Wranglers defeat Gladiators, 64-46
Two big interceptions from Damon Mason and two touchdown runs from Henry Bryant helped the Austin Wranglers defeat the Las Vegas Gladiators on Friday Night, 64-46.
11,081 rowdy fans packed the Frank Erwin Center to watch a greatly improved defensive squad hold the Gladiators to 14 first half points.
Wranglers QB John Fitzgerald started the game with four straight completions and marched the Wranglers down the field on a 46-yard drive. He hit OS Derek Lewis in the corner of the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown pass, giving Austin an early 7-0 lead.
The Gladiators got on the scoreboard on their second drive after a 29-yard touchdown pass from QB Craig Whelihan to WR/DB Kevin Prentiss.
Sedrick Robinson's 27-yard kickoff return put the Wranglers in Gladiator territory to start the second drive of the game. A personal foul call moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, where Todd Sievers kicked an 18-yard field goal to put Austin up 10-7 to begin the second quuarter of play.
The first big break of the game went the Wranglers way as FB/LB Marlion Jackson fumbled the ball and WR/DB Kevin Nickerson recovered.
Soon after, FB/LB Dane Krager barreled into the end zone for a one-yard Austin score. On the ensuing kickoff, FB/LB Henry Bryant leaped into air to catch to snag the ball off of the iron and scored a touchdown, putting the Wranglers up 24-7.
The Gladiators struck back on a 45-yard TD pass from Whelihan to T.J. Hill, but failed to recover a surprise onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The Wranglers took advantage as Fitzgerald found Kevin Nickerson in the back of the end zone, making the score 31-14 with 7:06 remaining in the half.
On their next drive, Las Vegas turned the ball over on downs, giving the Wranglers possession on the Gladiator 22-yard line. Austin moved inside to the redzone, but committed their first turnover on a fumble.
Vegas again turned the ball over on downs, giving Austin possession inside Gladiator territory. Two plays later, Fitzgerald called his own number and followed his blockers into the end zone for a 3-yard score. Austin led 38-14 lead with :18 to play in the first half.
The half wasn't over though. DS Damon Mason picked off Whelihan and set up a 37-yard field goal as timed expired in the first half of play. The Wranglers headed into the locker room up 41-14.
The Wranglers didn't get a great start in the second half however. Fitzgerald was intercepted after only three plays. Vegas took advantage and scored on a 6-yard run by FB/LB Rodney Filer.
Vegas again tried an onside, but the Wranglers recovered and Todd Sievers tacked on three more points with a 22-yard field goal to give Austin a 44-21 lead.
The Gladiators scored on their next drive as Whelihan hit Marcus Nash on a 12-yard strike, but Austin's offense got back on track on the following drive.
After two quick completions, Sedrick Robinson ran the ball in for a 3-yard score, as the seesaw scoring continued. Vegas scored quickly again to end the third quarter, but Austin still held a 51-34.
Costly Vegas penalties helped the Wranglers find their way into the red zone to start the final period of play. Fitzgerald called his own number again for a 1-yard score.
The Gladiators kept the scoring going though on the first play of the following drive. WR Dameon Porter escaped Donvetis Franklin's coverage and hauled in a 37-yard touchdown catch to push the score to 58-40 with 9:00 left in the game.
Just when it looked like Vegas was creeping back into the game, Dam Mason grabbed his second interception, killing any hope of a comeback. The Wranglers pushed the ball in for another score as Henry Bryant plowed over the Gladiator line from a yard out. Sievers PAT try was no good, leaving Austin ahead 64-40 with 4:05 left.
The Gladiators did score a late touchdown, but Sedrick Robinson intercepted Whelihan with :55 left. After running out the clock, fans flocked to field for autographs as the Wranglers started 2006 on a positive note, winning 64-46. The Wranglers begin a five-game road trip next week in Arizona. The team returns to the Erwin Center on Sunday, March 12 against Aaron Garcia and the New York Dragons. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 (CT).
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