Storm's injury bug rests this week

04/20/02 Sioux Falls Storm
Receivers Walker, Buchholtz return for Tri-City game

This week, Mike Aldrich has spent substantially less time worrying about ligaments, concussions and on-the-prowl suitors from the Arena Football League. It's been a novel week for the Sioux Falls Storm coach - football has been his main concern.

The return of Corey Walker and Josh Buchholtz has provided the Storm's wideout corp with a needed injection of health and experience. Aldrich hopes that will help his club rebound from its first loss of the season, as the Storm plays host to the Tri-City Diesel of Kearney, Neb., this evening at 7:05 p.m. (It's Sioux Falls' first Saturday night game at the Arena this season.)

Buchholtz has missed the last three games with injuries while Walker was in California last week, trying out for the AFL's Los Angeles Avengers. But Buchholtz health has improved and the Avengers took a pass, for now, on Walker - so the Storm has two of its opening-day starters back.

"Wednesday was a big day for us, to see if Corey was coming back and making sure Buchholtz would be healthy to play," Aldrich said. "So once we got both those guys back on board, it was a very good day for us - probably one of our best days in the past couple weeks."

No such news at the running back spot, where starter David Ruter is expected to sit out the next two contests with a knee strain. Jim Bean and Joe Evenson will handle the ground game in his absence.

But even after last week's minus-20 yards of rushing, don't expect the Storm to shy away from handoffs.

"If we just want to run straight at (Tri-City), we honestly believe that we've probably got the best offensive line in the league," Aldrich said. "We just have to make sure we know where the one unaccounted defender is."

The Diesel, 2-2, is coming off a 48-41 shootout victory over the Wyoming Cavalry. Quarterback Justin Coleman went 25-for-41 for 309 yards in that game.

Coleman is a deadly passer. Two years ago while at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, he was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, given to the top Division II player. After playing with the AFL's Chicago Rush last season, he returned to Kearney and joined the Diesel.

While Tri-City puts the game in Coleman's hands, its passing game does have a conservative bent.

"They're more methodical," Aldrich said. "They like to throw the 7-yard curl patterns and try to work themselves down the field."

From a strictly psychological standpoint, this is a key game for the Storm. Like last season, Sioux Falls won its first four games this year before falling to Sioux City last week. In 2001, the season-opening win streak was followed by a deluge of six consecutive losses.

But Aldrich sees differences in this team. Last year's losing streak was explained away with excuses - not so this time.

"When we lost (in 2001), it was more like, 'Well, that's BS. We're better than them,' " Aldrich said. "It was more about making excuses then looking for answers.

"Now, we know we lost and we basically got our butt kicked," he added. "... So we've come back to practice and the guys have really focused on the little things. We know we need to improve."

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