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Wildcats Put Damper on Ninjas' Home Opener, 38-20

April 14, 2002 - arenafootball2 (af2) - New Haven Ninjas News Release

New Haven, Conn. – Cape Fear’s Lavel Bailey finished with 104 yards, and E.J. Burt and Wilmont Perry both recorded safeties as the Wildcats (2-0) defeated the New Haven Ninjas (0-2), 38-20, at the New Haven Coliseum in front of a crowd of 5,969. The safeties were two of four sacks of quarterback Phil Stambaugh on the night.

“We can’t continue to allow our protection to break down,” commented Head Coach Rick Buffington. “We can’t protect the quarterback and we’ve got a good one back there.”

An Arena™ abnormality started the game as the Ninjas began an 11-minute drive, culminating in a touchdown by Ryan Brady who barreled in from the one to score. A Dave Ettinger extra point gave the Ninjas the early 7-0 lead.

While the Ninjas milked the clock on their drive, Cape Fear used just over two minutes in evening the score on the following drive. The Wildcats made use of three New Haven penalties to advance to the 14 yard line, before Vic Penn found Troy Esprit open in the end zone for the touchdown.

Cape Fear slowly continued to put points on the board in the second quarter, taking a 23-13 lead into halftime. For the second straight week, the Ninjas ’ defense solidified in the third quarter, shutting out the Wildcats. Damon Richardson intercepted a Penn pass on the goal line and returned it to the six. With the Ninjas’ offense on the field, Stambaugh marched the Ninjas down the field, throwing his fourth pass of the drive to Ryan Bland in the end zone. The touchdown was Bland’s second of the game and moved the Ninjas within three, 23-20.

Unfortunately, the score would be the last of the night for the Ninjas. Cape Fear put up 15 points in the fourth quarter and solidifying the victory.

For the fans, the home opener began two hours before the game with a pre-game tailgate party outside the New Haven Coliseum, an event that will take place before each Ninjas’ game. Complete with a band, food, and activities for young and old, the party allowed the team to welcome its fans to the first of many arenafootball2™ games at the Coliseum.

“It was a successful evening crowd-wise,” said Buffington, who is in his 15th year of the sport. “6000 is a good crowd and it can only get better.”

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