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Talk is Cheap to Conquest

Ryan McCarthy
Monday June 30, 2003


After all the talk by the Mohegan Wolves earlier in the week, the Albany Conquest are still the team to beat in the Northeast Division. With the exception of two weeks, the Conquest have been in first place in the division in their short two-season franchise history and continued their winning ways once again with a 60-38 victory over the Mohegan Wolves. Entering the game, the Wolves were a game behind the Conquest at 8-3. This is a much-improved team from last season’s version that won only three games in 2002. But under head coach Mark Stoute, who coached the Arena league team in Toronto back in the day, the Wolves (quite literally) boasted one of the best defenses in af2 coming into the game. In fact, some of their defensive members – most notably DS Damon Richardson – were talking about being the better team in this game.

The Conquest, meanwhile, came into Saturday’s game still stinging from last week’s defeat in Norfolk that was the worst in franchise history, a 63-46 defeat to the Nighthawks. Head coach Pete Costanza shook things up when he released FB/LB Ron Perry (Perry was picked up by Richmond later in the week). Bad timing turned into good timing as when it was found C/NG Joe Shin would be out indefinitely with a torn triceps muscle, Rich Bartlette was activated from the long term injured reserve list.
With the Wolves looking to take over first place and the Conquest trying to keep it, the stage was set for a great battle for the lead in the Northeast Division. The Wolves backed up their talk very early in the game when DS Allistair Sebastien picked off Albany QB Ryan Vena on the Conquest’s first drive of the game in the end zone. It set up a long pass play by QB Rob Harding to OS Mel Long that gave the Wolves a 7-0 lead at 9:31 of the first quarter. Sebastien would come up big at the end of the second half as well when he picked off Vena again. He wound up fumbling the ball, but luckily for him, teammate WR/DB Cy Butler recovered the fumble at the Wolves’ one-yard line and the Wolves went into the locker room with a 21-20 lead. The Wolves’ offensive line did a successful job in keeping the Conquest pass rush at bay. In fact, they didn’t allow a sack to the usually effective pass rush of the Conquest.

The Wolves would score early in the second half to take their biggest lead of the night at eight points. It would be the last time that Mohegan would have the lead all night. Believe it or not, the biggest play of the game would be when Sebastien interfered with Conquest WR/DB Phil Taylor on a deep play but no penalty was called. The non-call incensed Costanza so much he threw his play sheet to the ground. That drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which sent the Conquest back to their four-yard line. Costanza has been a gambler all season and took another chance with the same pass play and this time, Taylor was barely touched as he burned Sebastien with the same pattern and caught a beautifully thrown touchdown pass by Vena to get the Conquest within one point with 5:17 left in the third quarter. The Conquest defense stopped the Wolves and got the ball back. Just like all season, the Conquest used their short passing game to score again as Vena found FB/LB Rashon Burns on a ten-yard pass-and-run play to take back the lead at 33-28.

The Conquest never relinquished the lead and the Wolves got within three points at 39-26 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Conquest started to pull away. Vena’s fifthteen-yard pass to OS Corey Hill and OL/DL Ljub Stamenich’s recovery of WR/DB Anthony Comer’s fumble on the kickoff sparked the rout. The Conquest got the ball back late in the game when WR/DB Jamie Ware picked off QB Ryan Tracey with 51 second left. The most mind boggling moment of the night came in the waning seconds when Mohegan called their final two timeouts with less than ten seconds to go. Mohegan’s audacity was topped by Albany’s brass as Costanza called on Vena and Hill to put the final nail in the coffin as they hooked up from 21 yards out. The loudest cheer of the night came at the final extra point as K Chris Drennan, who had struggled all night long with three consecutive missed extra points and a blocked extra point in the second quarter, knocked in the extra point and received a big roar from the crowd. After the game, Stoute vowed revenge; the two squads meet in the final regular season game for both teams on July 26.

The Conquest’s next four games are against division rivals, three of them being at home. Their next two matches are against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, who have won four of their last five matches. Pending a breakdown of momentous proportions, the Conquest may seal the title with consecutive wins and losses by Mohegan in the next two weeks.


 
Ryan McCarthy has been an on-and-off Internet columnist and blogger since 1997. He has been an avid follower of Arena Football since 1990 when the Albany Firebirds were established. Ryan currently attends Regent University, where he is pursuing his Bachelors degree in Communications with a Journalism concentration. He anticipates graduating toward the end of 2019. You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @rwhoisryanmcc
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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