Wolves Clip Firebirds 74-53
MANCHESTER, NH- The Manchester Wolves grounded the Albany Firebirds to improve to 2-1 and win their arenafootball2 league home season opener 74-53 to the delight of 6,353 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
The impressive victory over their East Division rivals dropped the Firebirds to 0-4 and avenged last year's upset by Albany in the Wolves first game of the year in their home arena. The winless Firebirds, who took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter and led by 3 points at the half, disintegrated in the second half with a series of mistakes, miscues, and penalties (nine for a loss of 91 yards) as they were outscored 48-23. The Firebirds offense led by rookie quarterback Adam Bednarik struggled mightily for the fourth consecutive week against Manchester's dominating defense while the Firebirds defense had no answer for the Wolves explosive offense.
Wolves quarterback James Pinkney, voted the Russell Offensive Player of the Game, was masterful as he completed 18 of 30 throws for 252 yards for seven passing scores and one rushing touchdown and he spread the ball around to his top three receivers. Steven Savoy and Emery Sammons combined for 198 yards and scored seven touchdowns between the pair and rookie Howard Gilmore, who was making his first start, contributed with his sure hands and blocking ability.
For the second straight week, the Wolves defense was relentless in pursuit of the quarterback and Bryan Robinson, making just his second start, sacked Bednarik twice and was in the backfield all night. The Wolves secondary played superbly once again and rookie defensive back Brandon Isaac led all defenders with seven tackles and earned the Aaron's Defensive Player of the Game award.
But at the start of the game, Albany shocked the hometown crowd on the first play when Bednarik connected with Christian Wise on a 30-yard scoring strike and after Brian Umstead converted the PAT, the Firebirds lead 7-0 with only 47 seconds elapsed in the game. When Pinkney was sacked on Manchester's first series and former Wolves defensive end Davis Tash forced him to fumble the ball, Alvin Ray Jackson scooped it up and ran 45 yards for Albany's second touchdown to put the Wolves in an early 14-0 deficit and silence the fans.
The Wolves then got on the scoreboard when they got the ball back and Pinkney found Sammons with a 5-yard pass in the end zone but Chris Koeplin, who had been perfect on his PATS this season, missed his kick. Albany had the chance to put the Wolves into a deeper hole when Wise ran the kickoff all the way back but the touchdown was nullified by a critical illegal block in the back penalty on the Firebirds and they lost possession on downs.
The Wolves got excellent field position on yet another Firebirds penalty and Pinkney connected with Savoy on a 28-yard scoring strike on the second play of the drive to close within 14-13. Jackson, the JLS Ironman of the Game, was able to return the next kickoff all the way to stretch Albany's lead to 21-13 and then it only took one 45-yard scoring play from Pinkney to Sammons to bring the Wolves back to 21-20.
The Firebirds returned the favor at the top of the second quarter with Wise scoring his second touchdown on a 19-yard strike and then their defense held the Wolves out of the end zone again and took over on downs. That drive culminated in a 25-yard field goal by Umstead and the Firebirds went ahead 30-20 with 5:41 left in the half.
On their last possession of the half, the Wolves kept it close with a long drive down the field and Pinkney found Savoy in the end zone for the 2-yard score. But Koeplin missed his second PAT of the night although Manchester was within three points, 30-26, at the midway point with the opportunity to get the ball back to start the second half. They made the most of that opportunity and poured it on for the rest of the night.
The Wolves remain at home this week and host the Tri-Cities Fever on Friday night with kickoff slated for 7:30 PM. The Fever were 0-3 heading into Saturday's game against the South Georgia Wildcats and that game was not completed by press time.
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