Wolves Mauled by Firecats 69-53
ESTERO, FL- The Manchester Wolves were mauled by the Florida Firecats 69-53 in arenafootball2 league action on Saturday night in Germain Arena as they lost a key American Conference game and fell to 4-5 on the season while Florida halted a three-game losing skid and climbed back to a 4-6 record.
The Firecats executed in every phase of the game all night and never20trailed on the scoreboard, which forced the Wolves to try and play a game of catch up. While Manchester quarterback James Pinkney threw for six touchdowns and added another on the ground, he was outshone by Chris Wallace, the af2 all-time leader in touchdowns, passing yards, completions, and attempts. Wallace completed 19 of 25 throws for 246 yards and connected with his receivers for nine touchdowns and Brent Burnside, playing in his 10th af2 season, caught four of those scoring strikes to more than double his total on the season.
The favorite target of Pinkney (29-49-316-I INT) was Emery Sammons, who was making his first start after missing the last two games with a concussion. Sammons led all Wolves receivers with 11 catches for 131 yards and scored four times, but that wouldn't be enough to allow Manchester to close the gap.
The Wolves seemingly shot themselves in the foot for most of the night as evidenced by the trouble they had sustaining their drives. They converted only six of nine tries on third downs and were just one of three on critical fourth down plays. Moreover, Manchester made mistakes in key situations, getting flagged 15 times for a loss of 92 penalty yards.
Wolves defensive back Al Phillips contributed another big game in a losing effort with eight unassisted tackles as the secondary was tested all night because the Firebirds offensive line provided a wall of protection for Wallace. Without pressure, the Firebirds veteran quarterback had plenty of time to find his open and experienced receivers.
The Firecats were disadvantaged by the loss of placekicker Garrett Rivas, who was knocked out of the game with a knee injury when he was roughed by the Wolves Larry McSwain with 2:53 left in the second quarter. The defensive end just returned to the team this week and McSwain was making his first start since the 2008 playoffs. Without a kicker, the Firecats had to go for two-point conversions after each score from that point forward and deputize other players to handle the kickoffs, but none of that ever became a determining factor in the outcome of the game.
The Firecats owned the first half as they jumped out to 33-20 lead, aided in part by the Wolves committing 10 penalties for a loss of 66 yards and eight penalties for a 50 yard deficit in the first quarter alone. Moreover, the Wolves offense stalled as they were 0-for-two on third down conversions and 0-for-2=2 0on fourth down conversions for the first half of the game.
The inability to convert a fourth down plagued the Wolves right from the start. After Pinkney was sacked for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-11 from the Manchester 4-yard line on the game's opening drive, Wallace needed only one play to put the Firecats on the board first as he handed the ball to James Bear for a 2-yd. score and Rivas converted the PAT.
Manchester answered with a six-play scoring drive when Pinkney kept the ball and crossed the goal line for a 1-yard run, but Chris Koepplin missed his PAT and the Wolves trailed 7-6. Wallace got his team right back in the end zone when he connected with Burnside on a 28-yard strike but the kick was blocked so the Firecats were up only 13-6.
Again the Wolves could not convert on fourth down on their next drive and after Florida took over, Wallace drove his team the length of the field before finding Burnside again with a 19-yard touchdown pass but Rivas' PAT was blocked for a second time by aggressive Wolves special teams play so the Firecats stretched their advantage to 19-6. After trading scores on the next two series and the Firecats leading 26-13, t he Wolves missed the chance to narrow the gap when Pinkney went for it all on the first play of the drive from his own 10-yard line but was picked off by newly traded for defensive back James McCoy at the Florida 2-yard line and Wallace got the ball back in his hands. Florida scored again on a 21-yd. pass from Wallace to Burnside, who broke a pair of tackles for the Cutters Catch of the Game on the play as the Firecats went ahead 33-13. Manchester struck right back with a Pinkney to Sammons scoring play to make it 33-20, and then the Wolves defense stopped the Firecats on their next drive when Rob Green picked off Wallace in the red zone as the half came to a close.
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