Wolves Drop af2 Season Opener 52-28
WILKES-BARRE, PA- The Manchester Wolves 2009 af2 season opener was ruined by their arch-rival foes, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, on Friday night in front of 4,781 raucous fans at the Wachovia Center.
The 59-28 road loss started off the Wolves at 0-1 and put them a game behind the defending East Division champions in the American Conference. The Pioneers extended their series lead with the Wolves to 12-10 and have now stretched their home streak against the Wolves to 9-3
All-af2 Pioneers quarterback Ryan Vena was masterful in his seasonal debut, completing 20 of 35 passes for 230 yards and seven touchdowns as he dissected the Wolves young defense throughout the game and earned superlatives as both the Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the game and the JLS Ironman of the Game.
While the Wolves clawed their way back from an early 17-0 first quarter deficit and closed the gap at 24-21 when quarterback James Pinkney hit Emery Sammons with a 19-yard scoring strike at 12:35 of the third quarter, the Pioneers poured it on the rest of the way and had taken a 52-21 advantage with under four minutes left to play in the game.
The Wolves added their final touchdown of the night with 1:39 on the clock when Pinkney connected with Deyon Williams on a 40-yard scoring strike to bring it to 52-28, but by then it was way too little and much too late.
Pinkney, who completed 21 of 38 throws for 233 yards and three touchdowns in his 2009 debut, was hurried by the Pioneers customary and constant heavy pass rush and felt the pressure for most of the going. The Wolves second-year starting quarterback was intercepted three times, sacked three times for a loss of 13 yards, had his passes deflected at the line of scrimmage three times by Troy Blackwell and broken up in the defensive backfield six times, and was forced to fumble although he recovered the ball.
All-af2 Pioneers defensive back Micheaux Robinson, who led the league in both passes defended and interceptions last year, had another extraordinary outing in picking off a pass and recording 11 unassisted tackles. He was voted the Aarons Defensive Player of the Game.
The Wolves, who have many new players on the roster, will have a week to regroup as they have a bye next week before heading off to Green Bay to face the defending Midwest Division champion Blizzard on April 10th.
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