Xplorers begin quest to repeat as champs Saturday
SOUTHAVEN --- The Memphis Xplorers of af2 have spent the last seven months basking in the glow of their ArenaCup victory in August of last year. On Saturday, the team will get down to the business of trying to become the second af2 team to repeat as champions.
The Xplorers enter their sixth season in the seven year-old league as the number one ranked team in the af2 preseason coaches' poll. The team grabbed 208 of a possible 264 points and 14 of the 23 first place votes.
The Xplorers also were assigned a familiar face from past seasons on Wednesday. WR/DB Terrell Adams was assigned to the team by the league office on Wednesday after being a key member of last year's ArenaCup team. The third year Adams was second-team all-af2 and was second on the team with 57 receptions for 779 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also contributed 37 tackles and 5 picks on defense.
The 18-week 2006 season begins this Saturday for Memphis as they travel to Huntsville to face the Tennessee Valley Vipers at 7:30. The Vipers did not operate in af2 last season after successful seasons on the field in the first five seasons of af2. Tennessee Valley put together a 63-17 record from 2000-2004, 34-6 at home and 29-11 on the road. The organization currently ranks first in af2 history in winning percentage (78.8), third in all-time wins (63), second in post-season appearances (5), third in home wins (34) and third in road wins (29). They are also tied for the most divisional titles with four.
With the return of Adams, the Xplorers have nine returning players from last season on their 22-man roster. The others are K Steven Azar, OL/DL Joseph Crear, DS Scott Cunningham, WR/DB Deon Giddens, OL/DL Kenyun Glover, QB Brian Jones, OL/DL Phillip Perry and WR/DB Terrance Quattlebaum.
The team's key losses from last year are Defensive Player of the Year Dahnel Singfield, Lineman of the Year Khreem Smith and second team All-af2 selection and career leading receiver Kevin Prentiss.
Coach of the Year Danton Barto hopes rookies such as DL Mark Bamiro, FB/LB Joshua Rue, WR/DB Tommy Manus can fill those holes.
"We are excited to start the season and see what our new guys can do," Barto said. "We think that we have brought in some great talent that will be able to step up and make plays."
As the defending champs, Barto knows that teams will be looking to knock them off each and every week.
"Anytime you are the defending champion of anything, you are going to have a bull's eye," he said. "We know we need to be intense every game and also get the season off to a good start."
The Xplorers have defeated the Vipers just once in seven all-time meetings and are 0-3 at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.
"They have been one of the flagship franchises in af2 and we are excited to have them back," Barto said. "Even though they have dominated the series, most of our match-ups have been close. It should be a fun atmosphere to open the season."
Following the season opener on Saturday, the Xplorers host the Florida Firecats for their home opener on Saturday, April 8 at the DeSoto Civic Center at 7 p.m. The first 1,500 fans receive a stylish Xplorers 2006 schedule magnet.
Radio Broadcast Notes...The Xplorers have a new radio home for 2006. All 16 regular season and any post-season games will be carried on 730 ESPN. The games can also be heard through the station's website at www.730espn.com and then clicking the "On Air Now" icon. A link to 730 ESPN's website can be found on the Xplorers official homepage at www.xplorersaf2.com. Jim Erickson will handle the play-by-play.
The Danton Barto Show Debuts...The Danton Barto show will also air on 730 ESPN. The season premiere of the show is this Monday from 6-6:30 live from the Fire Mountain Grill on Goodman Road in Horn Lake. Fans are encouraged to come and listen to the show, ask the coach an-on air question and grab a great meal. The show will air from the Fire Mountain Grill every week of the season, except for the two bye weeks.
Roster Moves...Heading into the game on Saturday, the Xplorers placed two players on Short Term (14 day) IR on Wednesday: WR/DB Tommy Manus and FB/LB Chris Peavy.
Practice Times...During the season, the team's practices are at 7 p.m. at the DeSoto Civic Center. Practices are open to the public and the media. The practice schedule is subject to change.
The Memphis Xplorers...2005 ArenaCup Champions
The Xplorers will defend their Arena Cup Championship in 2006 and you can be in on the action. The season begins on April 1 at Tennessee Valley with the home opener on April 8 versus the Florida Firecats.
Season Tickets are available now and begin as low as $56. Don't miss all the action of the "50-Yard Indoor War." For season ticket information call the Xplorers office at 662-342-1755.
Single game tickets are also available now starting at $12 and can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com, by calling 901-525-1515 or in person at the DeSoto Civic Center box office during business hours.
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