Banged-up Storm looks to topple rival Sioux City

04/14/02 Sioux Falls Argus Leader
This past week has seen the Sioux Falls Storm receiving corp metamorphize into an almost completely new animal. Catching passes this afternoon will be (1) a recall from a team that no longer exists, (2) a guy who played pro basketball on a flyspeck island in the Mediterranean Sea and (3) a fellow best known for spazzing out on the boards after a touchdown.

As it turns out, last Sunday's destruction of Wyoming was more taxing on the Storm than anyone realized. With a small army of wideouts and running backs on the sidelines with injuries, Sioux Falls will limp down I-29 today to take on the Sioux City Bandits. The contest between the unbeaten NIFL teams begins at 3:05 p.m. at the Sioux City Auditorium.

Here's how bad it is: Of the receivers who were on the active roster last week, only Adam Syphers is scheduled to play today. And the Storm's Nos. 1 and 2 running backs - David Ruter and Damien Harmon - are both out. (Harmon is done for the season with an ACL tear.)

"For a 43-point win," Sioux Falls coach Mike Aldrich said of the triumph over the Cavalry, "we actually lost more than we gained."

To fill the void, the Storm scanned the injured-reserve list and activated Lynn Tryon, late of Hamrun Liberty Jaxa, a pro hoops team in Malta (a country off the southern coast of Italy). Sioux Falls also signed Dean Herrboldt, who played four years in the Canadian Football League and with the now-defunct Sioux Falls Cobras in 2000.

If needed, receiving assistance will also come from cornerbacks Todd Tryon, Lynn's brother, and Shannon Poppinga.

The running game is deeded to Jim Bean, who led the Storm in rushing last season but has yet to play a down this year. Yet even if the ex-Minnesota Gopher is rusty, Aldrich knows he's dependable.

"We're not quite as concerned at that spot," the coach said. "Jim runs an awful lot like Ruter does, just maybe a little shiftier and not as powerful." \While the injury bug has struck like the plague at the skill positions, the Storm's offensive line is intact and has "probably been the strongest point of our offense," Aldrich said. Quarterback Ryan Aulenbacher was involved in a minor traffic accident this week, but he is expected to start.

All of the uncertainty on offense will likely mean heaped-on pressure for the Storm defense. But that unit is healthy and soaring after last week's suffocation of Wyoming, in which Sioux Falls permitted just a field goal.

This is Aldrich's order to the defense: "The main objective is to get the ball back to the offense, and give them as many chances to score as possible."

Despite all of this week's roster jockeying, Aldrich said his players haven't lost sight of the Bandits. That's not surprising. In the two previous seasons these cities have had indoor football teams, they've met five times. And not all of the contests have been entirely civil, including last year's matchup in Sioux City that ended in a brawl.

Aldrich compared it to a rivalry between neighboring high schools. "It's kind of the same situation. A lot of these guys have played college together, either with each other or against each other. So they've known each other for quite awhile. ... There are a lot of bragging rights at stake more than anything else."

And the coach promised that the Storm's spirit is willing. But is its flesh too weak?

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