Despite Defensive Adjustments, Dragons Still Fall to Preds
Entering the third quarter, New York (4-5) had a commanding 56-41 lead. However, the Preds (6-3) staged a fourth-quarter comeback that shut down the AFL’s first-place offense. If only this was hockey. If only the game lasted three periods, then everyone called it a day.
The Dragons, rejuvenated by newcomer DS Andres Goines, certainly gave their share of punishing hits, the likes of which Nassau Coliseum hasn’t seen since Dennis Potvin last skated for the Islanders.
Entering the game, New York knew they would be shorthanded. Dragons WR/LB Leonard Conley and WR/DB Todd Doxzon, arguably the most reliable elements of the high-powered offense, were each sidelined with an injury. To make up for the offensive setback, the defense would need to rise to the occasion; something they have had trouble doing all season.
Still, Orlando was wary of the Dragons’ capabilities. “We knew coming into this game that New York puts a lot of points on the board, so we knew we couldn’t come in here with too much of a swagger,” said Predators QB Craig Whelihan, their fifth quarterback in as many years.
That’s exactly what recently acquired Goines did. The Tulane alum who spent last season with the Arizona Rattlers quickly made his impact in the game, recovering a Jon McCall fumble on Orlando’s third play of the game. Goines had a team-high five tackles in his assault on the Whelihan-powered Predator offense. “His impact helped tremendously,” said WR/DB Jack Walker. “He brought some strength back to the defensive back position.”
While New York managed to accomplish their goals on defense, the offense sputtered in the fourth quarter. QB Aaron Garcia threw three interceptions, all in the fourth quarter. “We can play with anybody. We just need to cut down on mistakes. I can’t throw interceptions if we want to win games,” said Garcia, AFL leader in passing touchdowns.
The Dragons have managed to bring in respectable crowds (last night’s attendance was 10,304, the most since the home opener on April 21st) but if they are to continue their success, they must entertain the TV-watching fans while they’re away as well. New York has yet to win a road game.
Now is the time for redemption. Their schedule has four road games against Toronto, New Jersey, Arizona, and Florida. If there was ever an opportunity for New York to win on the road, it’s now. Florida, Toronto, and New Jersey have losing records and the Dragons beat Arizona earlier in the season at home, but beating the Rattlers in the American West Arena, a.k.a. “The Pit,” is a different story. The Dragons must finish in the top 12 in the AFL if they want to make the playoffs and are currently tied for the 11th spot. “If we can just get in the postseason, we have enough experience that we’ll be fine,” said Garcia.
New York closes their inaugural home schedule Saturday, July 7th, against the Carolina Cobras at 8:00 PM at the Nassau Coliseum, a.k.a. “The Lair.” Carolina defeated New York earlier in the season 49-56 at Carolina.
Padraic Meehan was a writer for ArenaFan Online from 2000 to 2001.