Lexington becomes lead horse in the Midwest
Green Bay Blizzard quarterback Collin Drafts connected with wide receiver Antoine Burns for a 34-yard touchdown, which gave Green Bay a 48-43 lead over the Lexington Horsemen.
It appeared the throw accomplished two things. It would help the Blizzard remain on top in the Midwest division, and solidified Drafts, the fourth quarterback the team has used this season, as the starter.
But the throw only did one of those things because there was still 33 seconds left on the clock.
This was plenty of time for the Horsemen offense to strike once more. On the last play of the game quarterback Eddie Eviston hit wide receiver Tavon McGee on a slant route for the game-winning touchdown, which quickly quieted the 7,258 fans at the Resch Center.
The 49-48 win over the Blizzard (5-3) puts the Horsemen (5-2) in sole possession of first place in the Midwest division and establishes the franchise, which has played the last five seasons in two different indoor leagues, as a force to be reckoned with in arenafootball2.
Eviston was 19 of 36 for 240 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also calm, cool and under center running the Horsemen offense.
The staple of that offense is the shotgun, which the team has used a majority of the time in all of its previous games, but after the first quarter against the Blizzard, head coach Mike Harmon abandoned it.
Was the change the key to winning the game? Maybe, but it completed the Horsemen’s transition from indoor to arena football.
Teams have experimented with the shotgun in the past, and many use it on occasion, but few have ever had success by using it as its base formation in the af2.
Time is precious in the arena game and every second is important. A shotgun snap takes about a half of a second to complete, which is too long. A receiver may have a step on his man by that time and the ball needs to be thrown.
The shotgun also gives defensive ends a straight shot at the quarterback by cutting down the angle of approach. When taking a snap from center a defensive end has to come around and back inside to collect a sack, but in the shotgun it’s a straight line.
But going under center didn’t seem to help protect Eviston against the Blizzard defense, which coming into this week was second in the af2 in sacks with 22.
The Blizzard added five more against the Horsemen, but it wasn’t enough to stop Eviston from connecting with his cast of receivers on a number of quick strikes.
Four different Horsemen receivers caught at least one touchdown, and three had at least five catches.
“Nobody was having a good night,” said Blizzard defensive back Nate Green.
Green Bay used four different combinations of defensive backs in the game, and most of those substitutions happened in the fourth quarter. The team was once again without Donnie Amadi because of injury, and at one point used wide receiver Steve Gonzalez at cornerback, a position Gonzalez hasn’t played heavily since college.
“Eddie knows when to throw it just as the receiver breaks and puts the ball where only his guy can get it,” Green said.
Green played for the Horsemen from 2003-2004, and was teammates with Eviston there and at Georgetown College.
Eviston is an established quarterback in the af2 for the Horsemen, but the Blizzard is still looking for its signal caller, and perhaps Collin Drafts is the guy for the job.
The Green Bay offense sputtered at times, but Drafts had an efficient night connecting on 18 of 28 passes for 259 yards and six touchdowns, but what was more impressive was his pocket awareness. He didn’t force throws and played within the offensive system.
Blizzard head coach Bob Landsee said, however, that the quarterback situation would still be evaluated by who plays best during the week in practice.
A bright spot for the Blizzard was the play of wide receiver Scott Burnoski, who had nine catches for 133 yards and four touchdowns. He’s coming off an injury and this was his second game back.
“He would probably rather have no catches and a win,” Landsee said.
The Blizzard didn’t get the win in this one and lost the division lead to the Horsemen, but if Drafts turns out to be the guy at quarterback, the game could have marked an important step in ultimately winning the Midwest division.
Because after all, there’s still plenty of time in the season to determine who wins it.