Battered Diesel look for healing win over Beef
05/10/02 Kearney Cyberhub
KEARNEY — With the 5-1 Omaha Beef coming to town it's no time for the Tri-City Diesel to be licking their wounds.
But that's exactly what the Diesel have been forced to do following a 44-42 home loss to Rapid City last Friday.
"It's definitely a big ball game for us," Tri-City coach Leland Skeen said. "This is the first time a Nebraska team has come in here, and it's an important divisional game.
"We felt we had a good chance to beat them the first time we played down there. We certainly played well enough to win."
But thanks to a rash of injuries the Diesel (2-5) will sport a new look this time around.
The list of pain starts with quarterback Justin Coleman, but it doesn't end there.
Coleman broke two bones in his left hand while being sandwiched by a trio of Red Dog defenders late in the second half. Skeen said the former University of Nebraska at Kearney standout would be fitted with a special glove and is expected to start against the Beef.
However, the majority of Coleman's targets are not as lucky.
Tyrone Thomas will miss 4-6 weeks, at best, with ligament damage in his knee. Fellow starting receiver Jermaine Brooks is fighting a high ankle sprain that qualifies him for the infamous "questionable" status.
With Dale Van Housen (broken collarbone) and David Stricklin (pinched nerve) already on the sidelines, Skeen knows it will be tough for the Diesel to snap their three-game losing skid.
"It becomes a virus after awhile," he said. "It sticks around and sticks around, and the players start thinking about it. There is some frustration setting in, but winning is good medicine for that."
The source of much of Tri-City's frustration stems from turnovers in the kicking game.
Cornerback/return man Jimmy Moore has coughed up crucial fumbles in the last two games in which the Diesel lost by a total of five points. The problem is that Moore is one of the most explosive return men in the National Indoor Football League.
"It's kind of a Catch-22 situation," Skeen said. "And our problem is that we can't catch the ball.
"It just seems like we have been shooting ourselves in the foot. We have had the right strategies going into the game, but we just haven't got the job done."
In an effort to right the wrongs, the Diesel will send as many as three players back to return kicks. Moore will be joined by running backs Sherman Jones and Andre Hatchet on kick returns.
"I don't want to take Jimmy out of there totally" Skeen said. "But I would rather give up five yards of field position and keep the ball."
The Diesel can't afford to throw away possessions against an Omaha team that scored 53 points in a lopsided win over Oklahoma last weekend.
The Beef have suffered their share of injuries as well, and are now relying on third-string quarterback Tory Veland.
"We want him to throw the ball," Skeen said. "That may sound kind of stupid since we haven't defended the pass very well this season. But we feel like he is more dangerous on the ground."
Skeen is also worried about the Tri-City Arena being transformed into a party house by rabid Beef fans.
"They will bring a boat load of people down," he said. "There is a good chance that there will be as many Omaha fans there as we had show up last week. … I hope that doesn't happen."