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Iron Lose to Barnstormers in Opener

by Adam Snow

Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Saturday, March 28, 2009

Arena Football returned to Milwaukee Friday night in the form of the arenafootball2 expansion franchise, Milwaukee Iron. Anticipation was high as 5,238 fans entered the Bradley Center for the first Arena Football game since the Arena Football League's Milwaukee Mustangs folded after the 2001 season. In the final season of the Mustang's existence, former WR/DB Gary Compton won the 2001 "Built Ford Tough" Man of the Year award. Today, Compton is now the head coach of the Iron.

The pre-game festivities were very appropriate for introducing the new addition to the Milwaukee sports community. Fans got to meet the team's mascot, Rusty, as well as the Platinum Dance Team. Also, fans got to witness a dazzling show of red glow sticks descending from the rafters by parachute in the darkness of the pre-game introductions; giving a few seconds of what mirrored the embers of a fire.

Despite the energetic anticipation of the Iron's first ever game against the visiting Iowa Barnstormers, Milwaukee fans were in for a long, disappointing game.

Things did not start off bad for the Iron. On their opening drive, QB Shane Adler threw a 47 yard touchdown strike to WR Antoine Burns, opening a 7-0 lead. The Barnstormers answered on the following drive, when QB Joe Brannen threw a short five yard touchdown pass to WR Tim Dodge to tie the game at 7-7, thanks to several Milwaukee penalties which helped to give Iowa great field position for that score. Milwaukee then answered Iowa by driving down the field and converting on a 4th down and goal play, by handing the ball off to Tyre Young, who lined up the FB on the play, scored on a tough three yard run.

By the time the 2nd quarter started, things changed for both teams. For Milwaukee, starting QB Shane Adler was lost to injury and replaced by Tyler Donovan. Iowa on the other hand stepped up their defensive and offensive play as they opened the quarter with 26 unanswered points, taking a 33-14 lead over the Iron before the 1 minute warning. From that point Milwaukee was able to avoid a scoreless quarter, scoring 10 points going into half-time, trailing 24-40.

After halftime, things wouldn't get any better for the Iron. Milwaukee had been plagued all game by dropped passes and other miscues that Iowa had been taking advantage of the entire game, including an interception for a touchdown and an end zone fumble recovery for a touchdown. "I thought we did some things right," said Iron head coach Compton of his team's performance, "but we did a lot of things wrong,"

Milwaukee was held to no points when the 3rd quarter was over, trailing 24-60. But, a lone bright spot could be seen in the 4th quarter, as Milwaukee held Iowa scoreless, while scoring 14 points of their own. Unfortunately, despite the end game positives, Milwaukee lost the game by the final of 38-60.

Despite the final score, Milwaukee shouldn't feel discouraged about their entire performance on opening night. Indeed, there were several dropped passes that could have turned into scores, and an unfortunate call by the referees denying Milwaukee QB Tyler Donovan a possible rushing touchdown that was deemed a fumble. After several replays on the video board, it was clear that at the least, Donovan was down by contact before the ball was ruled a fumble. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, the af2 does not have an instant replay system in place.

After filling in for starter Shane Adler, Milwaukee backup QB Donovan completed the game 11 for 27 passing, throwing two TD passes and rushing for one TD. Despite an uneasy start, coach Compton places a lot of faith in this young QB, and acknowledges his inexperience. "He's got a game under his belt now; he saw how the action is tonight. He made some good reads and good throws, and he made some bad reads and bad throws, but that would be expected."

On the opposite side of the field, Iowa Barnstormers head coach, John Gregory didn't initially address his team's victory. Rather, Gregory offered encouraging words to the young Milwaukee Iron franchise and its fans. "I'll tell you something, it's a new franchise," said Gregory. "I know Gary [Compton], and you have a great coach here and a great person. He's one of my favorite guys, and I'm sure that he's going to lead you to a very nice football program here."

So Iron fans shouldn't take this loss too hard. This is a new team with a long season ahead of them, with many young players who have much potential to blossom as the season progresses. Despite the mistakes made on the field, the one thing that no fan should deny is the fact that Milwaukee (0-1) went out and played with as much heart as Iowa (1-0) until the end, and despite several unfortunate turns during the loss.

On Saturday (April 4th) the Milwaukee Iron travels to Youngstown, Ohio, to face the Mahoning Valley Thunder (1-0). Kickoff is set for 7:05 EST.

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Adam Snow is a student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, studying English and Journalism. Adam is the son of veteran OurSports Central columnist, Randy Snow.


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