BlueCats looking for help in home opener
03/26/03 Jeff Gregory
It was a familiar setting; mid March in an Indiana arena with fans screaming encouragement from rafter to rafter. In keeping with the script, the game came down to the final possession with the crowd celebrating a one-point victory for the home team.
March madness? Yes. College basketball? No. The state unveiled a new brand of Hoosier Hysteria as the Evansville BlueCats lost a heartbreaker at the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum against that city’s beloved Freedom. According to the Journal Gazette, the 9,162 in attendance set an NIFL record. The home team was the benefactor as they were on the up side of the 41-40 cliffhanger.
The BlueCats were in a good position to ruin the evening for the Freedom and their loyal contingent, but a fierce pass rush was enough for the Fort Wayne to stave off an Evansville victory. The bitter pill of defeat was washed down by a disappointing kicking game and a key injury to OL giant Seth Morris. Evansville was zero for three in extra point attempts. The math is simple enough to figure that a successful kicking game could have meant the difference between victory and defeat. The 6’10, 360 lbs Morris tore his ACL which is a season ender. He plans to be back with the ‘Cats next year, however.
Coach Avery Atadero is confident that the team’s line will be effective despite Morris’s absence. He is also taking measures to improve the kicking game by bringing in some candidates for the position this week.
The ‘Cats will undoubtedly use the lessons learned in Fort Wayne as a blueprint in preparing for the home opener Saturday night at Roberts Stadium. Evansville will be hosting the Beaumont Drillers at 7:05 p.m.
The Drillers will be one of the toughest test that the ‘Cats will face all season. They already have two games under their belts and have yet to taste the “L” – despite being on their third coach of their first season. GM Steven Reap has also taken over the coaching duties. Although this is the first season for Beaumont, it is not the first campaign for the team. The franchise was in Alexandria last year as the Louisiana Rangers.
The Drillers boast a prolific air attack with the lethal connection of QB Derrick Taite and WR Pat Palmer. Taite, a former Mississippi State Bulldog, was the NIFL MVP in 2001 with the now defunct Mississippi Firedogs according to the Beaumont Enterprise. Palmer, a former sixth round draft choice of the Washington Redskins has four years of experience in the National Football League. The duo has already hooked up for five TD’s in this short season.
Evansville is optimistic that they can turn the season around. Last minute acquisition, Akili Roberson did a valiant job at quarterback under extremely challenging circumstances last week against Fort Wayne. He threw for 147 yard and four TD’s and ran for another score. The offense should show improvement as it gains experience.
One key, according to Coach Atadero, is for the stadium to be packed with Bluecat fans. That made a huge difference for Fort Wayne last week. Saturday night will determine if the Evansville community will rise to challenge as the state’s best fans.
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