-yard line with five seconds left. After failing to connect with Shaw in the back of the end zone, Dolezel had one final attempt left as one tick remained on the clock.

That’s when Ingram dove along the goal line, near the right wall, breaking up the game’s final play.

“Kevin Ingram really came up big for us,” Avenger head coach Ed Hodgkiss said. “But Russell Shaw and Cornelius Coe also stepped up and made some good plays, as well, especially at the end.”

Russell Shaw, a wide receiver/defensive back who along with Ingram was asked to assume some of Wheeler’s usual responsibilities, led the team with seven tackles. Coe, the only traditional defensive specialist to play in the game for the Avengers, finished with six stops and forced a key fumble.

In a move that represented a first in the five-year history of the Avenger franchise and an extreme rarity in the Arena Football League, Hodgkiss and defensive coordinator Doug Kay chose to designate lineman Arnold Miller as L.A.’s defensive specialist in place of Wheeler, who is regarded as the team’s top coverman. The decision was aimed at generating an upgraded pass rush, which would in turn benefit the “two-way” Avengers in the defensive backfield, who were playing more additional minutes due to Wheeler’s absence.

Dolezel, however, did not feel the kind of pressure that Arizona quarterback Sherdrick Bonner did in L.A.’s 51-32 victory in last week’s season opener and was extremely sharp, completing 24-of-32 for 312 yards and eight touchdowns. While Bonner was intercepted four times and sacked twice, Dolezel didn’t throw a pick and was brought to the turf just once.

“Dolezel is so good with the ball and gets it out quick,” Hodgkiss said. “That negates our pass rush a little bit. But at the end, we had the guys we wanted in there up front (Miller, Al Lucas, Mike Ulufale and Lonnie Ford) and I think that made a difference.

“We have to get a lot better,” Hodgkiss added. “I told the team after the game, ‘You don’t get any points for being good … you have to earn them.’ This game will serve as a little bit of a wake-up call for us. We’ve got to get back to business and improve if we are going to do the things we are capable of doing.”

Hidden among all the offensive firepower and late-game heroics was an outstanding performance by Avenger kicker Remy Hamilton, who made both of his field goal attempts, all eight of his extra points and pulled off the special teams play of the day.

After WR/LB Greg Hopkins caught his second touchdown of the day, Hamilton’s PAT tied the game at 55-55 with 6:01 left. Then, he popped a perfect on-side kick along the right sideline that settled into the hands of Avenger WR/DB Russell Shaw at his own 17-yard line, setting up the drive that ended with Douglass’ score.

Ingram, who finished with 180 all-purpose yards, scored his career-high three touchdowns before the game was even 22-minutes old. In between a pair of receiving scores, he lined up in the backfield behind Graziani and plowed into the end zone from a yard out on the last play of the first quarter.

In the last three minutes of the first half, the Gladiators and Avengers went back and forth with unsuccessful onside kick attempts that resulted in three short touchdowns. Los Angeles scored two of the three to take a 35-34 lead into the locker room at halftime, the only difference being a Las Vegas extra point that was blocked by Avenger rookie fullback/linebacker Josh Jeffries.

The Avengers started the second half with a 38-yard kickoff return by Ingram and then a 20-yard touchdown pass from Graziani to Hopkins, which put L.A. up 42-34.

That was one of two quick-strike, one-play touchdown possessions for the Avengers. All eight of L.A.’s touchdown drives lasted no more than four plays.


LOS ANGELES (2-0) 14 21 10 17 -- 62
LAS VEGAS (0-2) 14 20 14 7 -- 55


MAKING HIS POINTS: Avenger placekicker Remy Hamilton currently ranks at No. 4 on the AFL’s all-time scoring by kickers chart. In his first year with the Avengers in 2002, he set nine team records, while scoring 131 points on 16 field goals and 83 extra points. Hamilton booted the longest field goal in Avenger history on July 6, 2002, blasting a 52-yarder versus Arizona.

All-Time AFL Leaders –
Scoring By Kickers
Mike Black (1993-2003) 1,221
Steve Videtich (Columbus) 1,009
Daron Alcorn (Las Vegas) 760
Remy Hamilton (Los Angeles) 755
Kenny Stucker (1994-99) 742
Steve McLaughlin (Georgia) 685

CHRIS’ COLUMN

THE TOUCHDOWN MAKER: Offensive specialist Chris Jackson has scored a touchdown in every game he has played in for the Avengers except for one. His stunning numbers now stand at 123 touchdowns accounted for in 51 games. Jackson’s streak of scoring at least one touchdown in every game of his AFL career ended at 47 games on May 10, 2003, against the Colorado Crush. No player in league history has scored touchdowns in more consecutive games to begin a career than he has. All but six of Jackson’s scores have come as a pass receiver. His other touchdowns were as a runner, kickoff returner and passer (four times). Jackson has caught a touchdown pass in all but two of his games with the Avengers, but in one of those contests (June 8, 2002, vs. San Jose), he ran back the opening kickoff 51 yards for a score. Jackson is L.A.’s all-time leading receiver and scorer. He has racked up 365 receptions for 5,062 yards and has scored 716 points in his five-year Avenger career.

