New York Times

July 12, 1974

By Dave Anderson

Stars Bow, 14-7, In Debut

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., July 11 - Under inspection from the World Football League's first national television audience and an assembly of 59,112 spectators that lifted the announced attendance for six opening games to 258,624, the New York Stars lost to the Jacksonville Sharks, 14-7, tonight on two-punt unit mistakes.

The Sharks winning touchdown, with only 2 minutes and 2 seconds remaining in the final quarter, followed a block of Robby Reynolds' punt at the Stars' 20 yard line. In the second quarter, Alvin Wyatt of the Sharks returned Reynolds punt 87 yards for a touchdown.

"The two punts cost us the game," acknowledged Vito (Babe) Parilli, the Stars' coach. "On the blocked punt, Reynolds saw the kid coming took his eye off the ball and juggled the snap. On the punt-return, everybody thought the ball was going out of bounds and then they waited for the other guy to make the tackle."

George Sauer, Jr., the former wide receiver of the New York Jets who missed three years after retiring following the 1970 season, scored the Stars' only touchdown. Running a slant-in pattern from the left side, he caught a pass from Tom Sherman, the quarterback, in the end zone for an 8-yard play in the second quarter.

"I thought our defense moved the ball well," Parilli said, "and we played good defense. In our scrimmage with the Philadelphia Bell, we had two punts runback all the way on us and we thought we had corrected it but obviously we've got more work to do."

During the halftime show, the Gator Bowl lights went out for about 10 minutes. One explanation was that there had been an explosion in the stadium's generator. Another version was that a TV cable had short-circuited, creating the momentary TV blackout. The light failure delayed the second half for 10 minutes.

Despite steaming humidity that had lifted the temperature here to 99 degrees during the afternoon, streets to the Gator Bowl were clogged with automobile traffic for nearly half an hour after the kickoff. The crowd was a WFL record, surpassing the 55,534 last night at the Philadelphia Bell's opener.

The Stars will make their New York debut Wednesday night against the Birmingham Americans at Downing Stadium on Randalls Island.

Directed by Sherman, the Stars' offense produced 338 yards while their defense limited the Sharks to only 172 total yards. John Elliott and Gerry Philbin, two other ex-Jets, anchored the Stars pass-rush that sacked Kay Stephenson the Sharks' quarterback, three times. Sherman remained unmolested.

Sherman, who threw 12 touchdown passes for the Boston Patriots in 1968 before performing in obscurity with the Hartford Knights of the Atlantic Coast Football League, completed 15 of 34 passes for 202 yards. Sauer caught seven passes for 77 yards. Bob Gladieux once of the Patriots, ran for 43 yards.

Stephenson was limited to only 10 completions in 23 passes for 112 yards. The bulk of the Sharks' offense was entrusted to Tommy Durrance, a local favorite from the University of Florida who galloped for 80 yards.

Durrance was involved in the Sharks' winning touchdown following the Stars' punt that was blocked by Ike Lassiter, a 260-pound defensive end once of the Oakland Raiders. The loose ball was recovered at the 20 by Rich Thomann, a linebacker, and run to the Stars' 7-yard line.

On first down, Durrance ran wide to the right to the Stars' 1-yard line. On second down, Durrance carried again but fumbled. The loose ball squirted into the end zone where O.Z. White, a 245-pound rookie guard from the University of California, recovered it for a touchdown, worth 7 points under WFL rules.

The Stars had a point blank opportunity for another touchdown in the second quarter. With a first down on the Sharks' 2-yard line, Sherman wisely overthrew the end zone but when Dave Richards, a 185-pound running back, was stopped for no gain, got to the 1 on third down but was stopped on fourth down.

"I thought a touchdown there would break the game open," Parilli explained later. "That's why I went for the touchdown instead of the field goal. I'd do it again."

After a scoreless first quarter, the Sharks struck for a touchdown when Wyatt, a cornerback and punt-return specialist once with the Raiders and the Buffalo bills, streaked down the right sideline and outran Jim Sims into the end zone. Wyatt's dash ignited a hometown demonstration celebrating the Sharks' first touchdown.