May 31, 2015

1992: Surge Edge Dragons in WLAF Playoff Game

The World League of American Football Semifinal playoff game in Sacramento on May 31, 1992 featured the Sacramento Surge, 8-2 winners of the North American West Division, and the Barcelona Dragons, who went 5-5 in placing first in the European Division.

The Surge were coached by Kay Stephenson and featured the WLAF’s Offensive Player of the Year in QB David Archer, a 30-year-old NFL journeyman.  RB Mike Pringle, who had been on Atlanta’s practice squad and would go on to a Hall of Fame career in Canada, and WR Eddie Brown from the CFL were the other key offensive stars. Future Seattle Seahawks star DE Michael Sinclair recorded 10 sacks on defense.

Barcelona had made it to the WLAF Championship game, the World Bowl, in ’91 but, after starting strong in 1992, lost five straight games to close out the regular season, although it didn’t cost the Dragons their division title. Former Boston College coach Jack Bicknell was the team’s head coach while QB Scott Erney (pictured above) directed the offense and WR Thomas Woods was the top receiver.

There were 23,640 fans in attendance on a hot midafternoon at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium. The first quarter was scoreless, with Barcelona’s defense effectively shutting down Sacramento’s attack, but less than three minutes into the second quarter the Surge took the lead on a 12-yard interception return by CB Louis Riddick. Cary Blanchard added the extra point.

That was it until the closing seconds of the half when Teddy Garcia kicked a 35-yard field goal for Barcelona that made the halftime score 7-3 in favor of Sacramento.

Early in the third quarter the Surge scored again (and again not on offense) when Eddie Brown returned a punt 86 yards for a TD. Blanchard successfully converted. Down by 14-3, the Dragons began to mount a comeback that started with a big play of their own. Scott Erney completed a pass to WR Dempsey Norman for a 90-yard touchdown. The try for a two-point conversion failed, but the Surge’s lead was narrowed to 14-9.

Late in the period, Erney threw another scoring pass, this time to TE Demetrius Davis from nine yards out. Again the attempt to add two points failed, but Barcelona now was ahead by 15-14.

Barcelona failed to add points when Garcia was wide on a 43-yard field goal try with 7:43 left to play. In response, the offensively-stymied Surge put together their best series of the game and Blanchard kicked a 46-yard field goal that just made it over the crossbar with 3:54 remaining on the clock.

The Dragons still had an opportunity to pull the game out, but an apparent 60-yard touchdown on a pass from Erney to Thomas Wood was nullified by an illegal motion penalty on Davis. Sacramento held on to win by a 17-15 score.

Barcelona significantly outgained the Surge, 341 yards to 82, had 18 first downs to Sacramento’s eight, and dominated time of possession by 40:17 to 19:43. Each team had a turnover, but the Dragons were hurt by nine penalties, at a cost of 75 yards, to four flags thrown on the Surge.

David Archer completed only 9 of 26 passes for 76 yards and gave up an interception. RB Tony Burse was Sacramento’s top receiver, hauling in four catches for 34 yards. Eddie Brown, the Surge’s most productive receiver during the regular season, failed to catch any passes although he had the long punt return for a score. Mike Pringle led the equally anemic running attack with 18 yards on 7 carries.

For the Dragons, Scott Erney was successful on 24 of 45 throws for 271 yards and two touchdowns, giving up one interception. He also rushed for 27 yards on five carries while RB Joe Mickles led the club with 43 yards on 10 attempts. Thomas Woods and WR Tony Moss each had 6 pass receptions, for 44 and 26 yards, respectively, while Dempsey Norman, thanks to the long scoring catch, gained 104 yards on his three receptions.

Sacramento advanced to the World Bowl and defeated the Orlando Thunder for the WLAF Championship. It was the end for the two-year-old franchise, as the developmental league went on hiatus and, when it returned in 1995, was a strictly European circuit. The Dragons were part of that revamped NFL Europe, appearing in three World Bowls and winning one of them, until folding following the 2003 season.