The Asbury Park Press

July 12, 1974

By Marty Fischbein

Punting Woes Wreck Stars' Debut

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Wednesday afternoon New York Stars coach Babe Parilli devoted his team's final practice session before last night's game with the Jacksonville Sharks to the special teams, which he felt needed extra work.

Last night a crowd of 59,112 in the Gator Bowl and the first World Football League national TV audience saw why as the Sharks defeated the Stars, 14-7.

Alvin Wyatt took a New York punt on his own 13-yard line and ran it back for the Sharks' first touchdown late in the first half. With 2:34 left to play, the Sharks blocked a New York punt to set up the game winning touchdown.

Ike Lassiter, blocked Robby Reynolds' punt which was picked up by Rich Thomann on the 14 and run to the seven.

Tommy Durrance carried to the one, and on the next play fumbled, but the ball was recovered by O.Z. White for the winning score. An action play pass from the quarterback Kay Stephenson for tight end Keith Krepfle failed.

The difference in the punting game was the big factor in determining the winner.

Jacksonville punter Duane Carrell punted seven times for 317 yards and a 45.3 average compared to Reynolds' seven punts for 227 yards and a 32.4 average.

At one time early in the fourth period, the Sharks took a deliberate delay of game penalty to allow Carrell extra room on a punt which went 41 yards and was downed on the four-yard line.

The New Yorkers dominated the first half, but could do no better than a 7-7 tie at the intermission.

One of the new rules changes made itself felt in the first quarter, when the Stars chose to try a coffin corner punt instead of a field goal.

Evidently, New York Coach Babe Parilli did not want to risk giving the ball to the Sharks at the 36-yard line, the line of scrimmage, if New York missed the field goal.

The 33-yard line was the deepest penetration by either team in the first quarter and the Stars were dropped for a three-yard loss after getting that far.

A strong defensive stand in the second period stopped the Stars inside the one-yard line after a 14-play march from their own 24.

A Sherman pass for Dave Richards went incomplete on first and goal from the two and three other tries by Richards were stopped with defensive back Ron Coppenbarger getting in on two of the stops.

A Reynolds punt was taken by Wyatt on the 13-yard line, and the Shark speedster scooted down the right sideline 87 yards for the first score of the game.

A Stephenson pass intended for wide receiver Tony Lomax for the action point failed and the Sharks led 7-0 with 5:47 left in the half.

New York came back with a 13-play, 77-yard drive capped by a Tom Sherman to George Sauer touchdown pass of eight yards. The action point failed as Sauer could not hold onto Sherman's pass.

Bob Hermanni, former Toms River High School South star, helped set up the touchdown with a 17-yard scamper to the three on a well-executed reverse.

The huge crowd was in a festive mood and even a power failure which kept the stadium in total darkness for more than six minutes failed to dampen the fans' spirits.

Parilli proved to be an accurate prognosticator when he said both clubs would move cautiously at the start of the game before opening up with the new league's promised brand of "wide open football."

The blackout was caused by an exposed TV-wire which caused a short circuit.

Gary Davidson, whose imagination fostered the new league, was at the game and pleased with the league's first games.

"I followed those attendance figures last night, and it was just like waiting out election returns," said Davidson. "It really made me feel good when they were all in."

When the power failure hit during halftime, Davidson received quite a bit of joshing, but took it in stride.

"Some of the fellows thought I'd be up tight about things when the lights went out, but after all there was nothing I could do about it. So why should I panic."