Defense keeps LandSharks unbeaten
04/21/02 Lake Charles American Press
AUSTIN, Texas — On a night when Lake Charles LandSharks couldn't find any rhythm on offense, the defense and special teams picked up the slack.
After an early fourth quarter Austin score cut the LandSharkls' lead to four points, Lake Charles made three straight defensive stands to hold on for a 30-26 Nation Indoor Football League win here Saturday at the Travis County Expo Center.
"That game shaved about five years off my life," Lake Charles coach Kip Texada said. "I'm still trying to recover. The defense played huge, but that's what a big team does."
Lake Charles (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic South) did not score an offensive touchdown in the second half, but placekicker Whitney Hillin hit three field goals from more than 38 yards and linebacker Darnell Lee returned a third-quarter fumble 43 yards for a breathing room touchdown.
"Hillin came up huge for us, he's such a fighter and we're fortunate to have him," Texada said.
Lee's touchdown gave Lake Charles a 30-17 lead, but Austin (1-3, 1-2 Atlantic South) cut the lead with a safety and a touchdown run by Eric Bernard. But the Knights did not score again.
Austin had second and goal at the one with 17 seconds left, but Lee tackled Bernard for a 4-yard loss, and Knights quarterback Josh Barnes had to spike the ball for one last shot with 2.8 seconds left. That pass was incomplete, and Lake Charles remained unbeaten.
For the second straight week, Hillin set the franchise record for field goal distance with a pair of 47-yarders in the second and third quarters. He hit two in the first half as the LandSharks took a 20-17 halftime lead.
LandSharks quarterback Ted Robison threw for two first half scores, a 20-yard pass to Leroy Jackson and a 23-yard strike to Eric Young. But with the running game absent and passing game inconsistent, the Sharks could not score on offense in the second half, and Robison finished 10-for-26 for 118 yards.
"They just have a playoff hockey game here (with the Central Hockey League's Austin Ice Bats) last night and didn't get the surface down until 5:30 p.m." Texada said. "The surface was terrible — it was slippery all over. But that wasn't just us, it affected them, too."
Austin had taken an initial 7-0 lead on a 12-yard interception return by Aaron Fletcher, but the Knights were held without any offensive points until the final minutes of the half. Knights quarterback Brad Ericson connected with D'Angelo Torres for a 43-yard touchdown pass with 2:25 remaining in the second and Rolfe Schafer hit a 25-yard field goal with seven seconds left.
The LandSharks made two interceptions, by Warren St. Junious and Butch Monticello, to bring their four-game total to 13. St. Junious also made a key third quarter stop when the Knights went for it on fourth down deep in LandSharks territory and St. Junious tackled a receiver just shy of the first down.