The Charlotte Observer

October 18, 1975

By Richard Sink

Hornets Defense Test Bell

PHILADELPHIA - Will it again be Charlotte's opportunistic defense versus the Philadelphia Bell's multifaceted offense to decide tonight's World Football League game in storied Franklin Field?

Kickoff is 7:30 in the old 60,000 seat stadium, which will be mostly empty in the chilly, damp evening as the Hornets seek their third straight triumph and forth road win in seven trips.

They have won four of their last six games, and in each victory, their defense has played a major role.

It started with a 10-0 blanking of the Bell in the rain and gunk of Charlotte's Memorial Stadium on Sept. 6.

The next week, cornerback Larry Shears swiped two of his team-high four interceptions, and middle linebacker Marty Huff laid a bone-jarring tackle on a Southern Cal runner as the defense twice stymied the Sun a yard away from a potential tying score in the last seconds.

Following Charlotte losses by six and seven points, the defense greatly aided a 39-14 win at Shreveport. Linebacker Tom Chandler blocked a field goal and cornerback Sonny hicks ran the ball into easy TD-driving distance; linebacker Jere Brown picked off his second pass of the season, plus another one on an action point; safety Randy Rhino ran his second theft a WFL record - 84 yards; and end Jerry Ellison blocked a punt, with end Denis Turner trucking the ball 10 yards for a TD.

Last week's 22-15 conquest of Jacksonville was highlighted by fumble-provoking tackles by Shears and Huff, recoveries by safety Ike Thomas and Rhino, interceptions by Thomas and Chandler and a sack by Ellison. The defense limited Alfred Haywood, the WFL's fourth leading rusher, to 43 yards and the Express runners to 86 in all.

Now, after their season-low rushing yield, the Hornets face a supposedly healthy J.J. Jennings, one of three WFL payers of the year with Memphis in 1974; Claude Watts, the WFL player of the week two weeks ago for his three-TD, 111-yard rushing performance; and John Land, the only member of the Bell backfield in the WFL top 10 in rushing.

"WHEN THE OFFENSE is not getting something done, we've been compensating defensively," said Thomas, the current WFL player of the week for his 92-yard kickoff return, fumble recovery and second pass interception of the year. He's the first WFL defensive player to be so honored.

"The offense compensates for the defense and the defense compensates for the offense - that's the making of a good team."

The Hornets defense is second in the WFL against the score, fourth against the pass, seven over-all, eighth against the rush and, oddly, last in pass defense, yet, no WFL team has allowed fewer TD passes.

If there's a question mark, it's in recurring nagging injuries to Greg Lens and David Douglas, the interior of the line.

Offensively, Molly McGee and John Sykes should again spell Lewis Jolley and Don Highsmith as running backs and Darrell Bunge has returned from seeing his ailing father in Minnesota. Rookie Greg Dubinetz, a starter for Bunge last week at right guard, was waived and with versatile newcomers and Dave Margavage playing well in the line, there'll be no new Hornet faces on the roster for the first time this season.

"WE THINK we are as good as any club in the WFL," Coach Bob Gibson says of his 6-4 Hornets. "Our club is playing with confidence.

"Philadelphia is better coached now than when we saw them before. Bill McPeak (former Washington coach) is there running the offense, and (Willie) Wood has taken out a lot of (former head coach) Ron Wallers' plays, but not all. He made them a lot sounder."

The word around the league on the Bell, only 3-7, is that its multitude of offensive formation aren't beneficial. When the players are clicking, the team scores 39 or 42 points as in two of its last six games; when they aren't clicking, the club scores 0, 10 (twice) or 13, as in the other four games. The Bell, quarterbacked by Bob Davis, is last in the league in scoring.

The Philly defensive unit has tried to compensate with the WFL's top-ranked pass rush and secondary and No. 2 over-all defense, but is only seventh against the score and ninth against the run. Wake Forest rookie Steve Colavito leads with 130 tackles, including 17 unassisted and 11 assisted in a 25-10 loss to Portland.

Last week the Bell fell, 14-3, at Hawaii when tackle Karl Lorch went 41 yards with an interception for a go-ahead TD and Bob Cooper's 19-yard field goal with 12 seconds left was blocked. Cooper had set a WFL record the week before with four field goals in a game.