New York Newsday

August 1, 1974

By Steve Marcus

Stars Finally Win One on Merit

Randalls Island - The Stars are on their way, says head coach Babe Parilli, who looks for the least bit of encouragement, even when his team is not playing well. After last night's game against Jacksonville, however, Parilli did not have to measure his words with care as he spoke to reporters in the Stars' dressing room at Downing Stadium.

Gone were the excuses uttered with a bowed head that have characterized Parilli after each of the Stars' first three games, even last week's 17-15 victory over Philadelphia. "It's getting a little easier now," Parilli said, looking relieved after the Stars had evened their record at 2-2 with a 24-16 victory over the Sharks.

"I can say we've got a gutsy football team," Parilli said. "This is more of a deserving victory." Despite the close score, the Stars beat the Sharks physically, as Sharks head coach Bud Asher would later say, "right the hell out of the stadium." How badly the Stars had beaten Jacksonville was not indicated by the statistics, but rather by the mood in each team's dressing room - the wild laughter and joking of the Stars, who now think they can win forever, and the solemnity of the Sharks, who sat quietly by their lockers wondering what they have to do to win.

"I felt we could have won the game," Asher said. "Then they knock us off the damn field." Asher was referring to two Shark players - quarterbacks Kay Stephenson and Kim Hammond - who left the game with injuries. The Sharks were forced to play the fourth quarter with running back Jeff Davis, who was just activated a week ago, quarterbacking the team in his first professional game. Asher had no other quarterbacks, except for player-coach John Stofa, and he was not eligible to play.

The Stars took their first lead - and their final margin of victory - in the third quarter as quarterback Tom Sherman scored on a one-yard run and threw for the action point to George Sauer, who made two catches for 34 yards. Sherman's touchdown, giving the Stars a 24-16 lead was preceded by 26-yard pass to tight end Ray Parson. It was a significant play for Parson, who was expected to miss the game with a hamstring pull. Parilli has called Parson, "a big man in our passing game," and last night, before 15,648 fans, the 6-6, 240-pound former Detroit Lion showed why he's a key man in the Stars' offense.

"That guy was a threat," Asher said, although Parson played sparingly behind Bert Askson. "I told Babe before the game that I was ready to play if he needed me," Parson said. "The pull affected my performance for two weeks, so Babe figured he'd start Askson - who's been doing a good job in his own right."

Parson had come to the Stars with the reputation of being a good blocker, but little else. Parilli said earlier in the season that Parson just needed some work on his deep routes to become a top receiver. "I got good hands," Parson said last night, "I know I can catch. Now people know that if the ball is thrown deep to me. I can catch it."

Sherman's pass to Parson, right down the middle of the field, apparently caught Sharks free safety Mike Townsend by surprise. He had all he could do to pull Parson down. "I told him before the game to leave me alone," Parson said with a smile. "But he kept sticking [to me]. He probably wouldn't have pulled me down if I wasn't so tired from running."

Davis, Jacksonville's desperation quarterback, called mostly running plays - he ran the ball himself five straight times - as Asher hoped he could scramble for a touchdown. Stephenson, the starting quarterback, was forced to leave when he was hit at the left knee by Gerry Philbin. His replacement, Hammond, suffered a mild concussion on a jarring tackle by John Elliott and Jerry Ellison. Davis picked up 48 yards in five carries, but completed only one of six passes for 12 yards and threw one critical interception, picked off by Lou Angelo - late in the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville scored the game's first touchdown on a two-yard run by Tommy Durrance, the game's leading rusher with 78 yards. The Stars tied the score with 2:44 remaining in the first quarter on Bob Gladieux's four yard run. Jacksonville regained the lead, 16-8, as Stephenson connected on a 56-yard pass to tight end Dennis Hughes. The Stars again pulled even, however, on a one-yard plunge by Andy Huff midway through the second quarter and Sherman's action point pass to Parson.

"The ability to come back like we did, it's great," a glowing Parilli said. "They [Jacksonville] were a big team with a big defense and we handled them."