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Tables Turned, Fleet Fall on Final Play

March 18, 2019 - Alliance of American Football (AAF) - San Diego Fleet News Release

Last week, the Fleet became the first team in The Alliance to win on a score as time expired (a 44-yard FG by K Donny Hageman). Tonight, the Iron matched the feat with a 44-yard, game-winning field goal by K Nick Novak as time expired.

Birmingham was the only team in the AAF Eastern Conference to win in Week 6; conversely, San Diego was the only team in the AAF Western Conference to lose in Week 6.

Tonight marked the Fleet's first loss at home after starting a perfect 3-0.

WR Dontez Ford became the first Fleet player to eclipse the 100-yard receiving plateau with his three-catch, 183-yard performance. Ford left in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. It marked the second-highest, single-game receiving yardage output this season behind a seven-catch, 192-yard performance by Orlando's Charles Johnson in Week 2 at San Antonio.

WR Dontez Ford caught passes of 72, 70 and 40 yards from QB Mike Bercovici. 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.

Birmingham QB Keith Price made his first start of the season. The product of University of Washington initially signed with the Fleet in September, but San Diego opted not to protect him in the league's quarterback draft. Price, who went unselected in the draft, later signed with Birmingham on Jan. 16.

Birmingham QB Luis Perez entered the game in the the first quarter and threw for a career-high 359 yards, going 27-for-49 with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

San Diego QB Mike Bercovici set a new Fleet single-game passing record with 311 yards, surpassing his previous high of 304 yards in last week's 27-25 win over Salt Lake. He finished 17-for-34 with three touchdowns and two interceptions against the Iron.

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 scoring play in league history.

WR L'Damien Washington finished with a Birmingham single-game record 128 receiving yards on four catches.

The 32 points scored by Birmingham was the the Iron's season high, previously 28 in a 28-12 win at Atlanta on Feb. 24. The 29 points allowed by San Diego was the most the Fleet allowed this season, previously 26 in a 26-23 loss at Memphis on March 2.


Head Coach Mike Martz

On upcoming three-game road trip:

"We were in San Antonio for a month, so we've been away in a hotel environment like that. And all of the guys on the team, nobody lives here if that makes sense. We're kind of a transient culture if you will in this league with the players. I'm not sure if playing on the road is that big of a deal. And the other thing is, you just don't make a big deal out of it. It is what it is, you can't change it. I've just never worried about it to be honest with you."

On wide receiver Dontez Ford's play:

"We could choreograph plays just for him, normal play can turn into a huge play and he demonstrated that. He made so many really good plays for us tonight, unfortunately he just couldn't stay in, but that's who he is. He's going to have a heck of a career in the NFL. Somebody's going to get a really fine wide receiver. He's top-notch there's no question."

On significant penalties:

"Like I said at the beginning these are self-inflicted wounds and these are things that we can control. That's the focus for us as coaches of this team. We have to clean all that up for us to have a chance to win."

Defensive End Damontre Moore (#94)

On defensive unit:

"We have to go hard. At the end of the day that's what we do as a defensive line. We pride ourselves on that. We have some great run stoppers, but the one thing we've been doing all year and we have to get back to it, is shutting down the run so we can give them these great pass rushing opportunities. When you have great pass rushers like Alex Barrett and Myles (Nash) who is inactive tonight, he constantly puts pressure. You have Meffy (Koloamatangi) and then you have me as a four-man rotation keeping everybody fresh. Normally we can do that and so for whatever reason we were one step away. We're going to get back to hunting like we normally do."

On high point total for two defensive teams:

"I knew there was a possibility the game could go this way, but did we plan on this to ever happen? No. We're defense. We pride ourselves on shutting people down, shutting the run down, leading the league in most pressures and quarterback hits. did we go in there expecting the offense to put up points on us? No. At the end of the day that's a talented offense. I don't want to take anything away from them. They came away with the win. We did some good things, but we also shot ourselves in the foot. Now we're going to go back in there and learn and get a lot more hungry. It's just motivation."

On adjusting during half time:

"We go in there and we make our adjustments. We're constantly learning and one thing we do when we get back in here, is everybody focuses and resets. It's zero-zero. We take what we did well and we also learn from what we did bad."

RB Terrell Watson (#39)

On his two touchdown performance:

"My performance doesn't mean much if we don't win. No matter what my performance is I want to win,"

On team's improved running game compared to last week:

"The offensive line did a really good job and coaches did a good job of coaching us for what to expect."

