August 28, 2016

1974: Efficient Adams Leads Sun to Win Against Storm

The Southern California Sun were at 4-3 and leading the World Football League’s Western Division as they faced the winless Portland Storm, who had a 0-6-1 record, on August 28, 1974 in the eighth week of the first WFL season.

The Sun were coached by Tom Fears, a former Hall of Fame player for the Rams and, more recently, the first head coach of the New Orleans Saints. They had good luck in signing draft choices, most notably HB Kermit Johnson and FB James McAlister from UCLA and OT Booker Brown of USC. They also had a fair sprinkling of quality veterans such as WR Dave Williams and OT Joe Carollo, while unheralded QB Tony Adams (pictured above) was proving to be a pleasant surprise guiding the offense. Southern California had won its last two contests and was trying to build its lead in the division. However, the Sun was without McAlister, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Greg “Buffalo” Herd, due to a thigh injury as well as Booker Brown.

Portland had been the last franchise to enter the WFL and was guided by Head Coach Dick Coury. QB Greg Barton had CFL experience and replaced rookie Ken Johnson, who suffered a broken hand in the opening week. Running backs Rufus “Road Runner” Ferguson and Marv Kendricks were talented but the team had difficulty producing points, reaching 20 in a game only once thus far.

There were 27,814 fans in attendance at Anaheim Stadium on a Wednesday night. The Sun started off the scoring following a turnover when DT Charles DeJurnett forced Marv Kendricks of the Storm to fumble at the Portland 41 on the game’s second play.  Four plays later, Tony Adams threw to Dave Williams for a 28-yard touchdown. The pass for the action point was unsuccessful (In the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and were followed by an action point that could not be kicked).

Late in the opening period, Adams tossed another TD pass, this time to WR Terry Lindsey covering 37 yards, and although the action point attempt again failed, the home team held a 14-0 advantage.

Heading into the second quarter, Portland came back with a 61-yard drive that culminated in Greg Barton connecting with TE Bob Christiansen, who was free in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown. A throw for the action point was no good. But the Sun quickly advanced to another score, helped by a pass interference penalty near the goal line, and HB Ralph Nelson pounded over from a yard out for another TD. Once again the try for the action point was unsuccessful, but it hardly mattered. On Portland’s next play from scrimmage, CB Gene Howard intercepted a Barton pass and returned it 44 yards for another touchdown and this time the action point was added thanks to an Adams toss to Williams that put Southern California well in front by a 29-7 score.

On the final play of the first half, Adams added to the home team’s lead by finishing off a long drive of 92 yards in 16 plays with an 11-yard completion to Williams, and the two once again connected for the action point. The halftime score stood at 37-7 and Adams took a seat for the remainder of the contest. 

Southern California’s backup QB Gary Valbuena helped to pile on to the home team’s lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter when he threw to Lindsey along the right sideline and, when the defender dove and missed, he ran 26 yards for another TD. Nelson ran for the action point and the crowd began heading for the exits.

The Storm finally scored again when a Barton pass intended for WR Jim Krieg drew a pass interference penalty of 33 yards to the Southern California two and, three plays later, Kendricks drove over right tackle for a one-yard touchdown. QB Ken Johnson ran a bootleg to add the action point. It counted for nothing more than pride as the Sun came away with a convincing 45-15 win.

The Sun outpaced Portland in total yards (394 to 233) and first downs (22 to 15). The Storm turned the ball over twice to one suffered by Southern California.

Tony Adams, in his half of action, completed 12 of 13 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns while Gary Valbuena, in mop-up duty, was 8 of 14 for 77 yards and a TD. HB Alonzo Emery gained 40 yards on 7 carries while, in his relief appearance, Greg Herd (pictured at right) rushed for 31 yards on 8 attempts and caught an eight-yard pass. Dave Williams had 6 catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Lindsey gained 86 yards on his three pass receptions. MLB Eric Patton and DT Dave Roller performed notably well on defense.

For the Storm, Greg Barton was successful on 8 of 15 throws for 57 yards and a TD while giving up one interception. Rufus Ferguson was held to 31 yards on 13 carries and led the club in pass receiving with three for 50 yards.

“They’re an excellent team,” said Portland’s Coach Coury of the Sun. “They have good talent, good receivers, and they executed very well.”

The Sun lost the following week but then reeled off seven straight wins on the way to easily topping the Western Division with a 13-7 record. However, they also encountered financial problems and the star rookies Johnson, McAlister, and Brown chose to sit out the playoff game against the Hawaiians, which the demoralized club lost. As for Portland, the Storm finally won the next week against the Detroit Wheels, the first of four victories in five games, and finished the season at 7-12-1.

Tony Adams was named one of the WFL’s three co-MVPs as he led the league in passing yards (3905) and finished second in attempts (510), completions (276), and yards per attempt (7.7). He was also a first-team All-WFL selection by The Sporting News and moved on to the NFL in 1975, where he spent four seasons primarily as a backup with the Kansas City Chiefs before moving on to Canada.