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Wranglers shock Dragons, 57-47

March 20, 2005 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Austin Wranglers News Release

It was a night of many firsts on the season. The first meeting between New York and Austin, the first time the Wranglers game on a Saturday night, and their first home win as they hung on to slay the Dragons 54-47.

Wrangler QB John Fitzgerald had a phenomenal game after a sub par performance last week versus the rival Desperadoes. He finished 30-39 with 348 yards and 6 touchdowns.

The first half was well played by the Wranglers, having never turned the ball over and scoring on every possession including one field goal by newly acquired K Todd Sievers.

New York QB Aaron Garcia didn’t seem to be phased by the raucous Austin crowd, finding OS Markeith Cooper for the first points of the game. A botched snap by DS Chris Boden forced him to throw the ball into the stands.

This was the fourth consecutive week that Austin had faced a team with a winning record. The Wranglers came out firing as Fitzgerald came out smoking in the first quarter, going 6-6 and a touchdown to WR/LB Darrin Chiaverini.

On the Dragon’s next possession, Garcia kept going to Cooper on the drive. Wrangler DS Kelvin Hunter and defensive player of the game put an end to that.

On a deep out, Hunter made a spectacular one handed interception while going out of bounds. This turning point would allow the Wranglers to lead the rest of the half.

Austin started to get OS Ira Gooch involved, finding him three times before FB/LB Henry Bryant barreled in for the go-ahead touchdown. Austin led 14-6 near the end of the first quarter.

New York had an answer. After moving the ball to the Wrangler 10, Garcia found WR/DB Corey Johnson on a hitch pattern. The Dragons elected to kick the PAT and were down just one early in the second quarter.

New York’s defense stymied the Wranglers on the following drive, as Sievers added on a field goal to push the lead to four. On the Dragon’s next possession, Garcia attacked Hunter whose pass interference call prolonged the drive. His aggressive play seemed to rejuvenate the home team.

Wrangler FB/LB Dane Krager came up with a big sack. Garcia, on the next play, was flushed out of the pocket and threw an errant pass that came off the net and into Chiaverini’s hands for the interception.

“Aaron Garcia will probably go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in arena football but defensively, we played great in the first half,” said Wrangler head coach Skip Foster.

The Wranglers opportunistic defense, which was tied for second in takeaways in the AFL before tonight’s game, intercepted the prolific passer twice on the night.

WR/DB Kevin Nickerson was found deep on the very next play. The Wranglers were smelling upset after Fitzgerald found OS-WR/LB Tacoma Fontaine for the score. The Wrangler extra point was blocked and now led 23-13.

After a nice return out to the 19 yard line, Garcia bounced right back to find WR/LB Mike Horacek making an impressive over the shoulder catch. The Dragons trailed 20-23 with just under three minutes remaining in the half.

Three minutes was plenty for the Wrangler gun slinger. Fitzgerald went to his two hottest receivers in Fontaine and Chaiverini. Chiaverini, the U.S. Army Ironman of the game, made a nice diving catch to put the Wranglers up 30-20 at the intermission.

Coming out of the locker room, both teams exchanged quick scores. Fitzgerald connected with WR/DB Kevin Nickerson on a crossing route to give the Wranglers the largest lead of the day.

Their 17 point lead quickly diminished after Garcia hooked up with Horacek. The extra point was pulled left, and the Dragons trailed 26-37 mid-way through the third quarter.

Austin marched the ball right back down the field but failed to convert on a 3rd and 2. Sievers drilled another field goal to push the lead to 40-26.

Another exchange of scores took place in the late third and early fourth. Dragon WR/LB Chris Anthony was found streaking in the back of the end zone to cut the lead to one score. Austin’s cold blooded leader Fitzgerald guided the Wranglers back to the promise land, hitting Fontaine to regain the two touchdown advantage.

Garcia continued his touchdown assault, as he finished 23-31 with 6 touchdowns on the night. On a key third down with the crowd juiced after forcing a timeout, Garcia found Cooper in the flats who scooted in for a much needed touchdown.

A mishandled kickoff got New York back in business. WR/DB Charlie Davidson had trouble fielding the ball off the net. It hit the turf and bounced right to Dragon WR/DB DaShane Dennis who caught it in stride for the equalizing touchdown. The score was 47 a piece with seven minutes to go in the game.

Austin responded nicely after giving up a disheartening touchdown. A couple of receptions from Chiaverini set up a touchdown pass to big Henry Bryant. On the ensuing kickoff, the football finally bounced in Austin’s favor.

Ira Gooch fell on the Wranglers first successful onside kick of the season to regain possession. Not totally able to run out the clock, kicker Sievers came in and iced it as he nailed a field goal from mid field to put the game out of reach.

Austin, looking to climb back in to the playoff race, improved to 3-5 on the year and handed New York its second loss.

“The value of this win is that it’s a national conference win,” Foster said.

Austin travels to Orlando to take on the Predators next Friday at 6:30pm. The game will be broadcast on AFLNet.

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