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Just the tip of the iceberg

Andrew Pekarek
Saturday June 21, 2008

It seems like it was just a case of a good team beating a struggling team, but the win on Friday night over the Mahoning Valley Thunder was much more than that for the Green Bay Blizzard.

The Blizzard (9-3) beat the Thunder (2-10) 69-27, and scored on all 11 of its possessions.

It’s not rare to see that happen in arena football, and often it’s considered the norm for how most successful franchises are able to beat teams with a losing record, but it’s not the norm for the Blizzard, at least not yet.

Green Bay was averaging 46.7 points per game, which ranked 15th in arenafootball2 entering Week 13 of the season.

The offense also committed five turnovers in each of its last two games, but still managed to win because of the af2’s number one ranked defense.

A good example of this was two weeks ago in the game against the Iowa Barnstormers. The Blizzard trailed 37-40 in the fourth quarter, but won 46-40. All nine of the Blizzard’s points needed to win the game were scored by the defense.

So yes, in a game built around offense, the Blizzard have been anything but the norm.

“Offensively we never clicked, until finally tonight,” said Blizzard head coach Bob Landsee.

Quarterback Collin Drafts led the offensive attack for the Blizzard, throwing for 143 yards and four touchdowns, and midway through the third quarter, with the score 45-21, he took a seat. Brian Villanueva came in and kept the offense moving, throwing for 107 yards and three touchdowns.

More importantly, neither threw an interception or fumbled a snap, two things that have stalled the offense too often this season, and was a contributing factor as to why quarterback Shane Adler was starting for the Thunder and not the Blizzard.

Alder started three games for the Blizzard earlier this season, and was traded to Mahoning Valley for making costly mistakes.

Friday night’s game was a chance for Adler to prove that the Blizzard made the mistake of letting him go, but an early fumble by Adler was a mistake foreshadowing how his night was going to go.

Adler was pressured in the pocket throughout the game and threw off target on multiple occasions. He did manage to avoid Blizzard defensive end Joe Sykes, the af2 leader in sacks, until the end of the third quarter when Sykes came around Adler’s blind side to collect his 15.5 sack of the season.

Adler’s night would end with his second interception coming in the final minute of play, which allowed the Blizzard to run the clock out and complete a mistake free game.

The 69 points by the Blizzard was its second highest point total this season. The most the team scored was 72 against the Manchester Wolves in Week 3, but defensive and special teams’ touchdowns contributed to the scoring in the game.

The points put up in the win over the Thunder were the result of an offense finally coming together.

“There’s no science or special thing that happened this week it was just being patient and staying with the things we believe we taught, and it starting to soak in,” Landsee said.

There may not have been any science involved in the Blizzard’s offense coming together, but there seems to be a common formula for what it takes to be a top team in the af2.

Coming into the game the Blizzard was ranked fourth in the af2 Coaches’ Poll. The three teams above them, the Spokane Shock, Tulsa Talons and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, rank in the top three in scoring, while the Blizzard are not even in the top 10.

“We see a lot of the other big teams that our in first and second place that put up big wins and they are winning by a large number,” said Blizzard wide receiver Anthony Crissinger-Hill. “We felt like we had to get our offense clicking because our defense has been holding us down a lot of games and once we get our offense going and start putting up big numbers the other teams at the top will definitely notice that we are a championship contender.”

The win over the Thunder is a step to achieving that, but the focus remains on taking it one game at a time, according to Landsee, who also said the team can still improve in a lot of areas.

Blizzard Mac linebacker/fullback Gus Tyson agrees.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Tyson said about the team’s performance against the Thunder and what it’s capable of doing.

The Blizzard season is a lot like an iceberg and you don’t need to be a scientist to figure out how one is formed.

At the bottom of every iceberg is a strong foundation, which gradually builds together and peaks above the surface, with the tip at the top.

Green Bay has collected all the pieces to build a strong foundation, it’s just a matter of peaking at the right time, and being on top at the end of the season.

Blizzard fans got to see what the tip might look like on Friday night.

Andrew is a senior at UW-Green Bay and has written for the student newspaper. He began following arena football in 1998 as a fan of the Green Bay Bombers (IFL). Was a programming intern for Sports Radio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan and is currently pursuing a career in radio broadcasting.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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