THE ORIGINAL AVENGER: Offensive specialist Chris Jackson is the only player on L.A.’s 2004 roster who played for the Avengers in their inaugural 2000 season (he was a WR/LB at the time).

THE CENTURY MARK: Although he was held scoreless for the first time in his career against Colorado on May 10, 2003, offensive specialist Chris Jackson has scored 119 touchdowns in his 51-game AFL career. Only 16 other players in AFL history, including teammate Greg Hopkins (171), are members of the “Century Club.” (“C.J.” has also passed for four touchdowns (three in 2003, one this season, but they don’t count in his official scoring totals.)

Top Scorers in Avenger History
Player TDs Points
Chris Jackson (2000-present) 119 722
Greg Hopkins (2002-present) 63 382
Remy Hamilton (2002-present) 0 302
Travis Hannah (2000-01) 27 162

THE MILLENNIUM’S FINEST: WR/LB Greg Hopkins and offensive specialist Chris Jackson are not only L.A.’s top pass catchers, they’re also the most productive in the AFL since the dawning of the new millennium. Jackson ranks first with 355 receptions for 5,088 and Hopkins is second with a grand total of 405 for 5,038 yards since the 2000 season. The following chart lists the AFL’s top receivers over the course of the last five seasons:

AFL’s Top Pass Receivers – (2000-04)
Catches – Receiving Yards
2000-03 2004 Total
Greg Hopkins
(Los Angeles) 402 – 4,998 11 – 143 413 – 5,141
Chris Jackson
(Los Angeles) 355 – 4,992 13 – 131 368 – 5,123
Damian Harrell
(Colorado) 348 – 4,851 11 – 186 359 – 5,037
Mike Horacek
(Indiana) 363 – 4,735 11 – 124 374 – 4,859




ARENABOWL CHAMPION AVENGERS: Three Avenger players and a pair of coaches own a total of six ArenaBowl world championship rings. OL/DL Al Lucas is a defending world champion, having earned an ArenaBowl title last season as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Storm. Fellow lineman Mike Ulufale was a key member of the San Jose SaberCats team that won ArenaBowl XVI in a rout in 2002. WR/LB Greg Hopkins was with the Albany Firebirds when they took the title in 1999; along with Avenger head coach Ed Hodgkiss, who was the Firebird offensive coordinator at the time. Avenger defensive coordinator Doug Kay has been part of two ArenaBowl championship teams. He was the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Storm when they won the title in 1993, and then got his second championship ring in 1997 while working with the Arizona Rattlers in the same capacity.

THE INTERCEPTION KING: In addition to being the AFL’s 2002 “Ironman of the Year,” WR/LB Greg Hopkins is tied with Orlando’s Kenny “The Glove” McEntyre as the league’s all-time leader in interception returns for touchdowns. Hopkins returned his record-setting ninth pick for a score on April 13, 2003, in L.A.’s 82-76 overtime loss to the Arizona Rattlers. Hopkins jumped to grab a pass from Sherdrick Bonner and returned it nine yards for the score. McEntyre was alone atop the list for just two days after he picked off a pass and returned it 45 yards for a score in Orlando’s 66-23 drubbing of the Buffalo Destroyers on April 11, 2003.

All-Time AFL Leaders –
Interception Returns for Touchdowns
Greg Hopkins (Los Angeles Avengers) 9
Kenny McEntyre (Orlando Predators) 9
Darryl Hammond (Georgia Force) 8
Mark Ricks (Grand Rapids Rampage) 7
Hunkie Cooper (Arizona Rattlers) 7

