Wolves Comeback Stalled, Lose Fourth-Consecutive Season Opener, 50-36
WILKES-BARRE - The Manchester Wolves tried but just couldn't break their season opening curse as they fell to 0-4 all-time in Manchester franchise history after a 50-36 losing effort to the hands of their East Division rival Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pioneers, at the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Pa. Saturday night in front of 5,110 fans.
Third-year veteran signal caller Ryan Vena showed why the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League brought him into training camp this year, after a record-breaking season for the Albany Conquest in 2006 (4,520 passing yards), as the Schutt Offensive Player of the Game threw for six touchdowns and no interceptions in his debut performance for the Pioneers. Vena's favorite target proved to be Tyreak Saviour, who caught three touchdowns for the game.
Two-year veteran Brian Zbydniewski (four touchdowns, two interceptions for the game) struggled out of the gate in his starting quarterback debut for the Wolves as he failed to connect on three of his first four first-half drives for Manchester, which gave the Pioneers a comfortable 23-6 lead going into halftime.
The Wolves gave Pioneers fans their money's worth in the second half though, thanks in much part to wide receiver Ari Confesor's three touchdowns (four touchdowns for the game), as Manchester outscored Wilkes-Barre 30-27. However the 17-point halftime deficit proved to be too much for the Wolves as the closest margin they were able cut it to was eight points, 37-29, after a one-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Jarrail Jackson with 3:52 left in the game.
The Pioneers swept the post-game awards as FB/LB Joe Hollister collected the ADT Defensive Player of the Game, while OL/DL Doug Harding earned the U.S. Army Ironman of the Game and WR Jim Jones caught the Cutters Catch of the Game.
With the win the Pioneers knotted up the all-time career series between the franchises at 8-8. With the loss, Wolves Head Coach Ben Bennett dropped his third-consecutive season opener, but no need to worry for Manchester fans as Bennett in 2005 then rattled off a 10-game win streak en route to an East Division title and in 2006 ended the season with a four-game win streak to bring his Wolves to back-to-back trips to the second round of the af2 playoffs.
Manchester (0-1) will enter Week Two with a bye before traveling to Green Bay to face the 2006 East Division Champion Blizzard (0-1). The Wolves first home game will be held on April 21, at 7: 05p.m. against the expansion Fort Wayne Fusion (1-0) on Brady Sullivan Field at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.
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