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Week 17 Saturday/Monday night matchups

July 23, 2004 - arenafootball2 (af2) News Release

GAME OF THE WEEK

NO. 1 WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PIONEERS (11-3) AT NO. 2 CAPE FEAR WILDCATS (11-3)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - CROWN COLISEUM (8,920) 7:30 P.M. ET

The top two teams in the Northeast Division and in all of af2 according to the af2 Coaches' Poll take to the turf in Fayetteville, North Carolina as the Cape Fear Wildcats host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers. This stakes in this game are simple. Who ever wins will be Northeast Division champions and clinch the No. 1 seed for the American Conference bracket of the playoffs. The loser secures the fourth seed in the playoffs and a home playoff game in the first round of the postseason. Cape Fear can only be described with one word: hot. They bring in an eight game winning streak, winning these games by an average of 12.9 points. In this stretch is a 57-49 victory over the Pioneers in Week 13, but Cape Fear's last loss came on the road against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 48-41. The Pioneers have been able to avoid back-to-back losses this season, a sign of a good team. In their three losses, (Albany, Louisville, Cape Fear) the Pioneers have lost by an average of only 5.3 points. The additional storyline in this game is between the quarterbacks. TIM HICKS and MIKE GLUSKI started the season on the same bench, but after an ineffective start for Gluski in the Pioneers first game of the season, Hicks entered the game and led the Pioneers back for a victory over the Wardogs. Since then, Hicks hasn't given back the job. Gluski has moved on to Cape Fear where he has not lost since joining the Wildcats. Hicks will have a little more work to do this week with leading receiver J.R. THOMAS still out with an in injury. LEROY MCFADDEN and ROCCO FORGIONE will need to step up their play as they did last week when they combined for 17 receptions. The Pioneers also picked up the well-traveled veteran SHON KING, who will probably see some action. Gluski has a trio of dependable receivers with the Wildcats. MATT BURSTEIN, MITCH GALLOWAY and CHRIS MCKINNEY have not missed a game all season and have combined for 61 of the Wildcats' 79 receiving touchdowns. It is going fun to watch.

Road to the 2004 ArenaCup Game of the Week Extended Preview

KEY MATCHUP

Wilkes-Barre QB Tim Hicks vs. Cape Fear QB Mike Gluski

Gluski was slated to be the Pioneers' starter but struggled in his first game and was replaced with Hicks. Gluski moved on to Cape Fear a few games later and hasn't looked back, winning eight straight games. Meanwhile, Hicks has carried the Pioneers to their best record in team history and a playoff berth. Despite their successes, both QBs have something to prove. Hicks doesn't want to lose the division title to the QB he replaced and Gluski would love nothing more than to take the title from the team that let him go. Look for both gunslingers to put on a show. In their only other head-to-head matchup this season Hicks tossed six touchdowns on 255 yards with no interceptions, but Gluski answered with 306 passing yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions as the Wildcats won 57-49.

EXTENDED SERIES HISTORY

These teams never met before the 2004 season, but what a rivalry it has turned out to be. The first game was back and forth the whole night until a late Matt Burstein fumble allowed the Pioneers to escape with a seven-point win. In the second meeting Cape Fear got revenge, as it was Matt Burnstein who helped his club establish a 19-0 early lead with two first quarter touchdowns on the way to a 57-49 win.

ARENACUP PLAYOFFS HISTORY

Cape Fear: The Wildcats have never missed the postseason and they won't miss it this year either. In their inaugural 2002 season, they advanced all the way to the Conference Championship game before losing to the Florida Firecats 43-29. Last season Cape Fear was dumped in the First Round by a surprising Mohegan team, 50-47. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: The Pioneers have entered uncharted territory, having clinched a postseason berth for the first time in history. Prior to this season the Pioneers best finish was 6-10, which they did in both 2002 and 2003.

TRENDS AND NOTES

-Over their first 10 games the Pioneers averaged 48.8 points per game. In their last four games they've upped that average to 58.5.

-The Wildcats averaged 56.1 over their first 10 games and 49.3 for the last four.

