Week 4 Game Preview: NY/NJ HITMEN (0-3) @ CHICAGO ENFORCERS (0-3)



Saturday, February 24, 2001 – 8:00 p.m. (ET) 
Soldier Field 
TV: NBC (Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura) 


After suffering another heart-breaking loss to the Orlando Rage, 18-12, the Hitmen travel to Soldier Field seeking its first win of the season. NY/NJ let a 12-3 lead slip away late in the game. 
This week, the Hitmen will turn to QB Wally Richardson to jump-start an offense that has been averaging only eight points a game, as Charles Puleri goes to the bench. Last week in the second half, Richardson guided NY/NJ on a 12-play, 74-yard fourth-quarter touchdown drive to build a 12-3 edge against Orlando. Look for Richardson to drop back and pass more this week. In two quarters of play, Richardson completed 10-of-19 passes for 126 yards and rushed for a team-high 30 yards.

Fullback Michael Blair returns to the second city to play in front of his family and friends. Born and raised in Chicago, Blair attended Thornwood High School in South Holland, Ill., where he rushed for 1,200 yards and racked up 1,800 all-purpose yards as a senior. Safety Donnie Caldwell (Western Illinois) and tight end Bob Rosensteil (Eastern Illinois) also boast ties to the Land of Lincoln. 

Cornerback Damen Wheeler is quickly establishing himself as one of the premier ball hawks in the XFL following his second interception in as many weeks vs. Orlando. Wheeler also sports what is arguably the largest afro hairstyle in the league. 

Hitmen Linebacker Ron Merkerson (a.k.a “Big Merk”) exhibited toughness and a nose for the football that reminds fans of the middle linebackers of the 60s and 70s. Merkerson is one of the steadiest performers for a Hitmen defensive squad that ranks second in the XFL against the pass. An equally devastating run stopper, Merkerson posted double digit tackles (10) for the second time in three games. Among his seven solo stops were a pair of tackles for loss and a quarterback sack. Merkerson’s 25 tackles rank him second among XFL defensive players. 

After being on the road for the first three weeks of the XFL season, the Enforcers look for their first win in front of the home crowd at Soldier Field. 

In three road losses, the Enforcers are averaging 21 points per game, while allowing 28 points a game on defense. 
XFL leading rusher John Avery has proved in three weeks to be one of the XFL’s premier players. In only three games, Avery has 497 total all-purpose yards for an average of 165.7 yards per game. On the season, he has 313 yards rushing (first in the XFL) and 184 yards receiving (6th in the XFL). He also leads the Enforcers with four touchdowns (2 rushing, 2 receiving). 

Although QB Tim Lester has played in only three professional games, he has completed 35-63 (55.6%) of his passes this season. In the XFL, Lester ranks fourth in passing yards (527), fourth in passing accuracy and fourth in TDs (4). 
Wide Receiver Aaron Bailey leads the XFL in yards per reception with a 26.4 yards average on seven catches. In addition, he has rushed the ball once for 40 yards. Against Birmingham, Bailey had five catches for 89 yards. Against the LA Xtreme, he had a 50-yard reception on the first play of the game to set up Chicago’s first touchdown and also had a 46-yard TD reception in the second quarter. 

After a breakout performance against LA (six tackles, four for a loss, two sacks), DE Aaron Humphrey followed that with a team best 11 tackles against the Bolts. He is fourth in the XFL in tackles with 22 and is tied for third in the league in sacks with two. 

Running Back John Avery will be featured on four billboards throughout Chicago this week promoting the Enforcers first-ever home game. 

[Hitmen at Enforcers | Bolts at Rage | Outlaws at Demons | Maniax at Xtreme]

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