Battle of the Back-ups

June 14, 1998

Rhein Fire 34

Frankfurt Galaxy 10

Waldstadion, Frankfurt, Germany

Jim Arellanes didn't miss a beat in 
            relief of Mike Quinn.
Jim Arellanes didn't miss a beat in relief of Mike Quinn.

In the days leading up to World Bowl '98 much was made of what a great contest it would be as the two German teams battled for local bragging rights and the chance to win a championship before a huge crowd in Frankfurt.

The biggest media hype surrounded the battle between the top two passers in NFL Europe - Mike Quinn, allocated to the Fire by Pittsburgh, and Damon Huard, sent to Frankfurt for grooming by the Miami Dolphins.

That eagerly-awaited match-up never materialised as both men failed late fitness tests and were forced to watch World Bowl '98 from the sidelines, leaving Jim Arellanes to sub for Quinn and Chris Dittoe to lead the Galaxy.

And it was Arellanes who enjoyed a memorable World Bowl experience despite being told he would start the game just one hour before kickoff. The Seattle Seahawks-allocated quarterback took just two snaps in the regular season yet looked right at home on the big stage, completing 12 of 18 passes for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns as Rhein romped away with it.

While Arellanes shocked many of the 47,846 fans at the Waldstadion that day, his teammates knew he would do a good job while subbing for Quinn.

"Jim's performance was great," said Fire running back Jon Vaughn. "We had confidence in him and we knew he would do a great job. We wanted to protect him and he threw the ball really well and didn't make any mistakes."

Chicago Bears-allocated wide receiver Marcus Robinson added: "Jim was always told to be ready because he could be called upon to start at any time. He was always prepared."

Even though he knew Quinn was suffering from a bruised leg and twisted ankle, Arellanes still wasn't sure he would get the nod at World Bowl '98.

"I prepared all week like I was going to be the starter but didn't hear about it from the coach until about six o'clock. I knew there was still a chance Mike could play if he was well."

Arellanes played mistake-free football for much of the game, although he was lucky to recover four of his own first half fumbles that occurred during a massive downpour that left much of the field covered in surface water and the ball resembling a bar of slippery soap.

"It was tough to hang on to the ball on those conditions," Arellanes admitted. "I fumbled quite a few times - that was the first time I had ever played in rain like that. I tried to adjust but had a tough time. Luckily, those fumbles didn't hurt us."

Rhein jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead on Manfred Burgsmuller's 29-yard field goal and Arellanes' 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dialleo Burks. That touchdown drive featured completions of 19 and 21 yards to tight end Hayward Clay.

With the field covered in water, the Galaxy attempted to get back into the game by using their ground attack. Jermaine Chaney ripped off gains of 13 and 17 yards before Dittoe hit Mario Bailey for a 13-yard gain at the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second, Dittoe completed a further three short passes before Chaney scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to pull the hometown Galaxy to within three.

Arellanes set about regaining control of the game late in the half and fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to Burks, who made an excellent sliding catch in the end zone, giving the Fire a 17-7 lead at the break.

Frankfurt made a brighter start to the second half and were soon in scoring range after Chaney gained 28 yards on a run and another 15 were tacked on for a face mask penalty against DB Tim Denton. But Fire DE Mike Croel stuffed Chaney for a 6-yard loss and the drive stalled, forcing the Galaxy to settle for Ralf Kleinmann's 41-yard field goal.

Fire offensive linemen celebrate their win.
Fire offensive linemen celebrate their win.

Rhein didn't allow the Galaxy any thoughts of a comeback for too long. Arellanes went deep to Robinson and the Bears star grabbed the inch-perfect pass and sprinted away for a 74-yard touchdown that effectively broke the Galaxy's backs.

Robinson, who caught 2 passes for 114 yards, said: "I hope (Chicago coach) Dave Wannstedt was watching today. I was able to make some big plays and as a team we were able to do what we wanted to do."

After Burgsmuller added another field goal, Vaughn rubbed salt into the Galaxy wounds by scoring on a 15-yard touchdown run with 1:53 remaining. Vaughn rushed for 89 yards, while Derrick Clark added 69 yards to show they had a running game to go with the passing of Arellanes.

By being named MVP, Arellanes clearly won the battle of the back-ups, but Dittoe was dignified in defeat.

"I would like to congratulate Jim Arellanes," Dittoe said. "We were in the same situation but he came in and did a great job. I prepared hard but we couldn't really get anything going."

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