ROAD WARRIOR: In his last eight games away from STAPLES Center, WR/DB Kevin Ingram has caught 30 passes for 376 yards and 10 touchdowns. Despite playing alongside a constellation of AFL stars, his contributions have not gone unnoticed, winning the U.S. Army “Ironman of the Game” award in five road games over the course of the last two seasons, including both games so far this season. In the 2004 season opener, Ingram caught a pair of touchdown passes and also had an interception. In last week’s victory at Las Vegas, he scored three times, made 5.5 tackles and a game-saving pass deflection as time expired. On March 30, 2003, at Orlando, he had 127 all-purpose yards, including a 50-yard kickoff return in the final minute of the game to set up a touchdown, scored three touchdowns (one rushing) and made one tackle. At Chicago (Feb. 23, 2003), Ingram had 101 all-purpose yards, one touchdown catch and an interception. At New York (March 9, 2003), he had 140 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns, 3.5 tackles and a touchdown-saving pass deflection. He followed up those performances by having a standout game at home versus Grand Rapids on March 23, 2003. Not only did he earn “Ironman of the Game” honors, but he was named the AFL’s “Ironman of the Week,” as he had four catches for 36 yards and two touchdowns, returned two kickoffs for 34 yards, made five tackles, had an interception, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble.

HOT TICKET: Five of the six largest crowds to ever see the Avengers play came last season. In consecutive games (at Colorado and Chicago), the Avengers played before their two largest crowds in team history. The Avengers averaged 13,220 fans at home in 2003.

Top Crowds in Avenger History
Date Opponent Attendance
2/16/03 @ Colorado 17,417 (Pepsi Center)
2/23/03 @ Chicago 16,132 (Allstate Arena)
5/17/03 @ San Jose 15,407 (HP Pavilion)
5/4/02 @ Dallas 15,196 (American Airlines)
2/9/03 San Jose 14,992 (STAPLES Center)
2/2/03 Las Vegas 14,827 (STAPLES Center)


LOS ANGELES AVENGERS
2003 REGULAR-SEASON RESULTS (11-5)
Date Opponent Result Score
Feb. 2 Las Vegas Win 60-48
Feb. 9 San Jose Win 73-72
Feb. 16 @ Colorado Win 59-53 OT
Feb. 23 @ Chicago Loss 54-53
Mar. 2 Georgia Loss 46-35
Mar. 9 @ New York Win 65-61
Mar. 16 @ Indiana Win 42-20
Mar. 23 Grand Rapids Win 61-51
Mar. 30 @ Orlando Win 64-63
April 4 Carolina Win 63-48
April 13 Arizona Loss 82-76 OT
April 18 Buffalo Win 65-14
April 27 @ Dallas Loss 60-57
May 4 @ Arizona Win 63-49
May 10 Colorado Win 45-34
May 17 @ San Jose Loss 47-43


NOTES FROM 2003

HEART-STOPPING HEROICS: Four of L.A.’s 11 victories last season came on the final play of the game. On Feb. 9, 2003, the Avengers defeated San Jose, 73-72, on a one-yard touchdown blast by FB/LB Mathias Vavao and a two-point conversion pass from Tony Graziani to WR/LB Greg Hopkins with one second left. The following week in a game on the road against Colorado, L.A. forced overtime with a field goal by Remy Hamilton on the final play of regulation and then won on a TD pass from Graziani to Hopkins. On March 9, 2003, the Avengers defeated New York, 65-61, on a one-yard touchdown run by FB/LB Kevin Clemens with no time remaining. Their most amazing victory of the 2003 season came on March 30, at Orlando, as the Avengers rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final 35 seconds to defeat the Predators, 64-63. The “miracle” occurred as Graziani hit offensive specialist Chris Jackson to cut the lead to five with 19 seconds remaining and defensive specialist Cornelius Coe recovered an onside kick five seconds later. That set up another Graziani-to-Hopkins game-winning TD on a “Hail Mary” pass off the rebound net as time expired. Four of L.A.’s five losses in 2003 also came in the final seconds (at Chicago on Feb. 23, vs. Arizona on April 13, at Dallas on April 27 and at San Jose on May 17).

EARLY FIREWORKS: In addition to late-game heroics (four victories on the final play of the game in 2003), the Avengers have also been good at the start, scoring on their first offensive snap of the game five times during the 2003 season -- in the season opener against Las Vegas (Feb. 2, Chris Jackson), at Chicago (Feb. 23, Kevin Ingram), at Indiana (March 16, Jackson), against Carolina (April 4, Jackson) and against Colorado (Greg Hopkins). On April 4, 2003, against Carolina, the Avengers scored touchdowns on their first three offensive plays, the other two going to Hopkins.