-QB Tim Hicks passed former Pioneers starter (and current New York Dragons backup) Chris Boden as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's single-season and all-time leader for touchdown passes with 71 thanks to his five-touchdown performance during last week's 55-31 drubbing of Albany. Boden had set the previous record of 67 during the 2003 season.

- The Wildcats were the first team in af2 history to win four games in a stretch of four straight regular season games on the road. The Wildcats defeated Wilkes-Barre, Memphis, Macon and Manchester. There have been six other teams that have played four straight road games including Florida this season.

- The Wildcats have allowed opponents to get to their quarterback only five times this season, they are currently tied for 1st in af2. The last time the Wildcats offensive line gave up a sack was against Wilkes-Barre during Week 8

OUT DUE TO INJURY

Cape Fear: WR/DB Melvin Justice, FB/LB Taalib-Din Smith Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: OS J.R. Thomas

A LOOK AT THE HEAD COACHES

Les Moss (11-3, 1st Year)

Les Moss, one of the most experienced and respected coaches in Arena Football history, has led the Pioneers to their most successful season ever. Prior to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Coach Moss most recently served as Assistant Coach/Director of Player Personnel for the AFL's Orlando Predators. During his career with Orlando, Moss helped guide the Predators to 11 playoff appearances, six ArenaBowl championship games, and two titles (1998 and 2000).

Chris Siegfried (33-12, 3rd Year, 2-2 Playoffs)

Chris Siegfried has led the Wildcats to the postseason each of the past three years. In his first season as head coach in 2002, Siegfried led the expansion Wildcats to a 15-4 overall record, an Atlantic division title and an appearance in the American Conference championship game. A former player, Siegfried began his playing career in 1992 with the Orlando Predators in the AFL. He then signed with the Miami Hooters in 1993 before leaving to play for the Taipei Dragons of the UFL. In the 1995 he joined the Baltimore Stallions of the CFL. Siegfried returned to Arena Football in 2000 as a wide receiver / defensive back for the af2's Augusta Stallions. In his final season of professional football, Siegfried had 65 receptions for 709-yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with 49 tackles and one interception. He was the first former af2 player turned af2 head coach.

EXTRA POINT

With the loss of OS J.R. Thomas, Wilkes-Barre went out and picked up veteran playmaker Shon King. King had a record-setting season in 2000 with the Quad City Steamwheelers, catching 136 passes for 1858 yards and 47 touchdowns (39 receiving, two rushing, and five kick returns), helping Quad City win the inaugural ArenaCup Championship in the process. He is still first all-time in several league scoring categories, including: most points for a season (284), most points in a game (48), most touchdowns in a season (47), and most touchdowns in a game (8). The following year, he joined the AFL's New York Dragons, where he recorded a total of 72 catches for 747 yards and 25 touchdowns between the 2002-2003 seasons. King spent the latter half of 2003 with the Tulsa Talons during their successful bid for the 2003 ArenaCup title.

NO. 3 TULSA TALONS (11-3) AT NO. 6 OKLAHOMA CITY YARD DAWGZ (10-5)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - FORD CENTER (18,000) 8:30 P.M. ET

Another game with a division title on the line takes place in Oklahoma City as the Talons try to clinch the Southwest Division with a win over the Yard Dawgz. This intrastate rivalry has produced some intense games this season, with the expansion Yard Dawgz winning both. The first game was a classic. The Yard Dawgz went on the road to play their first game in team history as the 2003 ArenaCup Champions raised their title banner. Oklahoma City, behind former Talons quarterback CRAIG STRICKLAND had a 15-point lead with 43 seconds left. Tulsa scored the final two touchdowns, with BJORN BARRE catching a 42-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with no time remaining. ROBERT REED grabbed the two-point conversion to tie the game. But in overtime Strickland and Dawgz pulled it out. Behind 243 TIMON MARSHALL all-purpose yards the Dawgz won the second game 62-60. Now Tulsa has a change to get revenge, but with a different quarterback. MICHAEL WALL started the two previous Oklahoma City games, but Wall was traded to Memphis to make room for BOB BEES who will start under center for the Talons. Strickland is expected to be back at quarterback for Oklahoma City after missing last weeks' game against Wichita due to a concussion. Including Marshall, Oklahoma City has three receivers with over 1,000 receiving yards this season with KRIS PETERS and AL HUNT both having 1,000 yards. Tulsa can clinch the division and a first round by with a victory. With a bye next week, this is Oklahoma City's final game of the season. If they win, however, they could capture the division crown if Tulsa also falters in Week 18.

