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Wranglers lose heartbreaker, 40-33

April 29, 2006 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Austin Wranglers News Release

AUSTIN, TX - For the second consecutive home game, Austin had the ball with the game on the line. Unfortunately for the Wranglers, things ended differently this time, as Columbus left the Frank Erwin Center with a 40-33 victory in front of 10,340 fans on Austin's opening night in Prime Time.

Two weeks after taking down Tampa Bay with a last-second drive, Austin couldn't convert a fourth-and-goal from inside the two-yard line on the game's final play with Austin's new part-owner Deion Sanders in attendance. Wrangler quarterback John Fitzgerald took the snap and scrambled outside before lofting a pass over an oncoming defender, but Columbus WR/LB B.J. Barre sprinted across and intercepted the pass in front of the Wrangler receivers as time expired.

Former Austin quarterback John Kaleo's four-yard touchdown pass to WR/LB David Saunders with 2:23 remaining proved to be the winning margin and gave Columbus its first lead since the first quarter. Saunders also caught the Destroyers' first touchdown on the opening drive of the game and has now grabbed a touchdown pass in 10 consecutive games.

The Wranglers were inspired by the presence of Sanders and the return of WR/LB Darrin Chiaverini, who caught 14 passes for 140 yards in his first game back after missing 10 games due to injury. Chiaverini also added three tackles on defense.

Austin led by as many as 13 points in the first half behind rushing touchdowns by Dane Krager and Sedrick Robinson, but Columbus kicker Mark Lewis kept the Destroyers close. Lewis kicked four field goals and added four extra points on the night, earning Offensive Player of the Game honors.

The ball and the momentum changed hands on the opening kickoff of the second half when Robinson fumbled on his way into the Destroyer end zone. Instead of a 53-yard touchdown return for the Wranglers, Columbus recovered and began its comeback.

Kaleo was 27-of-39 for 286 yards and two touchdowns for Columbus (7-7). Fitzgerald completed 25-of-33 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns for Austin (8-6). Fitzgerald also threw two interceptions in the end zone in the second half, and the Wranglers were shut out in the third quarter for the second consecutive week.

Austin offensive specialist Derrick Lewis caught two touchdowns in the first half and ignited the crowd and his newest boss by leaping into the stands to give Sanders the first touchdown ball.

Next week the Wranglers play their final home game of the regular season when they host the Grand Rapids Rampage on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. for Fan Appreciation Night. Tickets for Sunday's game are still available by calling 512.339.3939.

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