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Wranglers beat Rampage for first win of season, 73-61

February 19, 2005 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Austin Wranglers News Release

John Fitzgerald went 15-of-25 for 270 yards and threw six touchdowns as the Austin Wranglers (1-3) picked up their first win of the season on Saturday night in a 73-61 win over the Grand Rapids Rampage.

Wranglers’ WR/DB Kevin Nickerson earned “Ironman of the Game” honors after catching five balls for 108 yards and scoring three big touchdowns.

OS Tacoma Fontaine reeled in four catches for 104 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown reception, which set a record as the longest touchdown pass/catch in Wrangler history.

Rampage QB, Michael Bishop, continued to play in his starting role for the Rampage and was named Offensive Player of the Game. Bishop went an impressive 20-of-32 for 337 yards and eight touchdowns in the loss, and also threw one interception.

The Rampage (0-3) got on the board first when QB Michael Bishop hit WR Chris Jackson on a 30-yard touchdown strike.

The scoring play marked the first time since last season’s meeting with the Wranglers (May 1, 2004) that the Rampage before their opponent to start a game.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Rampage took a gamble by trying a surprise onside kick, but the Wranglers recovered and moved the ball inside the 1-yard line.

FB/LB Henry Bryant busted over the goal line on the next play to tie the score at 7-7.

The Rampage struck right back on their next drive when Bishop found Chris Jackson again on a 35-yard touchdown pass.

The Wranglers moved into Rampage territory on their next drive when QB John Fitzgerald found WR/DB Kevin Nickerson for a 28-yard hook up that moved the ball to the Grand Rapids 14. But three plays later, OL/DL Ramon Richardson fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line, and Grand Rapids’ Clarence Coleman recovered.

The penalty proved costly as Bishop drove Grand Rapids the length of the field to set up a 1-yard TD run by FB/LB Chris Avery. Peter Martinez’s PAT attempt missed, leaving the score at the end of the first quarter 20-7.

Austin scored right back to start the second quarter when Fitzgerald found Nickerson for the second time on a 6-yard TD swing pass. Tony Dodson’s PAT cut the Rampage lead to six.

Dodson’s kickoff took an unusual bounce and was recovered by DS Cedric Walker for a Wrangler touchdown to put them ahead 21-20 with 12:26 left in the first half.

Bishop led the Rampage back down the field again, but he fumbled the ball.

After the turnover, Austin increased their lead when Fitzgerald threw a 20-yard TD pass to OS-WR/LB Ira Gooch . Dodson missed the PAT to leave the score at 27-20.

On Grand Rapids next drive, Bishop used his legs to move the Rampage into Wrangler territory before hooking up with Chris Jackson on a TD pass for the third time in the game.

The Wranglers offense stalled on their next possession. Tony Dodson missed a 47-yard field goal attempt to turn the ball back over to the Rampage with under a minute left in the half.

Rampage kicker, Peter Martinez, missed a 33-yard field goal attempt to the end the half as the two teams went into the locker room with the score tied, 27-27.

The Wranglers opened up the scoring in the second half when Fitzgerald found Kevin Nickerson for their third TD hookup of the game. Dodson’s PAT put the Wranglers up 34-27.

After the Rampage turned the ball over on downs, Fitzgerald found Aaron Humphrey for a 9-yard strike to increase the Wrangler lead to 41-27.

Bishop once again used his legs on the Rampage’s next drive. The elusive QB moved his team down into Austin territory, but was intercepted by Cedric Walker in the end zone to turn the ball over.

After stopping the Wranglers on downs, WR/DB Dennison Robinson, who just signed by Grand Rapids this week, scored on a 23-yard touchdown catch to trim Austin’s lead to 41-34.

The Wranglers answered another Rampage scoring drive of their own when Fitzgerald hit a wide open WR/DB Tacoma Fontaine for a 49-yard TD pass. Fontaine’s TD catch broke his own franchise record of 45 yards, which he obtained last season against Georgia.

Bishop went right back to Dennison Robinson for his sixth touchdown pass of the game, trimming the Grand Rapids deficit back down to seven.

Continuing to look impressive, the Wrangler offense drove down the field with ease yet again. On second down, QB John Fitzgerald called his own number and dove over the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown. Dodson’s PAT missed, leaving Austin up 54-41.

On their next possession, Grand Rapids had a 35-yard touchdown pass called back on an offensive pass interference call, but scored on the next play when Bishop found WR/LB Anthony Hines for a 43-yard score.

On 3rd & 10, Fitzgerald found Nickerson for their fourth TD connection to push the lead to 60-48 with 8:10 left in the game. The Wranglers went for two, but the Fitzgerald’s pass was intercepted.

The Rampage came right back when Bishop threw to WR/DB Josh Bush for a 31-yard touchdown. The PAT attempt was good, closing the gap to 60-55 with 5:15 remaining.

Grand Rapids tried an onside kick again, but Wranglers DS Kelvin Hunter scooped up the ball and returned it eight yards for a touchdown. Going for two, Fitzgerald’s two-point try was intercepted again.

Tony Dodson’s kickoff was recovered by Austin’s OL/DL Angel Rubio on the next play, which closed the door on the Rampage.

Two plays later, FR/LB Henry Bryant ran in a 3-yard touchdown to increase the Wrangler lead to 18 after Dodson’s PAT.

Grand Rapids scored again with less than a minute remaining, but the Wranglers walked out of Van Andel Arena with a 73-61 win.

The loss continues Grand Rapids’ home losing streak at home, extending it to 14 games and counting.

The Wranglers will return home and get ready for this week’s Friday night showdown with the Georgia Force. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (CT) at the Frank Erwin Center.

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