The War Between the Walls #3

03/27/03 Josh Stein

Week 1 had blowouts everywhere.  Week 2 had a group of exciting close games.  What does the third week of NIFL football have to offer?  The War Between the Walls hopes to give some of that insight away.

The question I ask this week, what is the big factor in how games are won and lost?  Who is the important player?  Well, with these 10 games, the important area seems to be the quarterback of each team and how he reacts to the opposing defense.  Since there are a number of teams that are throwing the ball quite a bit, it does make sense that a quarterback, his receiving corps and the defense would be an important part of the process.  Oh well, let’s play some football.

Sioux Falls Storm @ Lincoln Capitols

Both teams are nursing losses away from home, Sioux Falls in Rapid City and Lincoln in Missouri to the Show Me Believers.  Lincoln has also decided to go away from the experienced QB Justin Coleman and play with faster, more athletic QB Derek Dyer.  Sioux Falls is staying with the same QB, Ryan Johnson, who ran for two touchdowns but didn’t throw one.  Lincoln has sold 1,000 season tickets so far…more than they had total for some games in 2002.  The crowd should be able to rattle Johnson a bit and lead the Capitols to victory by a touchdown.

Bismarck Roughriders @ Wyoming Cavalry

Wyoming proved that their offense was again strong, putting up 60 points on a Rapid City team with an improved defense.  Wyoming proved that their defense was still as strong as no-name bathroom tissue.  Bismarck’s defense got rocked in their first game, getting torched by Albert Higgs and his receiving corps in Billings.  Bismarck’s offense was non-existent, scoring only 18 points.  That’s why offensive coordinator and former Bismarck Blaze (IFL) quarterback Corey Schwab is returning to the fold.  With all of the talk about Ragsdale, people fail to remember that Schwab won the conference championship game he played in.  Now give him the best return man in the NIFL in AJ Street and possibly the best running back in Quentin Cradle, and the rust will shed quickly.  Bismarck by 10.

Tupelo FireAnts @ Fort Wayne Freedom

Over 9000 fans.  That’s what saw the Freedom win a 41-40 thriller over in-state rival Evansville a week ago.  You’d have to imagine most of them will come back.  Jeremy Dutcher did what he had to do in Fort Wayne, being the leading receiver (as he’s the one with experience) to give new QB Antoine Taylor a go-to guy, and to get the pressure off the rest of the team.  Now they get to face an experienced team in Tupelo, who is 0-2…and not looking good, either.  Tupelo is well on their way to becoming possibly the most anemic offense the NIFL has ever seen.  They have gained 241 yards in two games (what some teams get in three quarters).  They have scored 35 points in two games.  No defense can overcome this kind of offensive performance.  After another long trip, Tupelo will go home wondering how to get anything done on offense.  Freedom by 24.

Oklahoma Crude @ Houma Bayou Bucks

Houma is probably the most quiet 1-0 team out there, save their vocal and loyal fans.  The Bucks offense has proven nothing to me, as they scored 13 in an exhibition game at Omaha and scored 29 at home.  These numbers will not get it done in the long run. However, their defense seems to be very strong.  That defensive effort will probably get it done against Oklahoma, who got whacked at home to a weak road team (Tri City).  Oklahoma wasn’t ready to play that week, and there’s no indication anywhere that they might be more ready to play an away game in a hostile arena.  Oklahoma is 1-14 in their history, and that one was against Houma…31-29 in Oklahoma.  Houma then beat them by a huge margin at the same venue this game is being played.  It will get very ugly very quickly.  Bucks by 28.

LaCrosse Night Train @ Tri-City Diesel

Both of these teams are coming off a very strong opening game.  Tri-City got to work its kinks out at Oklahoma, and LaCrosse used a sellout crowd at home to blast Sioux City.  The new QB (Johnny Johnson) and new RB (Chris Floyd) have appeared to be good pickups for the Night Train, as they were both instrumental in the 46-20 win.  Tri-City’s quarterback scenario is unknown, as there are no stats for their game at Oklahoma.  But, if there were any problems, a home game for a strong home team (who beat Omaha, Lincoln and Sioux City there in 2002) should be a way to get rid of them.  Diesel by 5.

Omaha Beef @ Show Me Believers

Well, I underestimated this team.  The Believers showed that although their offense wasn’t ready for the big time, their defense was in a 24-21 thriller against Lincoln.  Now, the question is, can they take a weaker offensive effort (24 points) and beat Omaha?  The Beef have worked quite hard in the off season to gather talent, in players like DL Brad Hughes (Sioux City), WR Tyrone Tyler (Lincoln) and K Chace Long (Lincoln).  Add to that a good QB in Troy Travis and a good RB in Clinton Childs, and Lincoln has quite the team.  They went 9-5 last year and upgraded quite a few positions.  I only hope for the Believers’ sake that the fans don’t desert the team when Omaha comes in and wins by 20.