ILB AJ Tarpley (#59)

On what he thought was a fumble in the fourth:

"I didn't hear a whistle, they didn't call it that way, can't do anything about it."

On playing against Trent Richardson:

"It's fun. Everyone knows his name, he's a first round draft pick."

On facing two different quarterbacks:

"They both made plays. Both of them played well, both of them made plays using their feet."

On standings:

"It's going to come down to the wire. We're 3-3 so we have two options, the option we're going to do is get back working.

CB Ron Brooks (#33)

On defending the deep ball:

"They made good plays. Good throws, good catches. We got to do a better job of staying on top of the receivers and fighting through the end of the plays."

On defense:

"We have to contain the quarterback, too much of the quarterback getting out of the pocket and scrambling."

TE Ben Johnson (#88)

On his touchdown:

"I was reaching for the pylon and he knocked it out and luckily it didn't go out the back of the end zone."

On loss of Dontez Ford:

"Hoping it's a speedy recovery, whatever it is. He's just an explosive player. He pays attention to the little details and that's something you need to do in this offense. He takes coaching well and runs with it."

On upcoming road trip:

"We're going to bounce back from this loss and regroup and look at things. We're a solid team and we're brothers here.

K Donny Hageman (#1)

On his talk with Nick Novak after the game:

"I asked him how he felt about the game winning kick and he shared his process going into the kick. He told me that he thought he was going to push it right."

On being on other side of a game winning kick:

"Being on the other side, it's definitely a 180 of how we felt last week. It's tough for me knowing that I missed one, 'It's like what if I made it.'"

On upcoming schedule:

"We haven't won on the road yet, so it's going to be a big test for us. If we want to get to the championship, which has been our goal since the first game, we have to be able to win on the road."

WR Francis Owusu (#82)

On coming back from 21-9:

"We're resilient. When our back is against the wall, we know how to fight. I'm really proud of the team. The win is the ultimate goal, next week we're going to work like we always do."

On upcoming trip:

"Wherever we're at, we're going to play. We just got to win. With the playoffs coming up it'll be a lot tougher, but I love our team."

On Ford's injury:

"Game after game you see big plays from (Dontez) Ford. When someone goes down, next person has to step up. I know all the receivers are going to do that."


Head Coach Tim Lewis

On tonight's win:

"I can't tell you enough about how exciting it was to be a part of that. As a first-time head coach, that was my first end-of-the-game, winning field goal and score and all of that. It was really exciting for me. I'm at a loss for words, really. It was a heck of a ball game, so it was fantastic to be a part of it. I'm fortunate we came out on the winning side of it.

"I thought we did a really nice job on our vertical passing game. We've been talking about getting some explosive plays and finally we got some of them."

On Nick Novak:

"I couldn't be happier for him to come home to a place that he's worked at for a long time, and to have this happen, this night, and that situation. It's fantastic."

On Brandon Greene's and Ryan White's injury status:

"We'll give you an update as the week goes along."

QB Luis Perez (#12) On tonight's win:"It's a great feeling, I'll tell you what. To come home, back to San Diego, where I grew up and where I was born and raised. It's a great feeling, especially to be able to do it in front of my family and friends who really support me through everything - through thick and thin."For me to get in and be able to pull off a win as a team like this in front of my hometown is a great feeling."On the AAF:"I love it. Compliments to the NFL. A lot of guys like myself were third or fourth on the bench chart, couldn't really get that many reps and couldn't really develop or got released. This league is about improvement, in my opinion. You need to get better every week as a team and individually."

K Nick Novak (#9)

On tonight's win:

"Who would've thought I would play in this stadium again with the Birmingham Iron and have that situation in the end. It was a great experience and a great memory for me. Most importantly, I'm glad we got the win. Nothing better than celebrating a victory in the locker room after a game."

On comparing playing in the NFL versus the AAF:

"There might be more people in the stands, but I've never noticed that. Whether it's a packed crowd or not -- it's the same situation. Balls the same, field's the same, same dimensions of the football field. In my mind, it's the same. Obviously, the NFL is the top of the top, so to have those experiences and use them for that kick tonight, it was helpful. All that experience over the years, the last 13 years, of competing and playing -- all those kicks help in those situations."

On Luis Perez's performance tonight:

"I thought he made some great throws.

