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Shaw Works Quickly for Avengers

He scores twice in 10 seconds to key 45-34 victory over Colorado. L.A. clinches first-round bye in playoffs.

May 11, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Before he returned last week, Russell Shaw of the Avengers missed eight games because of a sprained ankle.

The speedy wide receiver and defensive back showed he had recovered by making two key plays in the final 10 seconds of the first half to key the Avengers' 45-34 victory over the Colorado Crush on Saturday night before 13,481 at Staples Center.

The Avengers (11-4) clinched a first-round playoff bye and will host a quarterfinal on May 31 or June 1.

If the Avengers win next Saturday at San Jose, and Tampa Bay loses one of its next two games, the Avengers will secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"We needed that," said Shaw, who played at Locke High, El Camino College and for Michigan's 1997 national championship team. "I was just trying to come through for the team. Whatever it takes."

Shaw was put on the injured list after the Avengers' fifth game. Last week, he said he worked off some rust by catching two passes for 17 yards and a touchdown in a victory at Arizona.

On Saturday, he was moving at full speed when he scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass play with 10 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Before he got a chance to catch his breath, he returned a missed field-goal attempt 56 yards for a touchdown as time expired. It was the Avengers' first kick return for a touchdown this season.

"Our coaches were harping on us all week about not having one," Shaw said.

Shaw's return tied the Avenger record for longest play in franchise history, but the distinction was short-lived. Defensive back Cornelius Coe equaled the mark by returning an interception 56 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

Avenger quarterback Tony Graziani completed 14 of 25 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Offensive specialist Chris Jackson caught four passes for 87 yards, but he was held without a touchdown for the first time in his 48 Arena league games.

Colorado (2-13) began the game with the second-worst record in league, ahead of only winless Carolina.

The Avengers still regarded the Crush as a threat because Colorado upset Tampa Bay, 49-45, on the road on April 20, and took the Avengers and Arizona into overtime.

The Avengers beat Colorado, 59-53, on a 21-yard pass from Graziani to Greg Hopkins on Feb. 16.

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In another Arena Football League game, Jim Kubiak completed 22 of 30 passes for 260 yards and six touchdowns as the Dallas Desperados (9-6) beat the Georgia Force (8-7), 56-55, in Duluth, Ga.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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