Lincoln provides stern test for Storm
05/11/02 Sioux Falls Journal
Healthier than it's been in weeks and more rested than it's been in months, the Sioux Falls Storm begins a two-game home stand tonight on which its season might very well turn. For better or for worse.
The hard part comes first, as Sioux Falls welcomes the Lincoln Capitols to the Arena tonight at 7:05. The Storm takes the field after a bye week while the Capitols are cruising after a win over the previously unbeaten Sioux City Bandits last Saturday.
Whatever the outcome, it shouldn't be swayed by outside forces. The Storm's epidemic of injuries seems to have subsided, with wideout Chad Gomarko and running back David Ruter expected to make their returns tonight. Sioux Falls also signed wide receiver Matt Holmlund, a two-time All-American at Augustana.
"That gives us a lot of freedom to do things offensively," Storm coach Mike Aldrich said. "... We just keep reloading, putting some more silver bullets in our gun."
It won't be easy to slay Lincoln. Its offense is constructed around running back/wideout Damon Benning, a University of Nebraska standout during the mid-to-late '90s. The Capitols use a variety of methods to get the ball to the 1996 Orange Bowl MVP.
"They'll throw to him, hand it to him, kick returns - all that stuff," Aldrich said. "So we'll have to watch for all that."
But in last week's victory over Sioux City, the Capitols' most productive player wasn't Benning, but Rayshawn Askew, who piled up 61 ground yards. While Lincoln will throw the ball, Aldrich said his team's top priority is stopping the run.
The last time Ruter played, no one could stop him. In an early-April thrashing of Wyoming, the University of Sioux Falls alum powered his way to 87 yards - including an NIFL-record 48-yard carry.
But on that record-setting scamper, Ruter injured his knee. All throughout his convalescence, Sioux Falls handled the injury with caution - and still does. Aldrich said there's still a chance Ruter will sit out today's game, too.
"We're not going to play him unless he's 100 percent," Aldrich said. "If he's 85, 90 percent, we're not going to play him."
No such worries surround Gomarko, who is inked in the Storm's depth chart. He has been out with a concussion, which he sustained on a brutal hit against Billings on March 24.
The reactivation of Ruter and Gomarko has left just five players on Sioux Falls' injury list. So the bye week seems to have served its purpose.
"It gave our guys two weeks to let everything heal without have that constant pounding on the turf," Aldrich said. "This time of year, that's really nice."
The Storm will be home next Saturday as well, playing host to the Bismarck (N.D.) Roughriders.