Wolves Knocked Out of af2 Playoffs 70-53 by Iowa
DES MOINES, IA-The Manchester Wolves dreams of an arenafootball 2 league championship ended along with their season on Friday night as they were knocked out of the American Conference playoffs in the first round by the Iowa Barnstormers 70-53 in front of 8,072 fans at the Wells Fargo Arena.
The No. 7 seeded and wild card Wolves finished the year at 7-10 while the No. 2 seeded and Midwest Division Champion Barnstormers improved to 13-4 and moved on to host a second round game next weekend.
Former Wolves Quarterback Brian Jones, signed only this week to start for Manchester after the team lost both signal callers on the roster last week, put forth a valiant effort despite not playing a down since the Wolves were defeated in the American Conference title game last August. It was the second straight season that Jones came out of retirement to lead the team in the post season, but unlike last year, there would be no dramatic, late-game Wolves heroics for a playoff upset on the road.
Jones finished his night with 24 completions of 40 passes for 3 52 yards with no interceptions and six passing touchdowns and two rushing scores, but Iowa quarterback Brian Villanueva had a better night in his home arena, completing 24 of 30 throws for 322 yards and seven touchdowns against one pick.
The Wolves played precision football in the first half as they controlled the Barnstormers on both sides of the line, but it was the Barnstormers who took the upper hand after the intermission and outscored Manchester 42-20 in the final two periods. While the Barnstormers converted all six of their third down opportunities, the Wolves managed to get a fresh set of downs only one time in five tries. Moreover, the Wolves would convert only one of three fourth down opportunities.
Villanueva and the Iowa offense were able to shake off a rough first half in which the Wolves defense was dominant and they repeatedly came through with the big plays in the second, as did the Barnstormers defense and the special teams. Villanueva kept going back to his favorite receiver, Errick McCown , who came through in clutch situations with 10 receptions for 157 yards and scored twice through the air and twice on the ground on the way=2 0to the JLS Ironman of the Game honors.
Moreover, as the game wore on Manchester's big offensive and defensive lines wore down and the Wolves receivers found their coverage getting tighter as Iowa's defensive backs repeatedly knocked away passes in critical situations.
The final outcome was sealed when Iowa went ahead 63-53 on a 5-yd. pitch to McCown with 3:30 left in the game and Manchester turned the ball over when in scoring position on the Wolves next series. With a first-and-10 from the Barnstormers 15-yd line, Jones felt very heavy heat from the defensive linemen and Brent Curvey stripped the ball out of his hands before Micah King recovered the fumble at the initial spot. It only took three plays for Iowa to score again when Villanueva connected with Dusty Kain in the end zone on a third-and-six from the Manchester 9-yd. line.
The Barnstormers then were ahead by the final margin of 70-53 and the 17 point advantage was too much for the Wolves to fight back from with so little time left on the clock. Leading re ceiver Emery Sammons (11-164- 2 TDs) and Steve Savoy (9-150- 4 TDs), the Wolves pair of stellar receivers all season long, were in sync with their old quarterback for most of the night as they combined for 314 yards and six touchdowns, but their efforts would not be enough to outpace the Barnstormers on the scoreboard.
The second half turnaround stunned the Wolves, who in the first half looked as though they would cruise to another playoff road upset as they had done the year before. Carlton Brown was the big play man on both special teams and defense in the early going while Jones, showing no signs of rust right out of the gate, and the offense were unstoppable until Manchester's final drive before intermission.
Brown gave the Barnstormers a hint what was to come early on when he took the opening kickoff and ran it all the way down field to the Iowa 4-yd. line. With a first-and-goal from there, Jones took the snap and scrambled into the end zone to score on his first play from scrimmage in almost a year. While Villanueva answered with a one-play drive of his own when he found MCown on a 30-yd. crossing route to even the score 7-7, the Wolves would not be intimidated.
Leading 13-7 after Jones engineered a five-play, 45 yd. drive and Chris Koepplin missed his first of three PATS in the half and four in the game, the Wolves defense created a huge turnover. The defensive line had Villanueva under extreme pressure and he heaved the ball to an area of the field where none of his receivers were. But Brown was there and he hauled in the interception to give the ball back to Jones at the Manchester 20-yd. line. Faced with a fourth-and-eight from his 22, Jones found Savoy in the back corner of the end zone and the Wolves were up 19-7.
From there, the Wolves extended their lead to 33-21 with 1:49 to go in the half although the Barnstormers came right back to score. Iowa then held the Wolves on downs as the half ended with Manchester up 33-28 but the Barnstormers would get the ball back to start the third quarter and then rally in the second half to end Manchester's season as well as the Wolves quest for the ArenaCup.
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