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New-look Firecats fall 54-53

March 22, 2009
By RYAN RYLES, Special to the Breeze

If you blinked, you may have missed the start of the Florida Firecats arenafootball2 season.

With the big brother organization, the Arena Football League, canceling its 2009 season due to financial problems, many assumed that the af2 wasn't going to play either.

The Firecats did, in fact, start their season Saturday, losing to the visiting South Georgia Wildcats 54-53 at Germain Arena.

"We thought we would get off to a better start," said coach Kevin Bouis. "We had every opportunity to put (South Georgia) away and just couldn't do it."

This year's squad isn't the same as in past years.

Team veterans such as starting quarterback Chris Wallace, wide receivers Magic Benton, Brent Burnside and Chris Mckinney are back, along with standout cornerback James Panui, but much of the offensive and defensive lines are first-year Firecats or rookies to the arena game.

All told, there are three rookie offensive linemen and every defensive linemen and linebacker are new.

As a result, the Firecats - who have traditionally fielded one of the league's top defenses - looked out of sync at times.

Despite getting three stops, including a fumble recovery, the Firecat defense was unable to come up big when it mattered most in the fourth quarter, allowing the Wildcats to score on every possession and steal the game from Florida.

The Firecats scored 53 points but struggled kicking extra points and field goals.

Of the eight touchdowns the Firecats scored, they only converted on five extra-point attempts and they missed a 25-yard field goal with three seconds left in the game.

"Obviously, we have to get better at kicking the ball," said Bouis, "defensively we will get better. Our secondary is young, but we had three stops. No doubt we should have won (Saturday night)."

Bouis did have some reasons to think that his defense, particularly his secondary, will get better as the year progresses. They had five pass deflections, three of which could have been interceptions.

Wallace led the offense, passing for 233 yards and four touchdowns. McKinney caught nine passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

The Firecats hit the road for three straight weeks before returning to Germain Arena on April 18 to face the Kentucky Horsemen.



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