Night Train get on right track with win over Cavalry

05/05/02 LaCrosse Tribune
They were teasing Marvin Hooker before the game. His La Crosse Night Train teammates couldn't help it.

"How are you going to catch the ball with that big cast on your arm?" they asked him.

But he showed them all.

Hooker made two interceptions, the first he returned 24 yards for a touchdown, and the Night Train beat the Wyoming Cavalry 40-26 Saturday at the La Crosse Center to earn the franchise's first win.

"I really wanted to win this game for the team, so I gave it my all," said Hooker, who made his first pick along the board, then wormed his way down the sideline and surged across the goal line. "The ball was right there in front of me and I just grabbed it. Nothing was going to stop me from getting in there."

Hooker was released by the Ohio Valley Greyhounds of the National Indoor Football League three weeks ago, then signed a contract with the Night Train (1-5 overall) and played his first game last weekend. Unfortunately, he smashed his arm against a helmet in the loss to Billings and tore a ligament in his wrist.

But he wasn't going to let a cast stop him from playing, or from getting that first Night Train victory.

"We already had a good nucleus, but we just needed to bring in a couple guys," said Hooker, whose second interception in the final two minutes stopped Wyoming's last threat at a comeback.

Quarterback Marrial Shields, one of those players brought in before the game in Billings, Mont., proved his good first impression was no fluke. He threw for 92 yards and two touchdowns to former UW-La Crosse receiver Ben Antony.

Shield's biggest impact may have been with his feet, as he danced around the pocket and scrambled for 57 yards, including an 18-yard run in which he broke multiple tackles, and juked past defenders.

"It feels good," said Shields, who made several big plays after avoiding sacks. "I like to do a lot of moves and quickness. We tried to work on it last week. As time comes along we'll click even better."

The game was also the first for new head coach Mike Brown, who had just a little more than three days to prepare for the game after being promoted from the defensive coordinator position. He replaced John Schimon, who was fired Tuesday.

"I have to be the happiest 1-5 football coach on the planet," said Brown, who had never been the head coach of any football team at any level before Saturday. "I can't put it into words. With the short preparation work we had, it's amazing."

The Night Train win dropped the Cavalry to 0-7 on the season, and La Crosse has a chance to stay in the win column when they play the Cavalry again this Saturday. The Night Train ownership began the week uncertain of which players might leave with the departure of Schimon, but every player stayed, and the hiring of Brown appears to be a hit.

"Mike Brown's the best," Hooker said. "He's stayed with us. He has a great intensity."

He also has a sense of humor, and Hooker isn't completely off the hook.

"He did let one slip through his hands," said Brown, laughing "so we're still going to tease him about that."

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