San Diego Game Notes at Arizona
IRONY: HOMECOMING HEROES SINK HOMETOWN TEAM
The San Diego Fleet (3-3) fell at home for the first time this season last Sunday, when a pair of San Diego natives sunk the Fleet in a 32-29 Iron victory. Former Chargers kicker Nick Novak nailed a 44-yard field goal as time expired to give Birmingham (4-2) a victory in a game during which QB Luis Perez (Otay Ranch HS) came of the bench to go 27-for-49 for 359 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The 359 passing yards marked a career-high total for Perez, as well as the third-highest passing total in The Alliance this season. Coincidentally, the Fleet became the first team in the AAF to win on a score as time expired one week earlier - also on a 44-yard field goal - to defeat Salt Lake, 27-25, on March 9... Trailing, 29-23, the Fleet scored a game-tying touchdown on a 13-yard strike by QB Mike Bercovici to WR Francis Owusu with 4:32 left in regulation that evened the score prior to the game-win- ning, 10-play, 50-yard scoring drive that culminated with the Folk field goal. Earlier, the Fleet overcame a 21-9 deficit to build a 23-21 advantage following a two-yard touchdown run by RB Terrell Watson with 8:56 to go in the third and a 12-yard connection between Bercovici and Watson four minutes later. WR Dontez Ford had a breakout performance, recording three catches for a Fleet-record 183 yards - including grabs of 72 and 70 yards - before leaving the game for good with an ankle injury in the third quarter. Bercovici finished 17-for-34 for a team-record 311 yards with three touchdowns and two picks.
PRODIGAL SUNS RETURN HOME
The Week 6 road contest against the Hotshots at Sun Devil Stadium marks a homecoming for notable members of the Fleet. Before Mike Martz found success with the St. Louis Rams, the Fleet head coach spent nine seasons as an assistant at ASU, serving roles as QB/WR coach (1983-87) and offensive as- sistant (1988-91)... Defensive Coordinator Larry Marmie served as ASU's head coach for four seasons (1988-91), during which time he complied a 22-21-1 record and nurtured a coaching tree that included Martz, Army HC Jeff Monken, Illinois HC Lovie Smith and former WVU HC Bill Stewart... Defensive Backs Coach Eric Allen enjoyed a standout career at ASU (1984-87) before embarking on a successful 14-year NFL career... Defensive Line Coach Vince Amey spent his four-year playing career at ASU (1994-97) and was a 1996 Pac-10 Champion before advancing to the NFL... GM Dave Boller began his career at his alma mater ASU as the Director of Football Operations (1985-95)... QB Mike Bercovici was a four-year letterwinner at ASU (2011-15) who appeared in 41 games as a Sun Devil before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Chargers on Sept. 3, 2016. In 2015, he finished in the top-three in eight ASU sin- gle-season offensive rankings including passing TD (30), completions (318) and passing yards (3,855).
HAVE YOU DRIVEN A FORD LATELY?
After three weeks of team-leading performances, WR Dontez Ford (Pittsburgh) now ranks third in The Alliance with 435 receiving yards. After a rel- atively quiet first three weeks, the 25-year-old has amassed 348 receiving yards, which accounts for 80-percent of his production for the season.
Last weekend, he racked up a team-record 183 yards against Birmingham, in- cluding the Fleet's longest two receptions of the season of 72 and 70 yards - which mark the fifth- and sixth-longest grabs in the AAF this season. Despite leaving in the third quarter with an ankle injury, Ford became the first Fleet receiver to eclipse the 100-yard mark and finished 10 yards shy of the league's single-game record (193) set by Orlando's Charles Johnson on Feb. 17 at San Antonio. One week prior in a Week 5 victory over Salt Lake, Ford solidified his presence as a deep threat when he connected with QB Mike Bercovici for a 45-yard reception with :47 remaining and the Fleet trailing, 25-23. This deep pass along the Fleet sideline set up the game-winning field goal as time expired. The spike in Ford's production is partially due to his change in roles, as Head Coach Mike Martz moved him into the starting 'X' beginning in Week 5.
Despite missing Week 4 due to injury, DE Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) leads The Alliance with 20 quarterback hits and owns the top two single-game to- tals in the league this season. He registered the record of six QB hits in the loss to Birmingham last Sunday, while adding eight tackles and a sack. The 26-year- old also ranks third in the AAF in sacks (5) and is tied for second on the Fleet in tackles (26). Moore started the season with a flurry, amassing five QB hits in the season-opener at San Antonio on Feb. 9, a contest in which Moore also re- corded a game-high nine tackles.
