Wranglers Pound Predators 56-42
AUSTIN-Although the Wranglers playoff hopes have been dashed, they were out for revenge as they finished their series with the Orlando Predators. Earlier in the season, the Predators defeated the Wranglers in Orlando, but Saturday, in their last home game of the season, the Wranglers evened the score with a win in Austin, 56-42.
They did just that as John Fitzgerald went 19-for-32 for 236 yards and five touchdowns, while being named the Offensive Player of the Game. Dane Krager was named ADT Defensive Player of the Game, and Kevin Nickerson was named U.S. Army Ironman of the Game as the Wranglers defeated the Predators 56-42 in their last home contest this season.
Austin received the first kickoff and looked a little rusty on their first offensive drive. John Fitzgerald mishandled a snap and the Predators recovered the fumble. The teams traded scores as Chris Sanders found Cory Fleming for a 14-yard touchdown and then Tacoma Fontaine returned the kickoff to the Austin 20-yard line, Fitzgerald found Darrin Chiaverini for a nine yard touchdown. On Orlando's next drive, the Wranglers defense held strong and got the ball back on the Orlando 14-yard line after the Predators turned the ball over on downs.
Fitzgerald found Chiaverini for a 10 yard pass and then Todd Sievers' field goal was the last score of the quarter, which put the Wranglers up 10-7.
Orlando started the second quarter with the ball and Sanders again found Fleming for a touchdown. Jay Taylor's kick was good and Orlando went ahead 14-10. The Wranglers came back strong as Fitzgerald found Kevin Nickerson on a 14-yard completion for the score. Sievers' kick was no good and Austin went ahead by two.
Jerrian James returned the next kickoff 25 yards. Pressure on Sanders by Angel Rubio and a fumble that pushed the Predators back further forced the Predators to kick a field goal. Jay Taylor's kick was no good and Fontaine returned the ball 21 yards. The Wranglers offense fell short and they had to settle for a field goal to bring the score to 19-14 in favor of the Wranglers.
The Predators also had to settle for a field goal on their next drive as two of Sanders' passes were deflected, but Taylor's kick was wide once again and the Wranglers got the ball back with 29 seconds left in the half. Fitzgerald found Nickerson again and he dove into the end zone for the touchdown. Sievers' kick was good and the Wranglers went into the locker room leading 26-14 as Taylor missed another field goal as the clock ran out.
The second half began with Sanders finding Fleming for his third touchdown of the night. Taylor's kick pulled the Predators within five, but Fitzgerald found Nickerson again for a 35 yard touchdown and the point after made the score 33-21. The Wranglers defense found a spark as Nickerson's hit on Michael Brown knocked the ball loose and the Predators turned the ball over on downs.
Despite the stop, the Wranglers had to settle for another field goal to go up by 15 at 36-21. On second and 10 of the next Predators drive, Richard McCleskey deflected a pass which was followed by a tipped pass by Rubio that Chiaverini intercepted and returned 16 yards to the Orlando five. Fitzgerald found P.J. Winston for the first touchdown of his AFL career and the last score of the quarter. The Wranglers were up 43-21 at the end of the third and took their momentum with them into the fourth quarter.
The Predators started with the ball for the third quarter in a row and Sanders again found Fleming, who avoided two tackles for his fourth touchdown of the game. They scored again on the next drive as James returned Sievers' missed field goal 53 yards for a touchdown.
Taylor's kick made the score 43-35, still in favor of the Wranglers. The teams traded touchdowns again as Fitzgerald found Aaron Humphrey for his first touchdown of the season and Sanders found Fleming for his fifth score of the night.
The rest of the game belonged to the Wranglers.
After Sievers missed a field goal, James recovered the ball and then fumbled it into the hands of Krager who took the ball into the end zone. Yellow flags flew as the Predators acquired one unsportsmanlike penalty after another. The Wranglers got the ball back with 44 seconds left in the game and Fitzgerald showed his appreciation for the fans as he threw three balls into the stands to end the game with the Wranglers winning 56-42.
The Wranglers will finish out their season next week as they travel to New Orleans to meet their division rivals, the VooDoo. The Wranglers defeated the VooDoo earlier in the year and look to do so again on Saturday, May 14 at 7:00 pm.
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