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Dragons Finish What they Started

Padraic Meehan
Monday May 14, 2001


It was May 6th 2000 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The San Jose SaberCats defeated the Iowa Barnstormers 54-52 in front of 10,201 in Des Moines, Iowa. That victory became San Jose’s stepping-stone to setting an AFL record for consecutive regular season victories with 15. On Saturday, nearly one year to the day, the Dragons (Who were those very same Barnstormers) ended the streak. That’s one of a thousand reasons New York’s 62-58 win over the SaberCats was so meaningful.

In the first half, New York was consistent with the type of play they have exhibited all season. Aaron Garcia threw for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half alone, but the defense made only 1 stand in the first 30 minutes of the game.

The Cats continued to trounce New York until the momentum changed direction late in the third. Leonard Conley, arguably New York’s most consistent and reliable receiver, landed in the endzone and brought 4 Northern Californians with him. The score ignited the Nassau Coliseum so much that Dragons FB/LB Basil Proctor knocked the ball from SaberCats OS Steve Papin’s hands on the following drive. The only problem was Basil wasn’t on the field at the time and New York was charged with a penalty. “It was the spur of the moment...you can’t plan something like that,” said Proctor.

Had Proctor not knocked the ball down, perhaps Aaron Garcia would. “I’ve always had a little chip on my shoulder because San Jose had the opportunity to sign me when I came out of college” said Garcia “I’ve always wanted to play well against them, but they’ve been a great team for years.”

The two most important plays of the game came as it neared its end. New York’s defense picked up two interceptions from Leonard Conley and Keith Williams. As usual, the Dragons had no problem turning a pick into a score -- they just needed the opportunity. “We went into a lot more man-to-man” said DS Keith Williams, “we just started taking stuff away.”

Jack Walker put the nails in the SaberCats’ coffin with a touchdown catch followed by a Walker reception for the 2-point conversion. “That’s what this team is about and that’s what this game is about,” said Garcia of Walker’s critical catches.

Saturday was a night of redemption and recovery for many of the Dragons, particularly Kicker Clay Rush and WR/DB Scott Cloman. Only 10 months ago Rush was considered one of the league’s all-time best, but since coming to New York he has missed five extra points and two field goals. Tonight, however, the Missouri Western graduate kicked two clutch field goals late in the 4th.

“I got a couple weeks of practice in now I feel comfortable like I did last year,” said Rush, “I don’t think I was ever in a slump.” Like teammate Kevin Swayne, Scott Cloman was a member of the Orlando Rage earlier this year. Saturday was Cloman’s first start of the season, with 2 of New York’s standout receivers; WR/DB Todd Doxzon and WR/DB Shon King, were sidelined with an injured hamstring and bruised ribs respectively. Cloman proved his worth, with 5 receptions for 32 yards and 2 touchdowns. “This team showed a lot of character coming from behind,” said Cloman “we pulled together and I think it’s the start of something great.”

Dragons’ management hopes so as well. As attendance has slightly dipped from their 11,000+ home opener, New York needed a win against a proven competitor. Now that they have defeated the toughest opponent on their home schedule, the Dragons’ fan support should pick up from its minor slump.

Their next home game is Friday, May 25th against the New Jersey Gladiators at the Lair (Nassau Coliseum.)


 
Padraic Meehan was a writer for ArenaFan Online from 2000 to 2001.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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