GREEN BAY BLIZZARD (5-9) AT NO. 12 LOUISVILLE FIRE (8-6)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - FREEDOM HALL (15,646) 7:30 P.M. ET

Two struggling Midwest Division teams square off at historic Freedom Hall as the Louisville Fire host the Green Bay Blizzard. The Blizzard are struggling on picking a quarterback. MATT BUNYAN started last week against San Diego, but was pulled at half time in favor of RICHARD PYLE. Plye didn't perform much better as the Blizzard had their playoff hopes dashed in a 50-34 loss to San Diego last week. Louisville lost last week by three points to the Islanders, in Hawaii. They are now 1-4 in their last five games and have lost a golden opportunity to take the division lead from Quad City and Peoria. Despite their recent struggles the Fire have eight victories for a reason. They are very talented. Quarterback MATT SAUK is one of the best in the league, taking every snap this season for the Fire. With 3,966 passing yards he will likely go over the 4,000-yard mark this week for the third time in his af2 career. TONY STALLINGS, who you can see as a contestant on the Animal Planet show "King of the Jungle 2", has four pass touchdown catches on offense and eight pass breakups on defense. His ten rushing touchdowns leads the Fire. Green Bay has talent as well, with receivers ROBERT GARTH and DERONN FINLEY. Garth has 25 touchdown catches and Finley has 20. While the Blizzard won't be making the playoffs they can use these final two games, against Louisville and Peoria, to shake up the playoff positions. Earlier this season the Blizzard and Fire met in Green Bay, with the Fire winning by five points, 59-54.

MACON KNIGHTS (3-11) AT NO. 11 MEMPHIS XPLORERS (8-6)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - DESOTO CIVIC CENTER (8,400) 8:00 P.M. ET

Did you ever think that the Columbus Wardogs would be rooting for the Macon Knights? Well, that's exactly what is happening this weekend as the Wardogs need the Knights to stop the Xplorers in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. If Macon drops the Xplorers and Columbus wins on Monday night, Columbus and Memphis will meet in Week 18 with a trip to the playoffs on the line. As for this game, the Knights and Xplorers have never met but they have shared some common opponents this season. The Knights went 1-6 against Florida, Birmingham, Tennessee Valley and Louisville. Memphis is 2-4 against those same teams. Michael Wall continues to shine under center for the Xplorers. On the season he is closing on 3,000 yards passing and 65 touchdowns. Kevin Prentiss leads the receiving corps with his 29 touchdowns, and he is always a threat to run a kick back as he has eight returns on the season and needs just one more for the all-time single season record. Defensively, Dahnel Singfield is among the league leaders with seven interceptions and he leads the team with 59 tackles. Macon's defense features the likes of Hosea Laney who's 61 tackles is among the Top 10 in the league. He also has four interceptions to lead his squad. Jamaal Garmen provides the biggest offensive threat for the Knights with his 22 receiving touchdowns. The Knights have averaged 39.7 points per game, but 41.5 in the last four games. They have also allowed 41.8 over the last four games, better than the 49.4 season average. The Xplorers have already secured the best record in team history and now can clinch the first-ever playoff berth with a win.

WICHITA STEALTH (7-7) AT LAREDO LAW (3-11)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - LAREDO ENTERTAINMENT CENTER (8,000) 8:30 P.M. ET

