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A truly wild ending

Nick Browder perused the scene all around him and shook

his head.

In what may have been his final appearance as the Dragons starting

quarterback, Browder was almost flawless and nearly unbeatable. The free-agent

signee came aboard in the fifth week of the season and just in time to save

what was left of the Dragons regular season, leading the team into the playoffs

for the third time in the past four years.

But not even Browder, who played brilliantly in yesterday's wild-card game

against Georgia could continue to extend the Dragons season.

He completed 27 of 36 passes for 390 yards and nine touchdowns and it just

wasn't enough.

Georgia quarterback Matt Nagy shredded the Dragons secondary for nine

touchdown passes as the Force edged New York, 72-69, yesterday in the first

round of the Arena Football League playoffs before a crowd of 10,243 at Nassau

Coliseum.

Nagy completed 28 of 39 passes for 362 yards and also scored a touchdown on

the ground to lead Georgia into next week's quarterfinal round against the

Dallas Desperadoes.

"We left it all on the field," Browder said. "It was an all-out effort."

Browder fired a 25-yard scoring pass to Mike Horacek with 35 seconds left and

added the two-point conversion pass to Kevin Swayne to get the Dragons within

three. It was Horacek's sixth touchdown of the game.

On the ensuing onsides kick, the ball popped free and a mad scramble

followed. When the players were untangled Georgia's Derek Lee came out with the

ball and helped the Force seal the win.

"We were down 12 late in the fourth quarter and we didn't pack it in,"

Dragons coach Weylan Harding said. "We fought back and ran out of time. This

team showed heart and resilience all season. I'm disappointed in the loss but

proud of the effort." The Dragons had no answer for Georgia wide out Chris

Jackson. He weaved in and out of the secondary to the tune of 13 receptions and

180 yards for five touchdowns.

"He's [Jackson] been one of the best in this league for a long time," said

Swayne, who had 9 catches for 108 yards and two scores. "He made the big plays.

Our offense was unstoppable and their offense was unstoppable. It came down to

the clock and who had the ball last. It's a tough way to end a good season."

The game seesawed throughout with nine lead changes. Georgia took the lead

for good after Browder's screen pass to fullback Bruce Blue went wrong at the

Force 18. Trailing 58-53, the Dragons opted for a risky short pass. After Blue

caught the pass, he was stripped by nose guard Adam Metts and the ball was

recovered by linebacker Robert Thomas. Five plays later, Nagy hit Lee with a

16-yard scoring pass and the 65-53 lead.

"The turnovers made the difference," Harding said. "The lineman fell right

into the play and it wasn't clear that he ever had control of the pass. It was

questionable." It was one call that didn't go the Dragons way. But the first

half ended on a bizarre play that kept them in the game. Georgia held a 37-28

lead with six seconds left and tried to add to the advantage from its own 8

yard-line. Nagy hit Lee crossing the middle of the field, who then attempted a

pitch to Jackson criss-crossing the secondary behind him.

Lee's pitch went awry and Dragons lineman Troy Pelshak recovered at the 12.

As Pelshak was tackled by three Georgia players, Dahnel Singfield ripped the

ball from Pelshak's grip and ran 12 yards for the shocking touchdown with no

time on the clock.

"It's the AFL, you never know," Harding said. "It was a wild play.

You know, we had a good season considering all that happened."

New York Sports