Stingrays take down Firebirds

Team will travel to Georgia on Saturday

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.

The Florida Stingrays of Gainesville evened its record this season at 2-2 with an impressive victory over the Georgia Firebirds in a Gridiron Developmental Football League game that featured a stingy effort by the Stingrays' defense.

The Stingrays won the game 22-6 Saturday night at Citizens Field in front of a crowd of about 150 fans after a thunderstorm passed through the area earlier in the day. The team is in third place in the Gulf Coast Division behind the Florida Falcons of Jacksonville (4-0) and the Georgia Crush (2-1). The Firebirds are in last place, with a 1-3 record.

On Saturday, the Stingrays will travel to play the Crush in Macon, Georgia, after playing three consecutive home games at Citizens Field. The next home game for the Stingrays will be at 7 p.m. July 12 at Citizens Field against the Georgia Predators.

Coach Bobby Patterson said he was very impressed with the play of his defensive line and linebackers Richard Forte and Stanley Clark.

"If I had to give a game ball, Richard would have been the one I gave it to," Patterson said. "Richard stepped up and balled."

The Stingrays played the entire game without starting linebackers Yohance Clark, a former Eastside star, and Charles Brown, and they played the first half without Miles Harris, another former Eastside star.

The Stingrays began the game by establishing good field position, but when the Firebirds were forced to punt from their own end zone late in the first quarter, Johnell Brown set up his blocks nicely and used his cut back ability to return the ball to the Firebirds 20-yard-line.

The Stingrays wasted no time getting in the end zone as quarterback Michael Tanner faked a wide-receiver screen and quickly handed the ball to speedy running back Anthony Gay II on a play similar to the old "Statue of Liberty" play. Gay took the hand-off, and with excellent blocking by the offensive line, scooted into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown. The Stingrays converted on the two-point conversion to take a 8-0 lead with 2:17 left to play in the first quarter.

It only took the Stingrays a matter of minutes to score again after the defense forced and recovered a fumble by the Firebirds at the Firebirds 45. After several plays, Tanner hit receiver Deon English on an out route that moved the ball to the five. A couple of plays later, Gay scored his second touchdown of the night on a run up the middle, again behind excellent blocking. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the score was 14-0 with 14:55 to play in the second quarter.

The Stingrays' defense forced the Firebirds to punt on the ensuing possession and the Stingrays' offense promptly drove the ball down the field behind the blocking of offensive linemen Kenneth Salter, Ernest Davis, Alfred Holmes, Brandon Miller and Andrew Equi.

However, on fourth-and-goal from the three, Tanner chose to throw the ball in the middle of the end zone instead of to a wide open receiver running all alone toward the sideline in the end zone. The pass was intercepted by the Firebirds in the end zone, and their offense took possession of the ball at its own three.

That's when the Stingrays' defense let the Firebirds know that yards, not to mention points, were going to be hard to come by.

The Stingrays scored on a safety when a defensive back tackled a receiver in the end zone on a wide receiver screen to make the score 16-0 with 2:24 left in the first half.

The Stingrays added a touchdown in the third quarter and the Firebirds scored its only points of the game in the fourth quarter, long after the outcome of the game had been decided.

Patterson said although the defense had a stellar performance, he was impressed with his offense as well.

"Tanner and Gay really had good games, and I thought we played a good game on offense overall," Patterson said. "The blocking improved a lot this game because we have been working hard on how to block different defensive schemes in practice and it is paying off because our guys know who to block in different situations."

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