Lake Charles LandSharks @ Lexington Horsemen

There is one huge advantage that Lake Charles has over Lexington.  The Sharks are 1-0.  Lexington hasn’t played.  With that said, there should be a very good home crowd, especially if the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team is still in the NCAA Tournament the same day (the Horsemen are showing the game at Rupp Arena if they are playing, before or after the Horsemen game).  But, it might be a troublesome time for Lexington, even with the crowd.  Lake Charles is starting a number of new players, but Jacobe Austin is one of those guys.  It’s only a matter of time before he returns a kick for a touchdown.  The big returnee on offense is QB Ted Robison.  And the biggest factor is the fact Lake Charles has 25 wins in their history, Lexington has 0.  The overall experience factor riding there should lead Lake Charles to a 10 point victory.

Rapid City Red Dogs @ Sioux City Bandits

Home sweet home.  At least, the Bandits hope so.  After getting beat down in LaCrosse 46-20, they need a home game to try and get everything back on track.  Rapid City might not be the team to do that against.  The Red Dogs are 2-0 and have won two different ways.  A blowout in a high-scoring shootout, and a late victory in a defensive battle.  The constant in those games is the quarterback, Terrance Bryant.  He’s thrown seven touchdowns in two games and is trying to bring the Dogs back to their 2001 form (13-2).  Sioux City is led by veteran indoor quarterback Jarrod DeGeorgia, who needs to get it on in front of his home crowd if the Bandits have a chance to win.  DeGeorgia must match Bryant throw-for-throw, or the Bandits won’t have much of a chance.  I don’t see it happening, as Rapid City is just too strong a team at this point to go against, in my mind. Red Dogs by 8.

Beaumont Drillers @ Evansville BlueCats

Beaumont’s defense has been magnificent in two home wins, and their offense has been effective in the same span.  However, are they really a strong team?  They beat Tupelo, who has no offense, and they beat Austin, who we really know nothing about.  They have a long trip to Evansville, Indiana, and a welcoming party that includes one of the better NIFL quarterbacks, Akili Roberson.  He led a very inexperienced team with over 200 total yards and 5 total touchdowns, with only two missed extra points being the difference in a 41-40 loss at Fort Wayne.  Roberson won’t let it happen again, as Evansville will show the NIFL that Beaumont’s 2-0 record is misleading.  BlueCats by 10.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Utah Warriors @ Billings Outlaws

Looks like I might have made a mistake in last week’s game of the week.  It wasn’t much of a game as the Greyhounds trounced Tennessee 46-21.  We won’t make that mistake again.  Utah @ Billings is definitely the top game this week, as we saw what they could do against each other just a week ago.  What is the top match up in this game?  It’s simple.  Ragsdale vs. Higgs.  In fact, I’m going to start the touchdown watch right here.

RAGSDALE          HIGGS

1 game, 6 TD          2 games, 10 TD

pace:  84 TD           pace:  70 TD

It will be more interesting once the season grows older, but you get the idea.  The game revolves around what those two guys can do around the other team’s defense.  Billings made it a point to cover former Outlaws leading receiver Cory Grow heavily last week.  He only had 3 catches.  But, Emmett White and Jason Quinn combined for five touchdown catches.  That means the Outlaws are going to have to cover everyone equally, giving Grow many more opportunities to torch his former mates.  Here’s where some intrigue comes in.  Billings’ leading receiver last week was Bryan Meier (9 catches, over 100 yards).  He’s also the backup quarterback.  Sounds like a good opportunity for some trick plays, if you ask me.  But, I’m not the coach.  Whoever wins this game will be the team that stops the opposing offense just a couple of times.  Of course, Billings does have that revenge factor, as it has been only a week since these two teams met…and Billings did lose in Utah 55-46.  The home crowd is the key to this game, and that crowd will be what leads Billings to a 10 point victory over Ragsdale and his Utah Warriors.  But get your popcorn out, it’s going to be a fast-paced, exciting ride.

Ten games will be played this weekend, the most that has ever been played in one NIFL weekend in its history.  Two cities will get their first ever home game, and their first opportunity to see the most fan-friendly sport on Earth.  What are you still doing here reading this?  Go watch a football game!  It’s the War Between the Walls.  Don’t miss a single snap


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