Birmingham News

July 18, 1974

By Jimmy Bryan

Mira to Homan Finishes Miracle Am's Comeback

New York - Battered and bleeding and gasping for breath, the Birmingham Americans came off the floor and performed one of the most stirring comebacks in professional football history Wednesday night.

The Americans used class and courage, blood and guts to score four second half touchdowns and whip the New York Stars 32-29 before 17,943 fans in Downing Stadium.

It was a comeback of considerable magnitude, from 26 points behind at the half.

George Mira, the Miami Matador, was never more brilliant. Never. He rifled three touchdown passes, scored another on a one-yard run and was generally magnificent down a stretch that will be discussed as long as there's a World Football League.

The winning touchdown, scored with 2:15 left in the game, came right out of a storybook.

Mira, scrambling out of the pocket, sent fleet Dennis Homan, former Alabama All-American, into the seam of New York's zone defense. Reading run, the Stars' secondary came and Mira delivered unto him a gorgeous strike.

Dennis caught it and ran to glory.

Birmingham was a winner.

It seemed impossible at the half. New York had powerfully hammered out a 29-3 lead, playing against children.

It was absolutely no contest the first 30 minutes. The Stars had 18 first downs at intermission, Birmingham none. Zero. New York had 315 yards of offense, Birmingham 12. The home team ran 50 offensive plays. Birmingham 13.

The Americans were in the process of being humiliated.

But football games are played in two halves. The first was New York's. Birmingham was about to play one.

Class came to the top in the final 30 minutes.

Mira came out throwing. With 9:10 left in the third quarter, he dropped a 20-yard scoring pass into tight end Ted Powell's eager arms. At 1:54, he shot a quick bullet to Alfred Jenkins from the four. It was getting to be a horse race.

Mira ran one over from the one early in the fourth quarter, behind a solid wall of blockers. Now it was 29-25.

The big one was building. Mira to Homan. Seventy-three unbelievable yards with 2:15 left. Miracles do still happen.

One just did.

Mira finished with 14 completions in 28 throws, gained 213 yards and threw no interceptions. And three were for touchdowns. Big league tonight.

Homan caught 3 for 94 yards, tough Art Cantrelle 3 for 50, Powell 2 for 28, Jenkins 2 for 20 and tight end Jim Bishop 2 for 9. Fullback Carl Bartles caught one big one for 15 yards.

Leading rusher for the Americans was Cantrelle with 15 yards. Bartles gained 10 running 4 times, Jimmy Edwards 10 in 2 runs. The Americans did not have much a of a ground game.

Defensively, middle linebacker Warren Capone had 12 tackles, safety Dicky Lyons 7 and a big interception, Mike Truax, Larry Willingham and Ross Brupbacher 6 apiece. Corner Cecil Leonard had five hits.

New York's Tom Sherman had a good night, 10 of 20 passes for 171 yards. Best rusher in the game was former Notre Dame randy Huff, who ground out 106 yards on 21 carries. Jim Ford went 71 yards in 11 tries, Bob Gladieux 51 in 13.

Here's the way that scoring went, most of it New York's at first...

The Americans crammed their first half cheering into the first two-minutes. Clarence Washington recovered Sherman's on the game's third play at New York's 19. A four-yard loss and two incomplete passes brought on Earl Sark's, who kicked a 35-yard field goal.

That 3-0 lead was achieved with 13:14 left in the first quarter.

Now the Stars went to work.

Sherman directed a 60-yard drive in six plays following the kickoff. He hit Dave Richards for 22 and George Sauer for 25 and then drove it over himself from the one.

Gladieux ran the action point that made it 8-3 with 10-30 left.

Disaster struck on the first play following New York's kickoff. Duron, attempting a flanker-reverse pass, had his pocket picked by veteran Gerry Philbin, who merely stole the ball from his arms, at the Birmingham 23. The Stars were about to score some more. It required just five plays, all afoot and four by Gladieux. The former Notre Damer hammered over from the two.

Sherman passed to Ray Parson for the action point, 16-3 with 8:13 yet to go in the first period.

The Stars had an 80-yard touchdown drive cooking as the first period ended. Huff carried eight yards for it on the third play of the second quarter.

New York failed to cash this action point with 13:26 left in the half. But it was 23-3 and growing.

Rajecki kicked his first field goal when the Americans finally stopped a Stars drive at their three. It was a 20-yarder that made it 26-3 with 8:29 to go.

Rajecki's second field goal came on the final play of the half. It was a 38-yard field goal following a hurry-up drive from the Stars' 40.

They went to intermission with New 29, Birmingham 3.

Birmingham started coming back in the third quarter. Jenkins fired it by running New York's first punt of the second half 33-yards to the Stars' 17. On fourth down from the 20, Mira lobbed a touchdown pass to Powell.

The action point was not good, Mira missing Charley Harraway with 9:02 left in the third. It was 26-10.

The Americans were humming now. They survived a blocked punt when Dicky Lyons stepped in front of a Sherman pass, swiped it and hurried 38-yards to the 49. Mira carried his men 51-yards in eight plays. The TD was four yards to Jenkins.

Mira went back to Jenkins for the action point and it was tightening, 29-18 with 1:54 left in the third period.

Momentum had turned now. Birmingham owned it.

The Americans got the football back at their 20 after holding New York once more. Mira took the red, white and blue 80 yards in 10 plays. The Matador hit Bartles for 15 and Cantrelle for 27 and suddenly here they were again. Mira slipped through the right side from one-yard.

Mira's action point fell incomplete and it was Stars 29, Americans 25 with 11:05 left in the game.

Birmingham's defense was smoking also, and got the ball back for Mira and friends. This time they couldn't do it, and Sark had to punt it away with just 5:44 to go. It was squarely up to the defense now. New York got one first down, but couldn't put two together.

The Americans got their final chance, do or die, from the 27 with 2:26 to go. Lightning was about to strike. Homan split the seam of New York's zone on a flag pattern, found himself running until he changed the scoreboard. Birmingham's way to stay.

The action point was no good, but Birmingham was up front 32-29 with 2:15 to go.

New York didn't die peaceably. The Stars fought for their life. Sherman marched his troops to Birmingham's 18, where, with 36 seconds left, it became fourth down. Rajecki came on for a 35-yard field goal.

Birmingham out-prayed New York...he missed it badly.

Mira fell on the ball a couple of times and it was over.