(Long Island, NY) Aaron Garcia has meant so much to the New York Dragons over the years. But perhaps nothing can be compared to this season. The quarterback threw nine touchdown passes on ESPN 2’s Monday Night Football to lead his team to a 69-63 win over the VooDoo in New Orleans. It was the Dragons’ third straight victory and put them in the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFL’s National Conference with four games to play.
The game came down to final seconds and the Dragons needed to hold the home team with a goal line stance. New Orleans’ quarterback Steve Bellisari ran the clock down for one final play after the VooDoo recovered an onside kick and had a first-and-goal situation. Bellisari tried to sneak the ball in but was stopped inches short of the goal line.
“We tried to let them score so we could get the ball back with some time on the clock,” Dragons head coach Weylan Harding said to reporters. “But they decided to milk the clock. You have to give our guys credit, they were resilient tonight.”
The Dragons scored on every possession except for when time ran out in the first half. Garcia (29 of 37, 358 yards, 0 interceptions) connected with wide receiver Kevin Swayne for six touchdowns. The former Jet wideout caught 13 passes for 150 yards and came up big with fellow receivers Mike Horcek and Chris Anthony both out with injuries.
Even with the gaudy offensive numbers, the game of Arena Football comes down to defensive stops and turnovers. The Dragons were flawless on offense while their defense intercepted Bellisari once and their special teams recovered a kick-off that hit the upright. It was the third consecutive game for Garcia without an interception.
“After a game like this all you can talk about is the team effort,” Garcia informed reporters. “From top to bottom, everyone fought. We realized it’s a crazy game. And young players learn you can play a great game, but it can still come down to the last play.”
After starting the season 1-6, the Dragons have improved to 5-7. It was no coincidence that as soon as Garcia returned from his leg injury, the team’s fortunes began to change. The star QB missed most of last season and the most of the first half of this year with a broken fibula. He returned on April 28 and the team has only lost
once with Garcia at the helm. Since then, they have defeated the Arizona Rattlers, Philadelphia Soul, Kansas City Brigade and New Orleans. The one loss came at Columbus versus the Destroyers.
The Dragons are home for three and away for one to round out the schedule. They face the Austin Wranglers (3-9), Orlando Predators (7-5) and Columbus (6-6) at home and the 11-1 Dallas Desperados on the road in the next to last game. Their main competition for the final playoff spot are the Tampa Bay Storm at 5-7 and New Orleans at 6-6. Two games separate playoff seeds three through six. Whatever the outcome, the last month of the season will be quite interesting.