Toliver, Castile Star as Predators Finish Season with Win Over Mustangs
ORLANDO – At least the 2012 Orlando Predators aren't going to finish with the worst record in the AFL this year. Thanks to their 49-39 win over the Milwaukee Mustangs, they completed their disappointing season at 4-14. However, this final victory of the year there are at least some positives to take from the end of the season.
The star of the show was WR/KR TT Toliver. Toliver hasn't played a heck of a lot of special teams since the relaunch of the league in 2010, but on this day, he was the star of the show. Toliver had a kick return for a touchdown right at the tail end of the first half that was called back via penalty, but he officially logged his first kick return for a touchdown since '08 in the third quarter. That was the score that gave the Preds a 35-31 lead that they would never relent.
Toliver finished the afternoon with 149 return yards and 67 through the air on seven receptions. Those seven catches moved him into 12th place all-time in league history in career receptions, surpassing the great Hunkie Cooper. Toliver now has 781 catches for his illustrious career. He also moved from 12th place into 10th on the all-time receiving yards list, passing both Greg Hopkins and Cory Fleming. This now gives Toliver 10,224 yards for his career.
Will this be the last time that Toliver suits up for the Preds? He is now 35 years old and has played nine years for three different teams in his AFL career.
One man that we know suited it up for the last time is DB Kenny McEntyre. In spite of the fact that the Predators misspelled his name and the years in which he played on his banner, "The Glove" was inducted into the Predators "Ring of Honor," becoming the eighth man in franchise history to get his name put in lights in "The Jungle."
For the game, McEntyre had six tackles and an assist, and he had a pick in his hands in the fourth quarter that would have put the game away had he not dropped it.
It was all good for the outgoing defensive back, though. One of the lone highlights of the season was the play of DB Simeon Castile, and that was no exception on Sunday afternoon. Castile, the only player on the team that played in all 18 games this season, finished up his rookie campaign with seven interceptions. Two of those picks came in this game, and both wiped out what looked to be promising Milwaukee drives. Travis Coleman also had an interception, his seventh of the year.
The secondary did a particularly good job against QB Gino Guidugli, who finished out the season on yet another sour note. The former Canadian Football League backup went 28-of-44 for 323 yards, but his three TDs just weren't enough and his three INTs were far too many. Guidugli finished out the year with 4,872 yards and 86 TDs against 25 INTs. The 25 picks was the highest in the league this year, and it tied QB Mark Grieb for the most picks in a single season in AFL history.
Needless to say, it wasn't a season to be proud of for the Mustangs, who lost their final five games and averaged just 38.8 points per game in those efforts.
Orlando finished out the year by winning three of its final four home games to at least somewhat finish a disastrous year with a shred of dignity.
Unfortunately for the Predators, their streak of 19 straight seasons with a playoff bid has come to a crashing halt. That ties the longest streak for a franchise making the playoffs in Arena Football League history, matching what the Pittsburgh Gladiators and Tampa Bay Storm did from 1987 through 2005. The only even remotely comparable streak to that is the streak that the Detroit Red Wings have been on in the NHL, as they have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs a very impressive 22 seasons in a row.
Unfortunately, the 2012 Orlando Predators will be remembered for all of the things that went wrong. They started off the year by playing a game full of scabs after all of their players were fired thanks to a labor dispute. They went on to lose three games in which they were leading by at least 20 points in a span of just a month and a half, and they blew a 31-point lead against the lowly Pittsburgh Power, who at the time only had a 1-4 record and were on their fourth quarterback of the season.
However, as McEntyre so eloquently stated in his address to the fans during his induction into the "Ring of Honor" at halftime, "The Orlando Predators will be back in 2013."