In all, he claims four of the top seven totals for QB hits in a game and is averaging a whopping 4.0 per contest. Moore, a third-rounder by the New York Giants in 2013, has recorded the second-most games (55) in the NFL on the Fleet roster behind TE Gavin Escobar (64).
BOATS NOTES (FROM WEEK 6)
- The 29 points surrendered by San Diego was the most the Fleet allowed this season, previously 26 in a 26-23 loss at Memphis on March 2.
Conversely, the 32 points scored by Birmingham was the Iron's season high, previously 28 in a 28-12 win at Atlanta on Feb. 24.
- Birmingham's 83-yard touchdown reception from QB Luis Perez to WR L'Damien Washington was the Iron's longest scoring play this season and tied San Diego's RB Ja'Quan Gardner (83-yard run on Feb. 24) for the longest offensive play in league history. The longest overall is an 89-yard interception return by San Antonio's Derron Smith last Sunday in Atlanta.
- WR Dontez Ford has now caught San Diego's four longest passes and five of six longest for the Fleet this season (72, 70, 54, 45, 40). WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez (43) has the other.
- TE Ben Johnson has recorded a touchdown receptions in each of the last two games. After starting the season with two catches for 25 yards in the first three games, the Kansas produce has seven grabs for 45 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games.
- RB Terrell Watson recorded his first two touchdowns of the season against the Iron on a two-yard run and 12-yard reception, both in the third quarter.
- After totaling 226 yards in Weeks 2 and 3, RB Ja'Quan Gardner has posted just 28 rushing yards on 26 carries (1.1 ypc) over the last three games.
- Through six weeks, the Fleet special teams unit has allowed just 45 yards on punt return yards -- 12 fewer than Ron Brooks' 57-yard TD return March 2.
IF I COULD BE LIKE 'MIKE'
Middle linebacker A.J. Tarpley (Stanford) returned last Sunday after missing Weeks 4 and 5 with a back injury and finished with a team-high-tying eight tackles in his first action since being named AAF Defensive Player of the Week for Week 3. His 27-yard touchdown on an interception return in the second quarter against the Commanders on Feb. 24 proved to be the game-winner (San Antonio led 8-6 at the time). The pick was the first of the year for the for- mer Buffalo Bill and the defensive score marked the first in Fleet history.
VENI, VIDI, (BERCO)VICI!
After being replaced Week 1 at San Antonio (4-2), QB Mike Bercovici (Arizona State) returned to the starting role Week 5 with the injury to Philip Nelson and guided the Fleet to a 27-25 home victory against Salt Lake (2-4). San Diego fell behind, 25-24, with less than one minute left, but the 26-year-old orches- trated a 49-yard scoring drive to set up the game-winning field goal. The bulk of the yardage came on a 45-yard connection with WR Dontez Ford on second-and-10. Bercovici finished 22-for-43 with a Fleet then-single-game passing record of 304 yards, logging one touchdown and one interception.
The former Sun Devil then set a new team record while posting the fifth-highest single-game total in the league with 311 passing yards in the 32-29 loss to Birmingham last Sunday... In the opener on Feb. 9, the Northridge, Calif., na- tive competed 15-of-25 passes for 176 yards with two interceptions before giving way to Nelson after three quarters. Of note, the Commanders defense sacked Bercovici six times while amassing 10 QB hits for the game. Nelson sustained a broken left clavicle in the third quarter at Memphis in Week 4.
@KAETWICE BECOMES @KAETHRICE
CB Kameron Kelly (San Diego State), whose Twitter handle is @kaetwicefrfr, was named AAF Defensive Player of the Week for Week 5 after setting an Al- liance single-game with three interceptions against Salt Lake. The 23-year-old returned his record-setting third interception 22 yards for a touchdown to put San Diego ahead, 24-11, with 9:26 remaining in the fourth quarter. De- spite playing his entire college career as a four-year starter for the Aztecs, Kelly's first AAF touchdown also marked his first-ever at SDCCU Stadium. The native of Murphy, Texas, also finished the game with six tackles and a team-high four passes defended. Coincidentally, the performance came in his third game since switching back to the Fleet defense after playing the first two games exclusively as a receiver. Kelly also became the third Fleet player to earn weekly honors this season joining RB Ja'Quan Gardner (Feb. 26) & LB A.J. Tarpley (Feb 26).
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