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New York Triumphant in “Clash at the Coliseum”

Padraic Meehan
Sunday May 27, 2001

On Friday night the New York Dragons crushed the New Jersey Gladiators 71-49 and after five games and four long years, it finally happened. A New York Arena Football team finally defeated a New Jersey team.

It’s a rivalry that dates back to 1997 when the then-mighty New Jersey Red Dogs and the miserable New York CityHawks first clashed on May 23rd at the Continental Airlines Arena. New Jersey defeated New York that night 59-27, as they would every game in which they played over the next 2 years until the CityHawks fled the Garden in 1998.

Fast-forward to 2001 and the rivalry is reborn, but the roles have reversed. New York is now the powerhouse that was once the Iowa Barnstormers and New Jersey has progressively deteriorated from their strong inaugural 1997 season. Like the CityHawks, New Jersey has an experienced quarterback in Connell Maynor and a duo of eye-popping receivers with David Saunders and Lawrence Samuels. New Jersey even lured Larry Kuharich, former CityHawk guru, as a head coach. Unfortunately, like the CityHawks, New Jersey continues to flounder on and off the field.

“New Jersey is in a 3-year plan,” said Commissioner Baker earlier in the year. Of course, the plan is only in its beginning stages. The Gladiators have averaged 3,056 attendance in their three games at Continental Airlines Arena, and a record of 1-5 doesn’t help fan support, especially in the nation’s #1 market.

Perhaps a good rivalry is precisely what New Jersey needs. They haven’t had another team within 100 miles since the CityHawks abandoned the Garden in December of 1998.

“I think it should be a great rivalry. Hopefully, they’ll keep getting better and we’ll have some great battles in the near future,” said Dragons QB Aaron Garcia, a former Red Dog. New Jersey does have its share of bright spots. Samuels and Saunders combined for 16 receptions for 289 yards and 5 touchdowns that even won over the respect of the harsh New York crowd.

As usual, Dragons OS Kevin Swayne made his presence known with 11 receptions for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. The 1-2 punch of Shon King and Todd Doxzon made its triumphant return to the Nassau Coliseum after each sat out the last home game against San Jose.

“This week in practice I felt better and better each day. I caught some cramps today, but I felt more like myself,” said Doxzon, who caught four touchdowns.

“It was just a precautionary thing when I sat out, but now I’m 100%,” said King, who watched the San Jose game from the sidelines and contributed two touchdowns to Friday’s victory.

The Dragons’ next home game is June 3rd against the Arizona Rattlers at The Lair (Nassau Coliseum) at 3:00 PM and will be nationally broadcast on TNN. The game will be particularly significant for WR/DB King. “The last time I played on a national broadcast it was the [af2] ArenaCup and I had five touchdowns and I was the MVP,” said King, the former Quad City Steamwheeler.

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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