ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — About 3,600 See Franchise’s Indoor Football Debut
RIO RANCHO – The expansion New Mexico Stars had several hold-your-breath moments at the Santa Ana Star Center on Sunday afternoon but managed to earn a 46-39 victory over the Colorado Ice in their Indoor Football League debut.
A partying crowd estimated at 3,600 saw the Stars overcome a 9-0 second-quarter deficit to beat the established IFL squad that had an 11-3 record last season.
“That says a lot about our club,” coach Chris Williams said of the comeback victory against a solid team. “I’m not surprised that we won, but I’m also not saying that in an arrogant way. We do have a lot of talent on this club.”
Allen Wranglers at New Mexico Stars, 3:05 p.m.
Stars second-year quarterback Arkelon Hall threw for three touchdowns and 172 yards on a 50-yard-long field and had plenty of time to survey the field all game.
“They were only rushing three men and dropping everybody back, so I was able to stand back there and pick them apart,” Hall said while standing at midfield after the game, posing for pictures with fans and signing autographs.
He also had two rushing touchdowns from close range and added a head-knocking two-point conversion run in which he barreled over a defender at the goal line. Ex-Lobo RB DonTrell Moore had four catches for 20 yards and rushed three times for 5.
Hall’s 2-point score was one of six such conversion attempts by the Stars. That strategy, though, wasn’t part of the original game plan.
New Mexico went into the game without its kicker, Zeke Arevalo, whose contract didn’t arrive in time at league headquarters for him to be eligible. That meant giving the place-kick duties to wide receiver Ryan Bugg, a Tulsa alum who had previous experience kicking.
“I lost a lot of sleep (Saturday) night when I found out about it,” Williams said of Arevalo’s situation.
The kicking game caused things to turn ugly for the Stars on their first possession. After three downs resulted in minus 2 yards, Bugg attempted a field goal from 1 yard deep in the end zone, which is a fourth-down strategy used by IFL teams since there is no punting in the game. The kick was blocked and resulted in a safety and a 2-0 Colorado lead.
Colorado then made it 9-0 with 2:12 left in the first on a short run by Andre Harris run. To that point, the home team’s offense spent less time on the field – three plays – than the team’s Galaxy dancers.
But that’s when the Stars started to take charge, grabbing an 18-15 lead into halftime on a 3-yard run by Darius Marshall with 1.9 seconds left before intermission.
New Mexico maintained a lead throughout the second half, expanding it to 46-32 on another Marshall TD run and a two-point conversion pass from Hall to Bugg, who hadn’t kicked since seeing his first extra-point attempt blocked back in the second quarter.
Defensively, ex-Lobos DeAndre Wright and Tray Hardaway led a hard-hitting that was punishing Ice receivers, many times resulting in a jarring crash against the foam dashers. On some occasions, the pile of football humanity spilled over the wall into the first row of the seats.
And, speaking of seats, so many balls wound up in the stands on kicks and overthrown passes that Stars officials had to scramble to find more in the bowels of the arena in the closing minutes to meet the demand.
Stars owner/general manager Dart Clark, who watched the game from behind an end-zone wall, threw a fist skyward when New Mexico extended its lead to 14 points with 3 minutes to go. He said the fans’ enthusiasm is contagious.
“This is pretty typical to see crowds get rowdy because they are so close to the action and they feel part of it,” Clark said.
He also couldn’t have been prouder of Hall, giving him a postgame bear hug at midfield and hoisting him off the ground.
“He is just a beast,” Clark said. “He will make the NFL one day. He can really throw bullets – and he can run.”
The Stars are idle this week and return March 11 to play the Allen Wranglers, the new home of Terrell Owens, at the Star Center.