Originally created 06/28/02

Stop! Thief



After letting an interception slip through his hands earlier in the game, LaVar Rainey thought it was over.

Rainey's five-game interception streak was in jeopardy when Columbus got the ball back with five seconds left in Augusta's 67-51 win Friday night. Then, the Stallions' defensive specialist caught a break.

Columbus' Billy Luckie floated a rainbow pass toward the end zone. Rainey leaped high and caught the ball as the buzzer sounded. The streak survived.

"The streak is going to end one day," said Rainey, who will try to extend his interception streak to seven games when Augusta plays at Roanoke at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

"If it doesn't (end), it's just better for me. But as long as we come away with the win I'm happy."

Wins have come easy for Augusta (10-1) as Rainey as emerged into one of the top defenders in arenafootball2 this season. With nine picks, including eight in the past six games, Rainey ranks third in the league in interceptions. But he thinks he's being shorted.

In the season opener at Jacksonville, Rainey said he got his first interception. However, offensive specialist Undre Williams, who hasn't played defense this season, was credited with the pick.

But the incorrect number of interceptions doesn't aggravate him as much missed opportunities.

"I've probably missed about 10 picks that went through my hands," he said.

Rainey is tied for the league lead in fumbles recovered (four) is sixth in passes defended (27) and 11th in tackles (55). But the most incredible accomplishment for the 5-10, 183-pound Rainey has been the interception streak.

After intercepting two passes against Carolina on May 18, Rainey picked off two more against Charleston the following week. Then, he added interceptions against Macon, Jacksonville and Columbus.

"Some of them are great plays and some of them are the result of defensive pressure on the quarterback," Stallions coach Mike Hold said. "But he's definitely the key to our defense in the middle."

One of the keys to the streak's longevity, Rainey said, has been the play of Augusta's defensive line.

"Every now and then he'll jump up and tell us he needs (an interception)," lineman Clarence Williams said. "So we try and give a good rush. He's doing a good job back there and we can't ask any more from him."

Rainey is taking up where he left off at Georgia Southern. A member of two national championship squads in 1999 and 2000, Rainey made a big difference for the Eagles. In 2000, he had a team-high 10 pass break-ups, five interceptions and 64 tackles.

"We had a great coach (Paul Johnson) at Georgia Southern and he really instilled winning," Rainey said. "It's not OK to lose. But when you do lose, you have to come back in the next five, six games and really knock your opponent down."

It took Rainey six games this season to figure out how to pick opponents off. He said the jump to arenafootball2 wasn't as easy as reading a quarterback.

"The game is a lot harder than college, because it's faster and the field is more condensed," Rainey said. "The quarterback gets rid of the ball real fast. He doesn't have time to sit back in the pocket and pick people apart.

"If you can cover a receiver in this league you should be able to cover a receiver at any level. In the NFL, (receivers) may have a little bit more speed. But we have guys in arena2 running just as fast as those guys."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.