The Wichita Stealth looks to snap a four-game losing skid and keep their slimming playoff hopes alive with a big win over the Laredo Law on Saturday night. Laredo might be 3-11, but they are no pushover, especially at home. The Law averages 29.7 points per game on the road, but has put up a respectable 47.4 at home this season. And, two of the team's three wins have come at home. That doesn't bode well for a Wichita team that is 2-5 on the road this season. In an effort to break their losing streak, Stealth head coach Sean Ponder on Monday named Heath Ridenour the starting quarterback. Ridenour is replacing Jonathan Beasley who has started the last seven games for the Stealth. Ridenour has seen limited action this season, but did go 9-of-10 for 114 yards with one passing and two rushing touchdowns in relief of Beasley last weekend. Laredo has also had to make a change at quarterback as both their QBs were injured last week. To fill the holes, the Law brought in Julius Brown and Marc Saldana. Brown last played this summer over in Europe, while Saldana spent time playing in a lower level indoor football league. Both gunslingers figure to see some action against the Stealth. This is the third and final meeting of the season for the Law and Stealth. Wichita convincingly won both previous meetings, 44-22 on April 10 and 64-34 on May 29. Both those games were played in Wichita.

NO. 10 PEORIA PIRATES (8-6) AT NO. 9 BIRMINGHAM STEELDOGS (9-5)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - BJCC (16,000) 8:30 P.M. ET

The Peoria Pirates second half comeback is put to the ultimate test this week as they head to Birmingham to face the Steeldogs. Riding a five-game high, the Pirates can take another step towards solidifying a playoff spot with a win. While Birmingham is already assured a spot in the postseason, they still would like the division title and a shot at a First Round bye. These teams have had interesting paths to get to this game. The Pirates started the season 2-5 before rattling six wins over their next seven games to climb into playoff contention. The Steeldogs shot off to an 8-2 start, but have won only one game in their last four. Peoria has been known for their defense, allowing a paltry 37.5 points per game. They've allowed an average of only 30 over their last three games, while the Birmingham offense has only been able to muster an average of 25 over its last two games. The Peoria offense lacked punch for most of the season, but has been able to turn it on of late. In fact, they registered a season-high 58 points last week against Columbus. Casey Urlacher powers a formidable rushing attack and has 266 yards with 14 touchdowns this season. Leading receiver Lawrence Matthews could top 1,000 yards before the season ends. Birmingham has gone with the two-quarterback system all season, but now looks to Kenton Evans to carry the load this week. Evans has thrown for 1,035 yards with 22 touchdowns and only four picks in eight games this season. While Birmingham and Peoria have not met this season, the Pirates own a 2-1 all-time series advantage. The last time these teams met was the Conference Championship game in 2002. The underdog Pirates came to Birmingham and downed the Dogs 79-33 on then went on to take down Florida for the ArenaCup championship.

ARKANSAS TWISTERS (2-12) AT RIO GRANDE VALLEY DORADOS (5-9)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - DODGE ARENA (5,500) 8:30 P.M. ET

The Arkansas Twisters and Rio Grande Valley Dorados both have to wait until next year for any shot at postseason glory, but pride is on the line this week. The Dorados are 4-3 at Dodge arena this season and can secure a winning home record with a win against the Twisters. Despite their 2-12 record, there is still an interesting storyline to the Twisters remaining two games. OS/QB Kevin Williams is looking to make Arena Football history by becoming his team's leading passer, rusher and receiver. He already leads in rushing and passing, but needs 155 more yards to become the team's leading receiver. Williams has rushed for 23 touchdowns, passed for 23 and caught another 15 this season. These two teams also feature stars on defense. The Dorados Spencer Conley is tied for the league lead with 8.5 sacks, while Arkansas' Darnell Small is far behind with seven. This is the first-ever meeting between these teams.

NO. 7 BAKERSFIELD BLITZ (10-4) AT SAN DIEGO RIPTIDE (7-7)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - SAN DIEGO SPORTS ARENA (12,920) 10:00 P.M. ET

