BlueCats slow start doesn't dampen expectations

04/02/03 Jeff Gregory

The first home game in the history of the Evansville BlueCats is in the books. The biggest story here is not the loss, 49-39 to the Beaumont Drillers. The big story is the fans that showed up in droves to check out the best game in town, the BlueCats and the National Indoor Football League.

The line to buy tickets for this game snaked around the sidewalks outside of Roberts Stadium for hundreds of feet more than thirty minutes before kickoff. The majority of the fans interviewed stated that they were going to look into buying season tickets to avoid future lines. None seem to be dissuaded from attending future games over it. Excitement was the prevailing emotion.

Many of the 8,593 fans did not make it to their seats in time to see Casey Sellers of the ‘Cats plunge into the end zone for the first score of the game. Evansville (0-2) earned some respect in the first half from Beaumont. They scored the first two touchdowns of the game, surprising the favored Drillers. At the half, the teams were tied at 21 with optimism gleaming from the bench to the cheap seats.

Evansville kept it close through the third quarter, but the final period belonged to the Drillers. Beaumont (3-0) struck it rich with consecutive 45-yard touchdown drives comprising of one play each on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter. First, with a long strike to favorite receiver, Pat Palmer. The following possession was comprised solely of a 45-yard rumble from Troy Sumrall. The Beaumont running back gained a gaudy 137 yards on 27 carries. The Driller rushing game proved unstoppable late by finishing the game with two all-ground drives to put the game away. One possession was capped with another Sumrall touchdown while the final drive ran out the clock at the Evansville two-yard line.

The contest provided some thrills for Evansville fans as well. Local favorite Levron Williams rambled for a 32 yard score while piling up 54 yards on 10 carries. He also had a 10-yard TD reception. His former IU teammate and Reitz grad Tyrone Browning corralled three TD passes in his 85-yard receiving performance.

It was also a spirited evening with a number of skirmishes and penalties – complete with an ejection of a Beaumont player for unsportsmanlike conduct. Also worth noting was another Evansville offensive lineman being forced to leave the game because of injury. The ‘Cats have lost two starting lineman in consecutive games. As of this writing, OL Mario Wright’s availability is unknown for this week’s game.

Week three does not provide a reprieve for Evansville. They call on the NIFL defending champion Ohio Valley Greyhounds Saturday night. The Hounds boast of three Atlantic Conference players of the week in receiver Steve Vagedes (offensive), Allan Jackson (defensive), and John Wehrle (special teams). Wehrle was successful three times last week at field goal attempts – including one from 53 yards. Unless Ohio Valley is infected by kennel cough like the epidemic that is sweeping through Florida’s greyhound racing circuit this week, the Hounds will be an arduous challenge for the visiting ‘Cats.

These early season tests are bound to pay dividends as the season progresses. The BlueCats have shown that they have the talent to compete, and a large fan base for support. By tightening a few more screws, Evansville still holds promise for a winning season.

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