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Hitmen Eliminate Demons with Pass Rush, Big Plays

News Courtesy of the San Francisco Demons

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – In true hitman style, the Demons’ chances of taking control of the Western Division race in the XFL were rubbed out by New York/New Jersey’s furious pass rush led by defensive end Dwayne Sabb and quarterback Wally Richardson’s timely passing.

The Hitmen harassed San Francisco quarterback Pat Barnes to the tune of two turnovers and four quarterback sacks and salted away a 20-12 victory in the final quarter with a 44-yard march that was greatly aided by a 32-yard penalty for pass interference on Demons’ cornerback Dwayne Harper.

According to San Francisco Coach Jim Skipper, it was questionable at best. There was no question, however, that it was a fatal bullet.

“Pass interference is a fifty-fifty call anyway,” said Skipper. “You keep your fingers crossed and hope the official will keep the flag in his pocket when it’s close like that. From my viewpoint, he shouldn’t have called it.”

Harper went up for the pass for intended for Kirby Dar Dar at San Francisco’s 2 with under seven minutes remaining. There was contact, but the pass was too high for either player in Skipper’s estimation.

Tailback Joe Aska scored on the next play and to give the Hitmen an eight-point lead with 5:55 left. It was the equivalent of depositing the Demons in San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco scored in the game’s first three minutes when Jimmy Cunningham cruised 63 yards with a punt return. It was a good way to start for the Demons, who possess a high-powered offense and a league-leading defense.

New York/New Jersey then opened its bag of trick plays in an admitted act of an underdog and it gave the Hitmen life. Receiver Zola Davis started on a reserve then pitched a perfect pass to a wide-open Dar Dar who streaked the rest of the way on a 74-yard play to produce a 7-6 lead the Hitmen would not relinquish.

“Desperate teams do desperate things,” said NY/NJ Coach Rusty Tillman. “We just to do something to get this offense rolling.”

Richardson engineered to other touchdown drives and consummated one of them with a two-yard toss to fullback Mike Archie to give New York/New Jersey a 14-6 halftime bulge. On the 55-yard march, Aska ripped on an 11-yard gain and Richardson hit tight ends Bob Rosenstiel and Ryan Collins with big throw to fuel the drive.

San Francisco fought back into the game with Barnes’ eight-yard strike to Travis Moore with 11:40 to go at 14-12 and stopped the Hitmen on their next possession. But when the Demons couldn’t move, Mike Panasuk’s 10-yard punt put the Hitmen in good field position and they converted.

The Demons were limited to a season low 216 yards of total offense and Barnes was sacked four times for 30 yards, twice by Sabb who also forced Pat to fumble and recovered it himself.

“A quarterback has to get into a rhythm and sometimes he’s harassed and pressured and that doesn’t happen,” Skipper said. “That’s what happened to Pat today.”

Skipper said Mike Pawlawski, who was leading the XFL in passing through four weeks until he was sidelined with a neck injury, will return to the Demons’ starting role as soon as he’s ready.

“As a general rule, a guy doesn’t lose his job because of an injury,” the head coach added. “If he’s ready to go, Mike’s the quarterback.”

The Hitmen won for only the second time in six games this season and are still very much in the race for the playoffs in the Eastern Division. The Demons, who dropped to 3-3, and trail Los Angeles (4-2) in the West, play three of their final four games on the road.

The Demons start their road show next week at Chicago Sunday night. After hosting Memphis in the home finale (Saturday, March 24), San Francisco completes the season at Las Vegas and Los Angeles in April.

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