Danny Morales / Valencia Voice
The Orlando Predators will be looking for their first home win of the season on Saturday when they face off against the Los Angeles KISS.
The Predators lost 70-63 in Week 1 to the now 3-0 Philadelphia Soul but have won two road games in a row against Jacksonville and New Orleans to improve to 2-1 and Orlando is ready for a chance to earn their first home win of the season.
“I was upset after the last game but when you lose a home opener, and in the fashion that we did, it was a good learning experience,” said head coach Rob Keefe. “We lost to a good team and I think it was a good litmus test to see where we were in the beginning of the year. We found out we can’t just walk out there and get a victory. We have to work for it and we have to come together.”
Meanwhile Los Angeles will be coming to Orlando without a single win. The KISS have lost all three of their games by an average of 15 points, including their most recent 61-48 loss to Las Vegas and a 54-28 defeat to the San Jose SaberCats.
With this last offseason signing of Randy Hippeard, the Predators added a veteran quarterback to their offense to play along with Bernard Morris. With injuries in the receiving corps, the coaches have relied on a style of play not used often in the AFL.
While in possession, Hippeard remains under center until goal line plays when Morris is brought out to complete the shovel pass to fullback Michael Simmons or to tuck the ball and rush into the endzone for a score.
“They’re both starting quarterbacks, and instead of not utilizing one of these players’ talents, we are going to do our best to get both of them on the field,” Keefe said on his two players. “I think the team has responded well to that. Both are rallying around each other; they really embraced their roles. The team has seen that [those two] have put the team before themselves.”
Hippeard has completed 56 passes on 84 attempts for 683 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Orlando native Morris has rushed the ball 10 times for 17 yards and four scores.
A position often overlooked in the arena game is the fullback position. The position has nearly been eliminated due to the league adopting a more pass-heavy approach with fullbacks often becoming a blocker on most plays. This is not true for Simmons who has caught the ball five times for 71 yards and has rushed the ball 14 times for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
“Fullback is somebody who doesn’t get a lot of publicity, ultimately it’s a position here guys don’t play very long because it’s hard in the long run on your [body],” Keefe said about playing fullback. “But at the same time, it pumps up the team [and] it pumps up the crowd because it’s exciting to see a big guy make it into the endzone.
“But Mike is a great athlete and in my opinion should play in the NFL and if given the opportunity [he] would succeed in the NFL.”
The past few weeks have proved troublesome for the roster with injuries on both sides of the ball.
Top receiver Greg Carr sustained a foot injury in Week 2 but was able to play in Week 3 against the VooDoo with some obvious pain that hindered his performance, but is expected to make a full return against the KISS.
Veteran Larry Brackins hasn’t played since the first game, but is “feeling good.” It is still to be determined if he will be ready for Saturday’s game, he is listed on the Week 4 depth chart at wide receiver.
All-Arena Mac Linebacker Aaron Robbins was taken out of the last quarter of the game against New Orleans when he suffered a dislocated ankle and a broken fibula and is uncertain if he will return before the end of the season.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be shown live on ESPN3.com. Tickets for the game can be found online at: http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/22004E37EAFC97D5