Coaches’ Corner: Week 9

Week 9 saw games that reshaped the landscape of the league. These recaps are aided by some insight from our AFL coaches!

Billings Outlaws vs. Albany Firebirds

This matchup is what people referred to as an ‘ArenaBowl XXXIII’ preview. The top two teams in the league, the Outlaws and the Firebirds, dueled it out in Billings.

Going into this game, most expected a back-and-forth shootout, but on the contrary, the defenses impressed.

Speaking with Billings’ head coach Cedric Walker, he made it clear that this was exactly the game he thought it would be, saying, “As high-powered offenses meet, the defenses step up. I knew it was going to be like that.”

Most of the game was within one possession for either side, with most of the scoring coming in the second half, specifically the fourth quarter.

Regarding the end of the game, Coach Walker said it reminded him of the traditional AFL, saying, “It was always who has the ball last.” And that it was.

Billings’ final drive saw a long ball going up to Duane Brown, followed by a 4-point conversion by Derrick Harvey. With the kickoff coming up, the Outlaws were down by one.

Coach Walker went to his kicker, Bailey Giffin. The Boot calmly responded, “I got this.” He then went out and knocked down the game-winning deuce. Billings won 36-35, taking the first-place spot from Albany.

Coach Walker praised the Albany Firebirds for their abilities in the trenches and the production of their star QB-WR connection of Jake Medlock and Darius Prince. Prince is having a serious run at MVP, and Medlock is right there with him.

“We can contain [Prince], but stopping him is hard to do,” Walker explained.

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Orlando Predators vs. Wichita Regulators

The Predators laid the boom on the Regulars in Wichita, taking down their prey 63-18. This was by far the most successful game for the Preds on all sides of the game. The offense fired on all cylinders, the defense was rock solid, and the special teams boosted the abilities of both.

The Preds were both an unstoppable force and an immovable object. But despite this, Head Coach EJ Burt was not as elated with his team’s performance.

“I have been around this game long enough to know what it is supposed to look like and to know what a championship team looks like.”

The offense was phenomenal, which is what it should be. The pass rush was effective, although it could’ve been better. These are the kinds of things Coach Burt takes from this game and are the kinds of words that come from a man who wants nothing less than a championship.

He especially is looking forward to a tier of play we have not yet seen from the Predators. “We have not put together our best game this season, and I am excited for the point where we hit that mark.”

Outside of the on-field performance, this matchup gave Orlando some new looks. The Preds have played a rather short list of opponents, and Coach Burt was optimistic that this game could be beneficial.

“It was great for us to put together a win like that, but honestly, I’m not happy. I want more. It is what it is. You’re striving for greatness, and you don’t want to settle for anything less than perfection.”

Southwest Kansas Storm vs. Washington Wolfpack

The bottom-of-the-league Wolfpack traveled to Dodge City to take on the Storm. The expectations of this game were clear; the Storm would control the game and come out with the victory.

But the Wolfpack obviously did not get the memo. Washington played some of their best football of the season and seriously damaged the playoff contenders thanks to performances from Xavier Crawford and Jordan Pouncey.

The screws came loose before the team even got to the stadium. The team’s flights had been delayed and then eventually canceled. So, the team was put on their heels before they could show up. But they pulled through.

Coach Wells was quick to point out a couple of things. First, the Wolfpack is comprised almost entirely of outdoor football guys.

There was hardly any previous indoor or Arena experience on the roster. He even said that the Wolfpack, on paper, were never the better team on any given weekend.

Objectively, the Wolfpack was completely outmatched by opponents in regards to players, coaches, and organizational leaders with Arena and indoor experience.

The team’s struggle and fight to get the wins they have reflects that discrepancy. It also highlights the work ethic and the size of the fight in the dog.

“There’s always been those adverse situations, and it has been extremely tough for us. That’s where I am really proud of my organization with how we have been able to withstand the craziness that has been going on.”

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