New York Newsday

August 8, 1974

By Joe Donnelly

Stars Ride the Defense to Victory

Anaheim - The Stars were more than 3,000 miles from home, but the shouting from behind the closed doors of their locker room was typically New York. "DEE-fense, DEE-fense!" the Stars were hollering after their 11-8 victory over the Southern California Sun. Knicks' fans have been chanting it for years. Mets' fans have to think it. Now it was the Stars; turn.

It certainly wasn't the offense that generated the Stars' third victory in five games before an announced crowd of 28,174 (a claim of 27,873 paid). Stars' coach Babe Parilli acknowledged the debt his offense owes the defense with his opening comment.

After a sigh of relief, Parilli said, "The offense put a lot of pressure on the defense and the offense owes the defense a lot of playing time because of it. It was a tough one. We did it in spite of all our mistakes. We're a better team than this. The best thing I can say is that we won."

The Stars came into the game as the World Football League's second most potent offensive team and first in rushing. Not anymore. They fumbled the opening kickoff and six other times, losing the ball four times. They only got 53 plays to the Sun's 74. But other than the opening two minutes, the defense dug in and carried the team last night.

After Jim Ford fumbled the opening kickoff and Alonzo Emery of the Sun recovered on the Stars 39-yard line, New York was down, 8-0, one minute and 50 seconds into the game. On the Sun's second play from scrimmage, quarterback Tony Adams hit Ike Harris with a pass on the four-yard line. The wide receiver, who beat Stars' safety Lou Angelo on the play, carried it in from there.

It was an uphill fight for the Stars and only their defense kept it from being too steep. "They've got a good defense," said losing coach Tom Fears, especially three down lineman - [Gerry] Philbin, [John] Elliott and [Lloyd] Voss."

Fears had mentioned the three veterans with 29 collective seasons of pro ball. The trio was effective but the Star on defense singled out for a game ball by his teammates was rookie James Sims. The left linebacker was all over the field and drew credit for nine tackles, including two sacks of quarterback Adams that cost the Sun 23 yards.

Parilli is high on the 195-pound Sims. "He was a strong safety originally," the coach said. "He was a little anxious on play action back there because he likes to hit. So we put him up (two games ago) where he could hit."

Kermit Johnson, the fine rookie running back for the Sun who gouged 137 yards in 30 carries, felt the toughness of Sims often. "For his size he has a lot of guts," Johnson said. "He's an all-out football player."

The other game ball the Stars voted went to Bert Askson, the tight end who caught the winning touchdown pass from Tom Sherman. That didn't come until the fourth quarter though. Until then, the Stars banked on their defense.

The Stars fumbled five times in the first half, losing it three times. "I'm ashamed of that," Parilli said. The Stars finally scored points on the last play of the first half when Moses Lajterman kicked a 32-yard field goal from the 22-yard line.

Down 8-3 going into their locker room, the Stars should have considered themselves fortunate. The Sun is still looking for a field-goal kicker. Moses made his one for New York but the home team missed all three it tried.

"We're still looking for kickers," said Fears, who tried out Nick Dzepina earlier this week and hired him for last night. That could be the extent of it. Dzepina was wide, short and everywhere else but between the goal posts. "We've yet to kick our first field goal [of the season]," moaned Fears. "We looked at seven people this past week. Seriously"

It didn't appear that life without a kicker would harm the Sun. The Stars came out for the second half and on their first chance to handle the ball, Bob Hermanni fumbled a Sun punt and Southern California took over on the Stars' 17-yard line.

The Stars held, Dzepina missed again and finally in the fourth quarter, New York put together its touchdown drive. It went 86 yards in seven plays and the scoring play, at 5:41 into the fourth quarter, covered the last 40 yards.

With a third down and two yards to go situation on the Sun 40, Parilli sent in tight end Askson with a special play designed for him. "We had worked on that play all week from the power I formation," the coach said. "We hadn't used it in the game. We fake the power play off tackle to [Bob] Gladieux and throw deep to the tight end. We saved it for that short-yardage situation. We hoped they would defense the off-tackle play and they did."

Askson caught quarterback Tom Sherman's pass on the Sun 10 and took it into the end zone. "We had worked on that play and I knew it would work," said Askson. It was also his first game ball in the pros.

"That [the ball] I'm sending to my first cousin," he said. "I also kept the one I caught for the touchdown. That one goes to my mother. They stuck by me and believed in me." Askson, who was a defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970 and ‘71, but was cut in '72, switched to tight end last season with the New Orleans Saints.

After he scored, the Stars turned the game back to their defense. Sims and his 10 teammates had been doing the job all night. Now they finished it.