The San Diego Riptide host the Bakersfield Blitz in the final meeting this season between the two teams. Three of San Diego's seven losses have come at the hands of the Blitz. It is difficult to beat a team three times in a season, but four times is even tougher. For Bakersfield it is very easy. With a victory they would be West Division Champions and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. For San Diego it's a little trickier as they will need some help. With that said, the first thing they need is to win out, and beating the Blitz is the first step toward that. After starting the season 1-5 the Riptide won their next four to reach the .500 mark. A matchup with Bakersfield in Week 13 could have put them above .500 and in the West Division race. But the Blitz defeated the Riptide 57-53 to put the Riptide one game under. A loss the next week to Hawaii put them two under, and things were looking difficult again. Two weeks ago KEVIN FETERIK replaced KANE CLAUNCH at quarterback and he seems to have given the Riptide team a jolt of energy, as they have won two straight and now find them self at .500 again. In four games this season Feterik is 44 of 73 for 563 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions. Bakersfield hasn't needed a change at quarterback, CHAD ELLIOTT fills the position just fine. His 61 touchdown passes, 26 to ERIC MAHANKE and 11 to both STEVE WOFFORD and RENNARD REYNOLDS are key reasons for Bakersfield's stellar play. NICK ONAINDIA and BEN MCCOMBS have 17 rushing touchdowns combined to help make up for the rest of the Blitz offense. The Blitz have been able to avoid losing multiple games in a row as they haven't lost consecutive games all season.

HAWAIIAN ISLANDERS (8-6) AT CENTRAL VALLEY COYOTES (1-13)
SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2004 - SELLAND ARENA (8,300) 10:30 P.M. ET

The Hawaiian Islanders look for win No. 9 as they take on the Central Valley Coyotes on Saturday night. Hawaii has already won the first three games in the season series with the Coyotes, and they will need to make it a perfect 4-0 if they want to remain in the hunt for the National Conference Wild Cards. Last week the Islanders earned a big win over Louisville with the help of back-up quarterback Shawn Withy-Allen. Withy-Allen had one of the best quarterbacking performances in Hawaiian Islanders history and earned National recognition as the Offensive Player of the Week. He'll get the start again this week as Darnell Arceneaux is still hurting. The Coyotes big playmaker all season has been Kenyatte Morgan. Last week Morgan set a team record with 1,266 receiving yards and he also owns records for most kick return yards, most all-purpose yards and most return touchdowns. With two games left, he's also setting his sights on the team records for receptions (107), most receiving touchdowns (29) and most points in a season (180). While the Islanders main goal is remaining in the hunt for a Wild Card, they still have an outside shot at the West Division title. To do that, they need to win combined with Bakersfield losing this week. That would setup a Week 18 showdown in which Hawaii would need to beat Bakersfield by five points to claim the West title.

NO. 5 FLORIDA FIRECATS (9-5) AT COLUMBUS WARDOGS (6-8)
MONDAY, JULY 25, 2004 - COLUMBUS CIVIC CENTER (7,600) 7:30 P.M. ET

A rare Monday night football game takes place in Columbus as the Firecats and Wardogs face off. This game could mean everything or nothing for the Wardogs. If Memphis loses on Saturday night, Columbus will be fighting for their playoff life. If Memphis wins, the game means nothing for the Wardogs. For Florida, this game is huge. If Birmingham loses on Saturday, the Firecats could clinch the South Division title with a win. If Birmingham wins, the Firecats need to win to keep pace. The Firecats have never lost to the Wardogs, including two wins this season. This third meeting, however, could be different. In the previous two meetings the Firecats held the Wardogs under 35 points, but the Wardogs have found some offensive magic of late. They have broke the 60-point mark three times this season and two of those times occurred in the past three weeks, including a upset over the Okalahoma City Yard Dawgz. The Firecats could be ready though, as their defense has tightened the clamp the past two weeks, allowing 28 to Birmingham on July 10 and only 17 to Laredo last week. Look for the Firecats defense to again try to contain rookie sensation Troy Bergeron. The potent receiver has 21 touchdowns in 10 games, but was held to two against the Firecats on June 12. Columbus QB Kyle Rowley is looking to eclipse 4,000 passing yards and needs only 305 to do it. For the Firecats, QB Ken Mastrole is closing in on 70 touchdown passes, while single-season rushing champ Steve Gorrie needs 54 more yards to become the first 500-yard rusher in league history. This is only the fourth Monday night game in af2 history. The first one occurred during the 2000 season when the Tulsa Talons beat the Richmond Speed 58-54 on April 24. The next two came in the quarterfinal round of the 2001 postseason. Richmond beat Birmingham 67-60 and Tennessee Valley dropped Tallahassee 70-52 on July 30 of that year.

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