"I love Luis. He used to throw to me before we reported for training camp. I used to run the tree for conditioning down in Southwestern College. He was my holder."

WR L'Damian Washington (#17)

On personal performance in tonight's game:

"It feels good. As you can see, it's a whole different atmosphere and a whole different vibe when the team wins. I owe it to the other receivers who were running their routes to help me get open. I owe it to the offensive line and the quarterback trusting in me to put the ball out there. It's just a blessing to get our first receiving touchdown as a receiving core, so it was for everybody, not just me as an individual."

On having the longest reception in Birmingham Iron history so far:

"I finally hold the record, right? It's good, it's a blessing. We're just trying to get better each week. Add the vertical game to the offense, I think that makes us lethal. Especially when we get the running backs running the way they were running today. I think we're just now hitting our flow as an offense and it's a good feeling."

On Luis Perez's performance tonight:

"Whenever you get a homecoming like that, you're coming off the bench and to see the way he persevered like that, it just goes to show a lot about his character. Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it.

On moving forward:

"Stay humble. Build off of it. Let's stay grounded. I think people just today got to see what this offense is capable of. Any time you can add the vertical game to the offense, it makes the linebackers play a little different, we can run the ball a little more effectively. We're just now hitting our stride."

On what they can improve on:

"We had a lot of errors out there. We still had turnovers, we can eliminate those. I think right now we're just building confidence because it was the first receiving touchdown we've had this year. We can build off it."

RB Trent Richardson (#33)

On two touchdown performance:

"It's amazing to be out here and scoring touchdowns. I wouldn't want to be with any other group of guys. We've been working hard all week and we deserve it."

On Birmingham Team and moving forward:

"We lost two games and we fought back. We talked about the culture of winning and losing all week and what we wanted to do. The Fleet played a hell of a game, they have some receivers that made it look like a track meet. They made good plays and we need to make our corrections and move on to Memphis."

On needed improvements for Memphis:

"I know Johnny (Manziel) just signed with Memphis. If he plays we'll need to be able to contain him. We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be able to protect our quarterback. I dropped a couple of passes tonight and our receivers made up for it and did a great job. If we play the game our way, we'll win the ball game."

On QB Luis Perez's Performance:

"Luis did what he always does. Nobody sees the Luis that we see at practice. He came in with a lot of poise and played great football. He wanted to put on a show at home and he did what he had to do. Even if his number didn't get called, he was at practice all week, and practicing hard. His number got called, he manned up, and played with a lot of passion tonight."

On AAF and coming back to football:

"I love that everyone here is hungry. We all have one goal. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to get to the big show, even the coaches. The opportunity the Alliance has given is big for us. A lot of us had regular jobs or were sitting on the couch. Now we're apart of something and everyone wants to get to the league."

DB Bradley Sylve (#29)

On overall game:

"It was a hard fought game. We came into a hostile environment and came out successful. We pride ourselves on taking the ball away and playing great defense. That's what we came to do and that's what we did, so it was a great team win."

On preparation:

"Coach wanted us to play man defense and not play off-man anymore, so that was a challenge for us to showcase our man coverage. We did what we were supposed to do and got the win."

On overall first interception since high school:

"I didn't even get one in college so that's such a surreal feeling. I told myself today 'I don't know how I'm going to catch one, but I'm going to catch a pick.' I prayed on it, and God answered my prayers. This is the first of many."

On needed improvements:

"We're far from where we want to be. We need to keep working and keep grinding, because there's always room for improvement. We have film and workouts tomorrow so the grind doesn't stop."

On next game versus Memphis:

"It really doesn't matter who is at quarterback. As long as I come out to do my job, the play will fall right into my hands, just like today."

DB Jamar Summers (#26)

On overall game:

"This was a great team win. We have a high powered offense, we can run and pass. We have great talent on both sides of the ball, and we came out on top. Us DB's left some plays out there but we got the win and that's the best thing."

On preparation:

"You practice how you play. We knew it was going to be a lot of hard-nose runs. We had to bring our big-boy pads as a defense. Those guys up front really stepped up."

On third interception of the season:

"The quarterback made an ill-advised throw and I made him pay. Simple as that."

On needed improvements vs Memphis:

"We need to take the ball away more, get up the field and give our offense more opportunities. We have lots of talent on offense and we need to showcase those guys and keep them on the field."

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