OFFENSIVE EFFICENCY: In their final 11 regular-season games of the 2003 season, the Avengers turned the football over on downs only three times. Two of those stalled drives came in L.A.’s 60-57 loss at Dallas on April 27, 2003. The other one came in the 47-43 loss at San Jose in the 2003 regular-season finale. Los Angeles won eight of the nine games in which it didn’t turn the football over on downs, scoring 544 points in those victories. That averages out to 60.4 points per game during that span of offensive effectiveness.

LONG SUNDAY DRIVE: The Avengers put together what might have been the longest drive in the history of the Arena Football League versus the Indiana Firebirds on March 16, 2003, using 17 plays to march 47 yards. The touchdown drive consumed an incredible 10 minutes and 14 seconds. Furthermore, 11 plays occurred after L.A. reached Indiana’s one-yard line.

RECORD “D” DAY: On April 18, 2003, the Avengers held the Buffalo Destroyers to just 14 points, establishing a new team record. That eclipsed the record set earlier in the 2003 season, when the Avengers limited the Indiana Firebirds to 20 points.



LAST MEETING WITH SAN JOSE:

SABERCATS WIN WEST, EDGING AVENGERS 47-43

SAN JOSE (May 17, 2003) -- Barry Wagner, one of the greatest players in AFL history, led the San Jose SaberCats past the Avengers, 47-43, before 15,407 at the HP Pavilion.

Wagner got his hands on the football only a few times in the game, but was the overwhelming star of the night, catching two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.

In victory, the SaberCats (12-4) earned their fourth consecutive Western Division title and, more importantly, captured the league’s No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The SaberCats scored the winning touchdown when quarterback Mark Grieb found offensive specialist James Hundon wide open for a 20-yard touchdown, which put the SaberCats in front, 47-43, with 3:05 left.

Los Angeles (11-5) appeared to be on its way to retaking the lead on its ensuing possession as quarterback Tony Graziani hit WR/LB Jahine Arnold for a 28-yard gain down to the SaberCat 11-yard line. On second down, Graziani threw a touchdown pass to WR/DB Russell Shaw, but the Avenger signalcaller was called for being across the line of scrimmage. On Graziani’s next toss, Wagner came up with his second interception of the quarter with 45 seconds left and the SaberCats were able to kill off the rest of the clock.

Graziani was 12-of-29 for 240 yards and four touchdowns, with four interceptions.

In the first half, in contrast to the usual “you score, I score” nature of the AFL, the Avengers and SaberCats used the first and second quarters as their see-saw instead of possessions.

The SaberCats dominated the first quarter, blasting out to a 20-0 lead. The Avengers, however, came back with 26 unanswered points in the second quarter and went into the intermission trailing by just a point at 27-26.

Los Angeles took its first lead of the second half on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Graziani to Arnold. Kicker Remy Hamilton’s extra point attempt went wide, but the Avengers still got ahead, 35-33.

San Jose, however, answered right back as Wagner scored his second touchdown of the second half, this time from eight yards out, putting the SaberCats in front, 40-35, with 13:39 left.

Wagner got the ball right back for the SaberCats, intercepting Graziani at his own 5-yard line.

The Avenger defense, however, held San Jose on downs and gave the ball back to the L.A. offense at its own 18-yard line. On the very next play, Graziani connected with WR/LB Greg Hopkins, who made a sliding catch at the San Jose 16-yard line, got up and scampered the rest of the way for the score. Hodgkiss opted for the two-point conversion and Graziani found Jackson in the left corner, putting L.A. up, 43-40, with 6:16 left.


LOS ANGELES (11-5) 0 26 9 8 -- 43
SAN JOSE (12-4) 20 7 6 14 -- 47


NFL AVENGERS: Twenty-one Avengers (nearly the entire team) have spent time on NFL rosters -- FB/LB Kevin Clemens (2001 Jacksonville, 2002 Seattle, 2003 Philadelphia), WR/DB Henry Douglas (1999-2001 Detroit, 2002 Jacksonville, 2003 Carolina), WR/LB Joe Douglass (1998 New Orleans), FB/LB Lonnie Ford (2002 Carolina), QB Tony Graziani (1997-99 Atlanta, 2000 Cleveland), K Remy Hamilton (2003 Seattle), OS Chris Jackson (1998 Seattle, 1998 Tampa Bay, 1999 Seattle, 2000 Tennessee, 2002 Green Bay, 2003 Miami and Green Bay), FB/LB Josh Jeffries (2003 Tennessee), OL/DL Ken Kocher (2002 Green Bay, 2003 New England), WR/DB Brian Leigeb (2002 Indianapolis), OL/DL Al Lucas (2000-01 Carolina), OL/DL Arnold Miller (1999-2001 Cleveland), FB/LB Wes Ours (2001 Tennessee and Indianapolis, 2002 Indianapolis), WR/DB Jerome Riley (2003 Denver), WR/DB Russell Shaw (1998 St. Louis), OL/DL Jeremy Staat (1998-2000 Pittsburgh, 2001-2002 Seattle and Oakland), WR/DB Brian Sump (2003 San Diego), OL/DL Johnathan Taylor (2002 Detroit), WR/DB Scott Thomas (1999 and 2000 Indianapolis), OL/DL Mike Ulufale (1996 Dallas) and DS Damen Wheeler (2000 San Diego, 2001 Jacksonville). Six Avengers -- Staat (2nd round), Ulufale (3rd round), Taylor (4th round), Wheeler (6th round), Graziani (7th round) and Hoag (7th round) -- were NFL Draft picks. Staat is the most experienced, having played in 29 NFL games, Lucas is second with 20 games and Graziani is next with 19 games of action (including five starts) for the Falcons.

