Xplorers venture out of South Division for first time
SOUTHAVEN --- The Memphis Xplorers will play a non-divisional opponent for the first time this season when they host the East Division's Manchester Wolves this Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the DeSoto Civic Center. The Xplorers are 4-1 following a lopsided 62-26 win over Macon while the Wolves are 2-2 after falling 62-47 to the top ranked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers last week. The Xplorers are ranked second in this week's af2 coaches' poll behind the Pioneers.
"I think it will be a good test for us," Xplorers Head Coach Danton Barto said. "It will show us how we match up with one of the better teams in the other division in our conference."
The Xplorers lead the all-time series 2-0 after defeating Manchester 83-26 at the DCC last season on July 16. Memphis' 83 points were not only the most scored in Xplorers history, but it was also the most given up by the Manchester franchise in their five plus seasons in af2.
While there were plenty of positives in the Xplorers' win over Macon last week, there was one big negative as the team lost one of their leaders for the rest of the season. Phillip Perry underwent successful surgery earlier this week to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon that he suffered in the second half of that game.
"Phillip was an emotional leader for us," Barto said. "He's been here through the championship and knew not to get too high or too low. We are going to miss him tremendously."
Perry was placed on the Long-Term Injured Reserved on Thursday. The team is expected to make a couple of roster moves prior to Saturday's game to fill Perry's spot.
The Wolves have also been affected by injuries in the early part of this season with three players on the Long-Term IR and two on their Short-Term IR list. The team has also made some recent changes at the quarterback and kicker positions. The team, in fact, will be on its third kicker of the season this week after the previous two converted on just 59% of their PAT attempts.
One thing to watch in this intra-conference match-up will be the Xplorers' pass rush versus the Wolves' pass protectors up front. Memphis is fifth in the league with nine total sacks while the Wolves have yet to give up a sack in its first four games. Chris Eggleston paces the Xplorers with four sacks while all-time franchise leader Joseph Crear has three.
The game will also feature two of the top receivers in the league. Manchester's Steve Gonzalez leads the league in scoring with 80 points, in receiving touchdowns with 12 and overall touchdowns scored with 13. The Xplorers' Kenny Higgins is tops in receiving yardage with 590. Higgins was also the recipient of the Cutters Catch of the Week for his acrobatic diving touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of last week's game.
The coaching match-up is also an intriguing one. Barto and the Wolves' Ben Bennett have each won 33 regular season games since the start of the 2003 season. In that span, Barto is 33-20 while Bennett is 33-19. Among active af2 coaches, these gentlemen are the winningest coaches the last three-plus seasons. These are also the last two coaches to win the ArenaCup. Bennett was with the Florida Firecats for two seasons, winning the Cup in 2004, before moving to Manchester last season.
This Saturday's game is also the first of the two Xplorers Kids Night promotions this month. With the purchase of one adult ticket, a fan can get up to two tickets for children 12 and under for free. Call 662-342-1775 for details.
The Memphis Xplorers...2005 ArenaCup Champions
The Xplorers are defending their Arena Cup Championship in 2006 and you can be in on the action.
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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