Tennessee hands LandSharks first loss

06/02/02 Lake Charles American Press
The Lake Charles LandSharks' run at an unbeaten season came to an end Saturday night. And it wasn't because they debuted a new starting quarterback.

The Tennessee ThunderCats beat the LandSharks 55-40 in a National Indoor Football League game with special teams play and some missed chances by the Sharks.

The Sharks (9-1) were without quarterback Ted Robison, who was injured in last week's game against Omaha and unable to make the trip this week. Instead, the Sharks turned to assistant coach Eric Young, who played the final snaps last week against Omaha. Young was 14 of 30 passing for 102 yards and one touchdown while running 10 times for 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the ThunderCats.

"We did our normal; we did our average," said LandSharks head coach Kip Texada. "We put up 40 points. It wasn't the quarterback position. It was a whole team effort.

"Coach Young did a heck of a job. He was able to scramble and do some good things. He had the same stats as Ted, or even better."

Robison was just one of several key players absent from the Sharks' lineup. Texada said the Sharks were without five key players, including defensive back Warren St. Junious, linemen Jimmy Hardilek and Brent Anderson.

Texada said the LandSharks hurt themselves, missing five scoring opportunities.

"We had three dropped touchdowns in the end zone and once we were inside the 1 and couldn't get it in," he said. "That was the type of night we had."

The sure-handed Shadrick McAfee turned in another stellar performance with six catches for 138 yards and one touchdown to go along with eight returns for 197 yards.

But on the other side of the ball, the LandSharks had no answer as the ThunderCats (7-3), who won their fifth straight at home, were able to exploit the Sharks' secondary and kick coverage teams.

"We knew we'd give up a few plays," Texada admitted. "We gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and defensively, we couldn't stop the run. Normally if we put up 40 points we win. Others need to step up."

The LandSharks trailed 38-13 at halftime and, despite a second-half rally, couldn't keep pace with the surging ThunderCats.

Tennessee quarterback Akili Roberson, who threw three touchdown passes and ran for one score, was quick to credit the fans. Tennessee, which has drawn only about 500 fans for the last two home games drew a Civic Coliseum crowd of about 2,200. Fans were admitted free with a donation of a canned good as part of a promotion.

"It felt real good," Roberson said. "It was a good crowd tonight. That helped us come out early and do what we had to do. Hopefully they will keep coming. We have two more games against good teams. We need the support. We want them to keep on coming."

The victory should prove to be a springboard to better things, Tennessee coach George Lemon said.

"I was pleased," said Lemon, who has battled tough financial times this season. "If we get people here it inspires the players to play at another level. Everybody said this promotion was a big risk, but it was important for us to have the crowd behind us. It made a big difference. The guys have a lot of pride. They were excited to play before a good crowd and the fans saw a good show."

The ThunderCats took control early with an explosive offense and stingy defense. Roberson ran five yards for the first touchdown, and later passed 45 yards to John Gordon for a touchdown. He connected with Gordon again on a 17-yard scoring pass and then hit Darnell Harrison for a 2-yard touchdown pass to help Tennessee to a commanding halftime edge.

"Akili is on a roll now," Lemon said. "He is very confident. He was great tonight. We wanted to send a message on offense right away and we did that."

Tennessee running back Mike Cosey enjoyed another outstanding game, rushing for touchdowns of two, 24 and 16 yards. He finished with 112 yards on 15 carries.

The Tennessee defense limited the LandSharks to 208 yards in total offense.

Paul Charles and Mike Allen had interceptions for Tennessee, and Dervonne Christopher had a sack.

"We had some big plays and a lot of big hits on defense," Lemon said. "We laid the wood on them tonight. We had a great defensive scheme."

Texada said the 55 points was the most ever allowed by the LandSharks. "We have to come back next week and make adjustments," he said.

The Sharks are home next week against the Mississippi Fire Dogs. The Sharks beat the Fire Dogs 26-15 in Biloxi on May 11.

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