Sharks look to clinch homefield in postseason

06/29/02 Lake Charles American Press

The Lake Charles LandSharks regular season finale at Houma became a lot more important.

The National Indoor Football League ruled this week that Ohio Valley's suspended week two game at Winston-Salem was a forfeit for the Greyhounds. That opens the door for the LandSharks to win homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Previously the LandSharks knew they had a home playoff opener clinched but it looked like hosting the Atlantic Conference Champion-ship was out of reach.

"This means a lot," LandSharks coach Kip Texada said. "We can secure homefield if we win. But our guys wanted to win out all along. With the rain and everything, they've been practicing really hard all week."

Ohio Valley (11-1, 6-1 Atlantic North) never made it to the Winston-Salem game, the season opener for both teams, when one of its team buses was involved in an accident. The teams were unable to reschedule the game.

Tina Johnson, in charge of operations for the NIFL, made the final ruling that Ohio Valley got the loss and Winston-Salem was awarded the win because Winston-Salem was the home team and Ohio Valley never arrived to the game.

"(Ohio Valley) protested to the executive committee, but they did not overturn the ruling," Johnson said.

Lake Charles (12-1, 5-0 Atlantic South), which had been playing for several weeks thinking the tiebreaker could come down to points scored, now owns the tiebreaker if both teams finish with one loss because the LandSharks loss was not to a division opponent.

Being top seed in the Atlantic Division might mean a tougher first round opponent however. If the playoffs began today, the LandSharks would host the Tennessee Thundercats, the only team to have beaten Lake Charles this season.

Atlantic South foe Houma is coming off a 58-15 win over Enid last week, but was still eliminated from playoff contention. The Bayou Bucks (5-7, 2-3) fell to Lake Charles 37-16 in the April 27 meeting between the teams.

"They'll come out and try to run against us," Texada said. "Some teams that play against us probably think they would have an easier time running on us than throwing."

That probably has a lot to do with defensive lineman Kendall Shello breathing down the quarterback's neck every time he drops back to pass. But moreso than sacks, Shello has provided leadership and a late spark to a team that faded at the end of the season last year.

"These guys want to win and Kendall has been a very vocal leader all the way," Texada said. "He's always saying to his teammates, 'we're not going to have a letdown,' and 'we want to keep being the best,' He's a great leader on the field."

The LandSharks are having more players each week to put on the field after being plagued by midseason injuries.

Defensive back Warren St. Junious will return Saturday, while defensive back Anthony Porter remains questionable. Running back Byron Allen has had the cast removed from his wrist and has been practicing. He will sit out the season finale, but should be expected to play in two weeks when the LandSharks host a first round playoff game.

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