Xplorers look to step up defense
SOUTHAVEN --- Through the first third of the 2006 season, the Memphis Xplorers are 5-1, in first place in the South Division and the third ranked team in this week's af2 Coaches' Poll. Despite the record and the 58-52 overtime win last week over Manchester, Head Coach Danton Barto is looking for more consistency on defense entering this Saturday's game at South Georgia. Kick-off is at 6:30 CDT at the Albany Civic Center in Albany, GA.
The Xplorers gave up a franchise high 416 offensive yards and 28 first downs in last week's win over Manchester. Wolves Quarterback D. Bryant set an af2 record for completions in a game with 42 as he went 42 for 57 for 389 yards and 8 TD. It was the single best performance by an opposing quarterback in Xplorers history.
"We won a game that we probably should've lost," Barto said. "The game showed us where our weaknesses still are and where we need to get better."
Despite giving up those numbers to the Wolves offense, the Xplorers defense came up with the big stop they needed on the Wolves' first overtime possession and handed the ball to quarterback Brian Jones and the Xplorers' offense. Jones hit OS Kenny Higgins for the game winner three plays later.
Jones finished with a career-high 331 yards passing and a career-high-matching seven touchdown tosses. Jones leads af2 with 1677 yards passing, 1754 yards of total offense and 42 total offensive touchdowns.
Throughout the season, the Xplorers' offense has continued to run efficiently. The team is averaging a second-in-the-league 59.3 points per game. The team is also fourth in the league in total offense at 306.2 yards per game and is third in passing offense with 285 yards per game. Defensively, they are ranked 21st in total defense (290 yards/game) and 18th in pass defense (259.7 yards/game), but are keeping teams off the scoreboard as their number two ranking in points given up per game (38.3) would suggest.
While Memphis is 5-1, the South Georgia Wildcats are still looking for that first win at 0-5.
"It looks like they (South Georgia) haven't been able to get over the hump in their games," Barto said. "They played Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tough on the road and have made some good plays. They also just acquired a very good quarterback in Julian Reese and that should make them better."
Reese, who faced the Xplorers three times last season when he was with the Amarillo Dusters, was acquired by the Wildcats from the Everett Hawks last week. He made his Wildcat debut in last week's 60-22 loss to Macon after starting quarterback Dondrial Pinkins was pulled in the second quarter and went 15 of 25 for 171 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Chris McKinney is the team's leading receiver with 40 receptions for 466 yards and six touchdowns. By comparison, Higgins leads the Xplorers with 44 catches for a league-leading 725 yards and 12 touchdowns. Higgins had his second 10 reception game of the season last week along with 135 yards and three touchdowns. McKinney is the only Wildcats receiver with double-digit receptions, while the Xplorers have four with 10 or more.
This week's game is just the third all-time for the Xplorers against the Wildcats and the first since that franchise moved from Cape Fear to Albany, GA before the 2005 season. The Xplorers dropped the two previous meetings in 2003 and 2004, respectively. During their time in North Carolina, the Wildcats had a regular season record of 35-13 with three post-season appearances. Since moving, they are 3-18.
The two teams will face-off again on June 24 in Week 13 of the af2 season at the DeSoto Civic Center.
The Memphis Xplorers...2005 ArenaCup Champions
Free Kids Tickets!!! For the May 20 games, fans that purchase one adult ticket can get up to two kids tickets (12 and under) for free.
Take advantage of the Xplorers 4-Pack or fantastic discounts for groups of 15 or more. Don't miss all the action of the "50-Yard Indoor War." For ticket information call the Xplorers office at 662-342-1755. Single game tickets 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.
Listen to all the action on the radio home of the Xplorers, 730 ESPN.
Be sure to head to O'Charley's on Goodman Road in Southaven after every Xplorers home game for the official post game party.
Listen to the Danton Barto Show every Monday at 6pm on 730 ESPN live from The Fox and Hound in Southaven.
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