Gridiron Stingrays fail to take out Falcons


Fans of the Stingrays enjoy the game. (Special to the Guardian)

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 4:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 4:26 p.m.

The Florida Stingrays of Gainesville loss 40-16 to the Florida Falcons of Jacksonville in a Gridiron Developmental Football League game that featured big plays, hard hitting and a lot of trash talking from both teams.

Facts

FOOTBALL GAME

* What: Florida Stingrays vs. Georgia Crush

* When: 7 p.m. Saturday

* Where: Citizens Field

* Cost: $7; VIP, $10

* Information: Call 352-6691 or visit www.teamflastingrays.org.

Played Saturday night at Citizens Field in Gainesville, the game was the season home opener for the Stingrays, who are in the second year of existence. Last year, the team played its home games at Union County High School in Lake Butler.

The Stingrays (1-1) will host the Georgia Crush at 7 p.m. Saturday at Citizens Field. The team won its first game of the year 14-0 May 17 on the road against the Georgia Knights in Fairburn, Georgia, outside of Atlanta.

On Saturday, children involved in youth sports programs who wear their uniforms will get in the game free if accompanied by a paying adult.

After the Stingrays and Falcons traded interceptions midway through the first quarter, the Falcons scored first when quarterback Felix Diaz sneaked into the end zone from two yards out with 5:59 left to play in the first quarter. The extra point by Devon Lendry put the Falcons in the lead 7-0.

James McCleod III of the Stingrays then returned the ensuing kickoff to the 45-yard line of the Stingrays, but after driving to the 30 of the Falcons, they had to punt after the drive stalled. The first big play of the game followed, when on first down from their own five, the Falcons scored when Diaz, from the shot gun, controlled a bad snap that landed at his feet, moved to his left slightly to avoid the rush and hit wide receiver L.J. Smith down the left sideline.

Smith had gotten behind the Stingrays' defensive back covering him, and when the defensive back mis-timed his leap to bat the ball down, Smith hauled the pass in and outran the rest of the Stingrays' secondary to the end zone for a 95-yard touchdown with 1:57 left in the first quarter to make the score 13-0. Lendry missed the extra point.

After the Stingrays turned the ball over on downs, the Falcons then went ahead 20-0 when Diaz scored on a quarterback sneak from the three and Lendry made the extra point.

Coach Bobby Patterson of the Stingrays then replaced starting quarterback Michael Tanner with back-up Charlie Brown to give the offense a spark. Brown promptly led the Stingrays to its first touchdown of the game, hitting wide receiver Miles Harris, a former Eastside High School player, on a fade route in the right corner of the north endzone. Anthony Gay II then raced around the right end on the two-point conversion to make the score 20-8 with 8:22 left in the first half.

The teams then traded possessions before the Stingrays stung the Falcons again. Starting from the 45 of the Falcons with 3:27 left to play in the half, the Stingrays, with Tanner back at quarterback, put together a quick drive that ended with Tanner throwing a 25-yard touchdown to wide receiver/cornerback Willie Bryant. Gay raced into the end zone again for his second two-point conversion of the game to make the score 20-16 with 2:16 left in first half, which took a little more than two hours to complete.

The Stingrays failed to score again the rest of the game and the Falcons added several more scores in the second half.

Patterson, the Stingrays coach, said the difference in the game was his team's inability to handle the defensive pressure by the Falcons.

"We couldn't block them, that is the bottom line," Patterson said. "If we would have blocked better, we would have had a chance to win the game. We are going to have to block better if we want to give ourselves a chance to win. I am going to look at the game film and we will figure out what we need to do."

The atmosphere at the game was festive, aided by Gainesville resident Wayne Fields announcing the game from the press box. He told the crowd of about 250 people that the players were "weekend warriors," who work full-time jobs during the week.

"They are out here putting a lot on the line," Fields said.

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