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April 1, 2002 - arenafootball2 (af2) - New Haven Ninjas News Release

Rochester Brigade (4-12, 2001) vs. New Haven Ninjas (0-0)
Date: April 6, 2002
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Site: Blue Cross Arena (11,200)
National Anthem: Carpe Dm
Coin Toss: TBD
Officials: Mike Perry, Referee
George Santoro, Umpire
Howard Brechtel, Head Linesman
Paul Wzontek, Line Judge
Mike Roberts, Back Judge
Radio: WYSL 1040 AM
JC DeLass, play-by-play commentator
John DiTullio, color commentator
Series Record: 0-0
Last Meeting: NA
Streaks: Rochester- won last two games in 2001
New Haven- first game in franchise history
Coaches: Mark Saunders (4-12, 2nd)
Rick Buffington (0-0, 1st)


This is the first game of the 2002 season for both teams. This game marks the beginning of a Northeast Divisional battle, as the teams will meet three times this season. The Brigade is riding a two-game winning streak from the end of the 2001 season, and is looking to continue that late season success.


This is the first of three meetings between the two teams this season, as New Haven will travel to Rochester twice this season; the first being this Saturday, April 6, to kick-off the season followed by a return on Friday, May 3. Rochester will then visit New Haven to close the season on June 29.


If the Brigade defeats the Ninjas, it would …
· Give the Brigade a three-game winning streak
· Give the Brigade a 1-0 series lead
· Give Mark Saunders a 5-12 all-time record
· Give the Brigade a two-game home winning streak
· Give the Brigade an early edge in the Division


In just his second season as the Brigade’s Head Coach, Mark Saunders has a 4-12 record and is riding a two game winning streak from the end of last season. This season, Saunders looks to improve upon that record and turn this season around for the Brigade, making a mark in the newly formed Northeast Division.

New Haven’s, Rick Buffington begins his first season as a head coach for the expansion team. Prior to coming to the Ninjas, he served as the AFL’s Florida Bobcats General Manager in 2000 and Head Coach in 1998.


This is the first of three meetings between the two teams this season, as they will battle for the first time in week two of the season on April 6, at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. New Haven will make their second trip to Rochester in week six of the season on Friday, May 3, before the teams meet at the new Haven Coliseum for the final game of the season in week 18 on Saturday, July 27.


Players to watch for this season are newly acquired Brigade QB, Matt D’Orazio, who completed 94 of 153 passes with 18 TDs and 1,198 yards in ten games for the Roanoke Steam last season. OS Martino Theus, who will look to fill the shoes of Derek Baker from last season will also be one to keep an eye out for. In Theus’s only start at the OS position last season, he racked up 209 total yards of offense and one touchdown.


This season the North Carolina A&T connection will continue with Head Coach Mark Saunders, as well as team Ironman WR/DB Rodney Bush. The two will be joined by former North Carolina A&T teammate WR/DB Vonkeith Spencer. Other former college teammates include Brockport State players Kicker Todd Freelove and OL/DL Andy Mattoon. These two individuals played together during last season’s NCAA Playoff team and ended the season with a 9-2 record.


Head Coach, Mark Saunders, Training Camp: “I was excited about how training camp went…I think we have the ability and potential we need to be successful…We need to stay focused and concentrate on our goals for the year.”

Head Coach, Mark Saunders, This Week: “I’m excited…this is the first game of the season and we’re home…We need to be as focused as possible and be as good as perfect.”

Head Coach, Mark Saunders, New Haven: “They are a well coached team that are big in size…We can’t afford to take them lightly…if we come out focused and prepared we should come out on top.”


· With a victory at home this weekend, the Brigade would open the season with victories on consecutive opening days for the past two seasons.

· If the Brigade wins on opening night, the team will keep things rolling from last season and continue a two-game home winning streak. A three game winning streak would mark the longest in franchise history.


Training camp came and went for the Brigade and the team had the opportunity to host two pre-season scrimmages with divisional opponents the Albany

Conquest and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers. Both contests were helpful to the coaching staff in making the final decisions for the 21-man roster in preparation for the start of the regular season.


Next week, the Brigade will start up the I-90 War on the Floor as they meet the Albany Conquest for the first of three meetings this year. The two teams will be competing for the I-90 championship, which is for bragging rights between the interstate.


Veteran’s of the Northeast: This season the Brigade are the only team in the Northeast with af2 experience as the other four teams are all expansion. With the experience this should help the Brigade and provide an edge throughout the season.

Sack Prevention: Last season the Brigade we’re amongst the leagues worst in preventing sacks with a 27th out of 28 teams in the league. They allowed 53 total sacks on the season and look to improve upon that number greatly this season.

Fix it Time: Last season DS, Aaron Fix led the team in tackles with 77 of which, 47 of them were solo. This season he will continue build upon his team record and repeat the success he had last season. He was ranked second on the team with four interceptions including a 37-yard return for a touchdown. This year Fix will play on both sides of the ball and will look to be as successful offensively as he is defensively

Home on the Range: Last season the Brigade were 3and 5 at home and are looking to improve upon those numbers as they will play five of their first six games at the Blue Cross Arena this season of which, all are against divisional opponents. This season coach Saunders has deemed the Blue Cross Arena the Black Hole of the af2 with it’s low ceiling and darkness around the boards. “It’s an arena no team looks forward to visiting during the season, “ stated Saunders.

Fix Closes In On Record: Aaron Fix is looking to become the team’s all-time leader in defensive categories and is currently four interceptions away from tying Dwaine Carpenter’s (Buffalo AFL) record of eight from last season.
Player INT Yards PD TDs
Dwaine Carpenter 8 42 33 1
Aaron Fix 4 39 19 1
Mike Perez 2,404 1,383 18,875 319


Brigade OS Darryl Moore: Moore comes to the Brigade with exceptional speed and hands. He had a good training camp and should prove to be a serious threat throughout the league this season if he continues to adjust the way he has been.

Brigade QB Matt D’Orazio: Last season he was ranked 7th in the league with a 101.7 pass rating with the Roanoke Steam. He played in ten games for the Steam completing 94 of 153 passes for 1,198 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was only sacked five times last season and only threw five interceptions both are categories that the Brigade needed improvement on from last season. With his experience and leadership he will captain the team’s offensive threat and lead the way this season.


· Saturday, March 30th kicked-off the third year of the arenafootball2 league as the Richmond Speed defeated the Roanoke Steam and the Hawaiian Islanders defeated the Fresno Frenzy in week one.

· Saturday, April 6th marks the second season of action in the arenafootball2 league for the Brigade as they open at home against new divisional foe the New Haven Ninjas. This is the Ninjas first game in franchise history and the Brigade look to make it a difficult time for the new comers.

BUILT FORD TOUGH AWARD (selected by coaches)

The Built Ford Tough Award is a national recognition award given after every game to the player or players on each team best demonstrating determination and toughness in that game. The award honors the players who made a game-saving tackle or score-saving tackle, threw a key block on the big play or exhibited physical sacrifice or consistent tough blocking and tackling on both sides of the ball. The honored players receive a helmet sticker that recognizes the Built Ford Tough Player of the Game.

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