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Spotlight on Vernard Abrams

July 23, 2008 - arenafootball2 (af2) - Albany Firebirds News Release

At the start of the season Vernard Abrams donned the #11 jersey for the Conquest, having earned himself a starting job amongst some talented wide receivers. He might have laughed at the suggestion that heading into the final week of the 2008 season he would be the well-established starting "Jack" linebacker, with impressively balanced numbers on both sides of the ball. The truth is Abrams has been a welcome surprise for Albany head coach Jeff Hoffman, who did not quite realize the kind of versatility he was getting in "V-A." At times this season Abrams has played wide receiver, linebacker, defensive back, long-snapper and most recently backup quarterback, after an injury to starting QB Dan Cole in Week 16 at Louisville.

"Vernard is incredibly athletic and finds a way to excel at any position we've put him this year," said Coach Hoffman. "He would have been very comfortable playing back in the day when arena players had to regularly play both ways."

Abrams numbers speak for themselves. He has 60 receptions for 605 yards and ranks third on the team with 12 receiving touchdowns in 15 games this season. On defense Abrams is leads Albany in fumble recoveries (3), is second in sacks (3.5), is tied for third in interceptions (2) and tackles for loss (4.0) and is sixth overall in tackles (27.5). Those are very impressive numbers without drawing a lot of attention in his direction, a talent of Abrams that is only surpassed by his affable, easy-going personality both on and off the field. Whether or not Abrams gets his due recognition for a fantastic af2 season, his contributions to the Conquest have not gone unnoticed by his coaches or teammates.

Week 17 Recap:

ALBANY, NY - The Manchester Wolves grabbed an early lead that they never relinquished, beating the Albany Conquest 70-49 Friday night in front of 3,339 fans at the Times Union Center.

The Wolves opened the scoring three minutes into the game when Manchester QB James Pinkney hit WR Bradley Chavez for an 18-yard touchdown. Albany QB Joe DeLuise answered on the next possession, scrambling for a 27-yard score to tie the game. The Wolves retook the lead when WR Keith Stokes pulled in a 45-yard touchdown reception and then added to their lead as Pinkney and Chavez got together once again. This time they combined for a 10-yard strike and Manchester led 21-7 after the opening quarter.

Pinkney punched the ball into the end zone for a rushing TD to open the second quarter scoring, but the Conquest wasted no time in responding as DeLuise hooked up with WR Jared Jones for a 40-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 27-14. Albany appeared to catch the Wolves off-guard as they recovered the ensuing on-side kick, but an offside penalty gave the ball to Manchester deep in Conquest territory. The Wolves capitalized on the situation; Pinkney found WR Steven Savoy for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The Manchester quarterback went back to Savoy on their next possession, giving Manchester a 26-point lead, before DeLuise tallied his second rushing TD for a 40-21 score at halftime.

The Wolves continued to roll in the second half. DB Carlton Brown's team-leading fifth interception of the season set up Savoy third TD reception of the game, then just over a minute later DB Dahnel Singfield picked off a DeLuise pass and returned the ball 18-yards for a touchdown. WR Chris Bocage scored the lone Albany touchdown of the third quarter on an eight-yard pass from DeLuise, cutting Manchester's lead to 54-27.

Bocage caught two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, pulling the Conquest within 14-points with 22 seconds left, but Manchester iced the game as backup QB Ben King threw for two touchdowns in the final 62 seconds, including a 25-yard TD pass to Chavez with nine seconds remaining to secure a 70-49 victory for the Wolves.

Week 18 Preview:

Albany was mathematically eliminated from the 2008 af2 playoff race last Friday in their home loss to Manchester. They will now be playing for pride and respect against the first place team in the East Division. A win over the Pioneers would give the Conquest a 6-10 record for the second year in a row and for the third time in five seasons. Albany has not had a winning record since the 2003 season (13-3). Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has locked up home field advantage by leading the entire American Conference with a 13-2 record and they rank second behind only the Spokane Shock (14-1) for the top record in the entire af2.

Week 18's game is eerily similar to the final regular season game of 2007. Last year Albany knocked off Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 56-42 at the Times Union Center on July 27th, 2007 after losing the first two games in Wilkes-Barre, PA. After beating the Pioneers, Albany's season ended with a 6-10 record, while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton regrouped and made a playoff charge all the way to the 2007 ArenaCup. This year the Pioneers are again headed to the post season and the Conquest need a win to finish 6-10.

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