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Wranglers fall to Storm, 58-48

February 25, 2006 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Austin Wranglers News Release

Four costly second half turnovers proved the difference as the Austin Wranglers fell to the Tampa Bay Storm, 58-48 in front of 15,622 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. This marks the Wranglers fourth straight loss to the Storm, which dates back to 2004 and Austin's first loss of 2006.

Wranglers quarterback John Fitzgerald got off to a good first half start as he was 10-of-14 with four touchdown passes, but he struggled in the second half as he finished the game 19-of-35 with three interceptions to his five touchdowns.

In the loss, offensive specialist Derrick Lewis had a career-high 11 receptions for 131 yards and one touchdown. Also for the Wranglers, wide receiver/defensive back Kevin Nickerson added four receptions for 55 yards and two touchdowns receiving and one rushing. Wranglers' lineman Ramon Richardson notched his second career touchdown on a five-yard pass from Fitzgerald.

Austin out-rushed Tampa Bay, 35-13 in the game, with 16 yards coming on a fullback/linebacker Dane Krager touchdown run, as he barreled through the Storm defenders.

However, the Storm out-passed Austin by 200 yards (415-215), as quarterback Shane Stafford finished the game with 415 yards on 26-of-41 and seven touchdowns with one pick. He became the first player in AFL history to throw for over 400 yards in two consecutive games.

These two Southern Division foes traded scores throughout the game, as the Wranglers went ahead 35-27 with 2:41 remaining in the first half. Fitzgerald found wide receiver/linebacker Sir Mawn Wilson, a former Storm receiver, for the nine-yard touchdown.

The Storm came within one to close out the first half, but their defense was ready in the third quarter as wide receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels intercepted Fitzgerald to begin the half. After the interception, the Storm went back to Samuels for a 22-yard touchdown to retake the lead 41-35.

On the next drive, Fitzgerald threw his second interception of the night, which gave the ball back to the Storm. Wranglers defensive specialist Damon Mason helped stop the bleeding on the Storm's ensuing drive as he intercepted Tampa Bay quarterback Shane Stafford to give the Wranglers some hope.

Nickerson helped keep the Wranglers in the game, as he ran in a four-yard touchdown, his fourth of the season to set the score at 42-41.

The Storm quickly retook the lead on a Martin Gramatica 25-yard field goal, 44-42, as they maintained the lead for the remainder of the game.

Next week, the Wranglers finish their five game road trip in Atlanta against another Southern Division rival in the Georgia Force. Game time is set for 11:00 A.M. (CST) and the Force are 3-2 entering next week's game.

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