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Wildcats Crush Eagles for First Win of the Season 49-19

May 2, 2016 - American Indoor Football (AIF) - Winston Wildcats News Release

The Winston Wildcats fans finally have something to cheer about! In a dominating performance from start to finish before a ruckus crowd Saturday evening at the Annex in Winston Salem the Wildcats hammered the Maryland Eagles 49-19 earning their first win in franchise history. The Wildcats got off to a good start thanks to the stellar play of quarterback Darius Coleman. Coleman looked like a different quarterback than in previous games oozing of confidence and swagger. His offensive line played well allowing Coleman time to survey the field and make his reads. Coleman fired a strike into the numbers of wide receiver Sammy Henderson for a 22-yard touchdown pass to put the Wildcats up 6-0 half way threw the first period. Coleman was on fire the entire night throwing 5 touchdown passes, shredding the Eagles secondary for 166 yards in averaging over 15-yards per completion.

Coleman was clearly the story on offense. He looked poised and made some great throws into traffic. "The offensive line did a heck of a job. I give all the glory to my lineman. They gave me time and I was able to find my receivers," stated Coleman after the game. "He's really grown in his game and he understands that throwing the ball away isn't a bad play," added interim head coach Malachi King.

With the score 6-0 it was the Wildcats defense that stepped up to make a huge play in the second quarter. Linebacker Aaron Massey recovered an errant snap in the Eagles end zone from Eagles center Michael Maultsby for a touchdown that increased the lead to 12-0 sending the Wildcats faithful into a frenzy. Antwan Thorpe then added the extra point that put the Wildcats up 13-0. It was their first double digit lead of the season and they would never look back.

The defense was absolutely suffocating all night shutting out the Eagles offense in the first half as the Wildcats would take a 28-0 lead into halftime. The Wildcats defense recorded four sacks, a safety on a blocked field goal attempt that went out of the end zone, scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery and had an interception all in the first half. The Wildcats never let the Eagles offense find a rhythm as they abused and battered Eagles quarterbacks all night. Chase Blackburn had two sacks in the first half and was practically living in the Maryland backfield. "We adjusted our line a little bit during the bye week so we could use our speed to our advantage," remarked Blackburn after the game. "Everyone came out ready to play tonight. We wanted to try and come out here and make our mark and when you play with a lead you can let the dogs loose a little bit," he added. "My message to the team before the game was to simply believe," remarked coach Malachi King. "Believe in yourself and each other and let it all hang out." Clearly the message was received by the Wildcats.

The return of veteran wide receiver Sammy Henderson from injury was also a key to the Wildcats first win. In addition to his 22-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring he also tallied an interception and threw a successful two point conversion attempt off a fake extra point attempt. "This win will catapult us. It will also allow the guys to see how we are capable of playing," commented the savvy wide receiver. "The frustration built up over the bye week and it showed in practice and there was a lot of bickering and we were going at each other, but when the lights came on we had each others back. I'm a team player and whatever needs to be done to get a win I'm going to do it." "Sammy is the leader of this team. I'm glad to have him back. He's our playmaker," remarked quarterback Darius Coleman after the game about the return of Henderson.

Both Antwan Thorpe and Jay Smith had great games. The two wide receivers made some spectacular receptions for their quarterback. An emotional Smith who caught five passes for 69-yards and who used his 6'3, 205-pound frame to snare his two touchdown receptions over Eagles defenders shared these thoughts with me after the game, "This win means a lot. I came here from Philadelphia and it's been a tough transition. It finally all came together tonight and it feels great. I have to give all the glory to God and my teammates. Day in and day out through all the losses we just kept working together and that just helped us build our cohesiveness with one another."

"Jay is one of our bigger targets and we were struggling getting the ball to him this season," commented quarterback Darius Coleman. "I told him that anytime we get 10-15 yards from the end zone I was going to be coming to him. There's no one out there that can stop him and he came down with some big time catches tonight."

"It feels amazing to get our first win! It's been a long time coming," remarked an enthused Antwan Thorpe who also had two touchdown receptions in the game. "We've been working hard all season and our goal is to finish the season with three wins in a row." With under a minute to go Coleman found Thorpe who had great coverage on him for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Thorpe showed great concentration in playing the football off the padding at the back of the end zone with an Eagles defender draped all over him putting the icing on the cake for the Wildcats victory.

"Everyone believes in each other on this team," added coach King. "It feels great to get our first win!" I asked coach King what prompted him to make the changes on the defensive line and to go with players with more speed when he offered these thoughts, "When I looked at the film I saw that we were always one step away from making a big play all the time. We decided to play small ball and get some more speed to increase our pressure of the quarterback," and man did that work!

The NOW 1-5 Wildcats will have another bye week before they travel to Pennsylvania to battle the Penn Capitals who are currently 2-4. Take notice American Indoor Football League the Wildcats are coming!

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