1997 Results | Game Coverage

Preds Hold Off Dogs, 45-37

By Andrew Mason
Content Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. - Both the fourth-seeded Orlando Predators and the fifth-seeded New Jersey Red Dogs battled adverse circumstances on Friday night. For the Red Dogs, it was the crowd of 15,270 that frequently drowned out Red Dog QBs Rickey Foggie and Aaron Garcia, forcing them to use four timeouts before the last minute of each half.

Red Dogs
Orlando Predators
For the Predators, it's a lot more serious, as WR/DB Barry Wagner, WR/DB David Pool and OL/DL Victor Hall suffered injuries. Pool suffered a broken leg and will be out for the playoffs. Hall and Wagner may or may not play next week, but both stayed through to the end, with Wagner playing the entire fourth quarter with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.

"This year's team---it can really hold together well in adversity," Orlando coach Perry Moss said.

It had to, as the Preds overcame those injuries to hold off the Dogs 45-37 at the Orlando Arena on Friday night.

The game was an ebb-and-flow affair, with Orlando controlling the lead for the entire first half and for 4:31 of the second before the Red Dogs finally took the lead on a touchdown pass from QB Rickey Foggie to OS Larry Ray Willis. On the ensuing kickoff, the Red Dogs scored without a second going off the clock, as Orlando OS Mac Cody misplayed the kick off the nets. After Wagner couldn't come down with it, New Jersey DS Kevin Guy picked it up and ran three yards for the score and a 31-23 lead.

Then, Orlando took over, outscoring the Dogs 22-3 over the next quarter and a half. Wagner ran it in from two yards out to pull Orlando within 31-29, but was injured on the two-point conversion attempt as he went up for a pass in the end zone. He did not return until the fourth quarter, and promptly made the play of the game, a 32-yard touchdown catch from Pat O'Hara on fourth-and-three.

Wagner's feats did not seal the Red Dogs' fate, though. Trailing 45-37, New Jersey moved the ball down to the Orlando five-yard-line with 13 seconds left. On first-and-goal, backup Garcia---who replaced Foggie after a fourth quarter intercption---threw too far on a quick out pattern to WR/DB Alvin Ashley. On second-and-goal with ten seconds left, Garcia rolled to the right, and, unable to find an open receiver, tossed the ball off the net incomplete. But he had wasted six seconds rolling out in the backfield. The ensuing third-and-goal with four seconds left would be the final play. On that play, Garcia looked for Ashley in the end zone but threw it low and incomplete, ending the Red Dogs' remarkable expansion season.

"I don't think there's a player satisfied with our season," Red Dogs coach John Hufnagel said. "After two or three days, once the disappointment rubs off, [the players] can look back and say it wasn't too bad."

The teams turned in an entertaining game, but one that was fraught with mental mistakes, most of them coming from New Jersey and from the officials. To wit:

...With 31 seconds left in the first half, New Jersey QB Rickey Foggie was sackled for a loss of seven yards by Victor Hall. The clock is supposed to stop after any yardage loss in the last minute of a half. However, the referees continued to let the clock run.

...In that same sequence, the Red Dogs did not have a time out to try and stop the play. That was because they had used their third timeout of the half after a loss of one yard on a run by Malik Jackson. Of course, it's possible the Dogs knew that the referees might botch the timekeeping.

Of course, Orlando had their blunders, coming in clock management at the end of the game. With just over a minute left, the Preds had second-and-six from their own seven-yard-line. There was a one second difference between the game clock and the play clock, so Orlando could have let the game time wind down to the 1:00 warning without calling a play. However, they ran the play, and it turned into a two-yard loss by Michael McClenton. Then, knowing that the Red Dogs only had one timeout left, O'Hara went deep for OS Mac Cody and overthrew him, stopping the clock without need for a timeout. To top it off, on the ensuing 60-yard field goal attempt, kicker Franco Grilla booted the ball off the scoreboard, giving the Red Dogs the ball at their own 20-yard-line.

The Dogs were steady, piling up 16 first downs, twice as many as Orlando. But they never could break the big play, as they never gained more than 17 yards on any one snap. Orlando, though, had three plays from scrimmage of more than 20 yards, not counting a 56-yard kickoff return by Mac Cody in the second quarter.

O'Hara was, in a word, workmanlike, completing 12 of 23 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns. He had good touch on the deep ball and didn't make any mistakes. Of course, he didn't take many snaps, as Orlando ran only 33 plays to the Red Dogs' 58.

Give the Orlando defense credit, though. They held the Red Dogs to 4.4 yards per play and, as they showed on the last goal-to-go stand, made the plays when it mattered.

"I thought the defense played about as well as it's going to play against a good team," Moss said.

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