THE AVENGERS ARE …
- 0-0 at STAPLES Center
- 2-0 on the road
- 2-0 when they score more than 50 points
- 1-0 when they score 60 or more points
- 0-0 when they score 70 or more points
- 2-0 when they allow less than 60 points
- 1-0 when they allow less than 50 points
- 1-0 when they allow less than 40 points
- 0-0 when they allow less than 30 points
- 1-0 when they record at least one sack
- 1-0 when they make at least one interception
- 1-0 when they score first
- 1-0 when they commit fewer turnovers
- 0-0 when they commit more turnovers
- 1-0 when a player scores three or more touchdowns
- 0-0 when Chris Jackson catches 8 or more passes
- 2-0 when Tony Graziani throws for at least 5 TDs
- 0-0 when Tony Graziani passes for 300+ yards
- 2-0 when Tony Graziani doesn’t throw an INT
- 2-0 when Kevin Ingram scores a touchdown
- 1-0 when OL/DL Silas Demary scores a TD
- 1-0 when Greg Hopkins catches six or more passes
- 1-0 when they commit fewer penalties
- 0-0 when they commit five or less penalties
- 0-0 when they go scoreless for at least one quarter
- 0-0 when they pitch a shutout for at least one quarter
- 1-0 when the game is decided by 7 or fewer points
- 2-0 when leading at halftime
- 2-0 on NBC
- 0-0 on Fox Sports Net 2
- 1-0 on Sunday

RECENT ROSTER MOVES:
Date Action Player
1/30 Signed DS Kyle Grove
1/30 Waived QB Ryan Helming
1/30 Waived QB Lon Sheriff
1/30 Waived WR/LB Brian Haugabrook
1/30 Placed on injured reserve WR/DB Brian Leigeb
1/31 Traded for WR/LB Joe Douglass
2/2 Placed on injured reserve DS Kyle Grove, OS Ryan Hoag, OL/DL Ken Kocher, FB/LB Wes Ours, WR/LB Jerome Riley, OL/DL Johnathan Taylor, WR/LB Scott Thomas and OL/DL La’Zerius White

2/2 Placed on injured reserve OL/DL Jeremy Staat
2/11 Activated and waived from the injured reserve list OS Ryan Hoag
2/13 Signed to the practice squad FB/LB Lenny Lucas, OL/DL Ryan Nielsen, QB Juston Wood


BABY RUTH REAL DEAL “OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Voted on by the media, the award goes to the player who was determined to be the most valuable to his team’s success in the game, win or lose.

Week Opp. Most Valuable Player
1 Arizona OS Chris Jackson (L.A.)
7 catches, 2 TDs, 1 TD pass
2 Las Vegas QB Tony Graziani (L.A.)
23-of-30, 265 yards, 7 TDs

U.S. ARMY “IRONMAN OF THE GAME”: Voted on by the media, the award goes to the two-way player who best demonstrated the ideals of the AFL’s style of ironman football.

Week Opp. Ironman of the Game
1 Arizona WR/DB Kevin Ingram (L.A.)
2 TD receptions, 1 interception
2 Las Vegas WR/DB Kevin Ingram (L.A.)
3 TDs, game-winning break-up

ADT “DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME”: Voted on by the media, the award goes to the two-way player who best demonstrated the ideals of the AFL’s style of ironman football.

Week Opp. Ironman of the Game
1 Arizona OL/DL Bryan Henderson (Ariz.)
3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble rec.
2 Las Vegas WR/DB Kevin Ingram (L.A.)
Crucial pass break-up, 5.5 tackles

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Arena Football League (1987-2008) Stories from February 17, 2004


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