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Former Red Dogs set Milestones in Dragons’ First-Ever Road Win

Padraic Meehan
Tuesday July 3, 2001

For the first time in the franchise’s two-month history, the New York Dragons won a road game, defeating the New Jersey Gladiators 59-36 at the Continental Airlines Arena.

“Normally through the years we’ve been a very good team on the road,” said Dragons’ coach John Gregory. In fact, as the Iowa Barnstormers, the franchise went 26-16 lifetime in games played on the road. This year, however, New York is a mere 1-4 in games played away from “The Lair” with two away games remaining. “I think the win will get us on a roll as far as the road is concerned,” continued Gregory.

The win pulls them from their three-game losing streak and puts the squad right in the thick of the AFL playoff hunt. “Right now we need to concentrate on making a run for the playoffs. We’re going to get into the playoffs and when we get in, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” said Gregory.

Garcia added, “People thought we were out of the playoff picture, now all of a sudden, Carolina’s coming to town and we’re playing them for first place.”

While New York took a big step towards the playoffs Saturday, they also made giant strides in the record books. Former New Jersey Red Dog QB Aaron Garcia threw for 7 touchdowns and 309 yards. The effort put the Dragons’ gunslinger on the same pedestal with Houston QB Todd Hammel and Nashville playcaller Andy Kelly as only the third player in AFL history to throw for over 20,000 yards in a career.

Garcia, game MVP, said “I really didn’t know where I was at going in and I heard that over the speaker. MVP-wise that probably should’ve gone to Robert Stewart.”

Dragons OL/DL Robert Stewart certainly made a strong case. The other former Red Dog had three sacks in the fourth quarter alone. The first of which was so influential that Gladiators coach Larry Kuharich sat ever-popular Todd Bankhead in favor of Connell Maynor.

While the Jersey fans showed their disapproval, Stewart racked up two more sacks against Maynor. “I told myself I just wanted to come out and have the game of my life,” said Stewart. In the end, Stewart had four sacks, becoming only the third player in AFL history to record that many sacks in a single game.

With Stewart leading the way, the defense clamped down in the fourth. The defense that has been shaky for most of this season held New Jersey scoreless in the game’s final 15 minutes. “They smelled blood, they were really coming off,” said Gregory. “Our defense has been coming a little bit at a time [this season] and I think we’ve arrived.”

In addition to setting records last night, both Stewart and Garcia were able to face old friends in their old home. They both once played at the Continental Airlines Arena when the team was still called the Red Dogs.

“Every time I come here, I’m going to try to have one of my better performances. I’m always going to try to make them regret letting me go,” said Garcia. The Dragons lured Robert Stewart this off-season in when Gregory used the Barnstormer dynasty to persuade him into travelling across the Hudson.

“I really liked New Jersey and I really liked the team, but coach Gregory had good thoughts in mind bringing me here,” said Stewart. “I feel like I made a great move going out to Long Island.”

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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