Red Dogs looking to avoid another bad game on road tonight

05/03/02 Rapid City Journal

KEARNEY, Neb. - After taking several steps forward during last week's resounding defeat of the Wyoming Cavalry, the Rapid City Red Dogs hope to avoid taking any steps back this week against the Tri-City Diesel.

For the second time in three weeks, the Red Dogs (3-4 overall, 2-4 Pacific West Division) played nearly mistake-free football in defeats of Oklahoma and Wyoming.

In between, however, Rapid City went on the road and struggled with turnovers and special teams play in a loss to Bismarck.

Red Dog head coach Dan Maciejczak hopes to avoid any more road woes as his team heads to Kearney, Neb., to face a good Diesel club tonight.

"We play two times at home, mistake-free, good, aggressive football, but then we go on the road and blow apart," said Maciejczak, whose team kicks off against Tri-City at 6:05 p.m. MT.

"This will be a good test for us to see if we've grown a little bit and we can go on the road and beat a good team."

The Diesel (2-4, 1-2 Pacific North) sport one of the National Indoor Football League's most dangerous offenses.

Rapid City continues to lead the NIFL in total offense, averaging 254.6 yards a game, but Tri-City isn't far behind, putting up an average of 231.4 yards an outing.

Diesel running back Dale Van Housen leads the league in scoring, with 16 touchdowns and 100 points. Van Housen, who averages 41.4 rushing yards a game, has run for 13 of his TDs.

However, it is Tri-City's passing attack that worries Maciejczak as much as the running of Van Housen.

"Their offense is phenomenal," said Maciejczak. "They run the ball halfway decent when they need to, but they're a good, well-rounded football team. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best offense we've seen this season."

Diesel receiver Jermaine Brooks is tied for the NIFL lead in receptions with 36 for 282 yards and six scores. Teammate Tyrone Thomas, a former Black Hills State standout, is right on his heels with 31 snares for 345 yards and four TDs.

The one position that has been a huge question mark for Tri-City this season has been quarterback. The Diesel have had six different quarterbacks take game snaps this season.

The latest signal caller, University of Nebreaska-Kearney product Justin Coleman, found a great deal of success last week in his debut, a 51-48 loss to Sioux City. Coleman, who stands 6-foot-5, completed 23 of 31 passes for 225 yards and six TDs.

Coleman's numbers rival those put up by Red Dog quarterback Jason Murdock, who finished Rapid City's 71-51 defeat of Wyoming 15 of 22 for 196 yards and seven touchdowns.

Given the proficiency of both quarterbacks, Maciejczak is a bit worried about tonight's game turning into a high-scoring affair.

"I hate to say it, but it could turn into a little gunslinger action," he said. "We're going to have to play mistake-free football, especially on the defensive side. I think we can put points on the board. It's going to come down to our defense stopping them.

"We're going to have to be a lot smarter football team defensively and pay attention to our checks."

Rapid City's defense, which is third in the NIFL in total defense (157.0 yards allowed per game), may be without the services of defensive end Al Everett, who pulled a hamstring last week against Wyoming.

Game notes

The Tri-City Diesel and Rapid City Red Dog franchises are both owned by Lincoln, Neb., businessman Bruce Bailey. ... Rapid City is on the road again next week, playing at Sioux City on May 11 against the Pacific North leading Bandits. At 5-0, Sioux City is one of three unbeaten teams left in the NIFL. ... Next home action for the Red Dogs is on May 18 when they host Tri-City at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. ... Rapid City receiver Brian Mills is second in the league in receiving yards per game (53.7). ... Red Dog defensive lineman Mike Ninceheiser is leading the NIFL in fumbles forced with four, and linebacker Eric Rice is tied for the league lead in fumbles recovered with three ... Defensive end Andrae Rowe is tied for third in sacks with five. ... Tri-City's Jeremy Jenson and Jay Christensen are first and second in the NIFL in interceptions with nine and five, respectively. ... Former Red Dog kicker Adam Hicks is leading the NIFL in field goal percentage, having made 9 of 13 attempts (69.2 percent) for Sioux City.

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