Force look to improve playoff chances
The Georgia Force host the Orlando Predators Sunday afternoon in an Arena Football League South Division matchup at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. The Force (7-8) will be trying to end a two-game skid while the Predators (2-12) are in search of their first road win in eight games this season.
Bryant Moniz made his first appearance in the AFL in last week’s 61-38 loss to the Utah Blaze, and after a slow start (10-points) in the opening half, came back to lead the offense to 28 second half points. CJ Johnson was Moniz’s’ primary target (11 receptions for 127 yards) but was kept out of the end zone. Shay Hodge added eight catches for 76-yards and a score and Michael Johnson pulled in four balls for 17-yards with a touchdown. Larry Shipp, the team’s leading receiver, was held to a pair of catches for only 9-yards on the day.
Moniz protected the ball well last week, both passing and carrying the ball, and in a conversation earlier this week talked about the importance that Coach Dean Cokinos puts on turnovers and how they impact this style of play. ‘Big Mo’ went on to talk about the biggest adjustment he is facing as he learns the AFL game. “I have to get the ball out faster due to the windows being smaller, there were times at Hawaii that I had to get the ball out quickly but the window to make a decision is smaller.” He went on to say “I’m very excited to play in front of the home crowd for the first time. It’s a big game and I’m going to try to help get us a win and get the team into the playoffs.”
The Force defense, which will be without AFL interception leader Tracy Belton again, is one of the top defensive units in the league. Entering Week 17 action the Georgia D is fourth in scoring defense, fourth in passing defense and sixth in total defense. Robert Durham led the D with nine tackles last week.
The Predators are led on offense by Chris Leak. The former University of Florida quarterback has compiled a QB efficiency rating of 102.51 (150-242, 1,773 yards) with 36 touchdowns and 11 INTs in 8 games this season. The receiving corps is led by TT Oliver (78 R, 985 yards, 21 TD) with Dwayne Elley Jr. next in receptions with 50 for 629 yards and 12 scores.
The trio of Simeon Castille, Mar Moye-Moore and Travis Coleman lead the Orlando defense. Castille leads the team in tackles (81.5) and is second in interceptions (5) to Coleman who has 6 picks this season. Coleman is third in tackles with 50.5. Moye-Moore is second in tackles (56.5) and has one interception.
Offense- This was the first week of practice that ‘Big Mo’ ran the starting unit and that will improve the timing between Moniz and his receivers. Add to that the game experience he received facing a tough defense last week that played smothering D both in the secondary and at the line, and expect the Georgia offense to be more explosive. The Predator offense is averaging 45.8 points per game on the road, but was held to only 24 points in the first contest between the teams. Leak has been inconsistent and has no receivers averaging 100-yards receiving a game. Oliver leads the Predators in average-yards-per catch with 81.1.
Defense- As in most matchups this season the Force defense is better than the opposition. Not only has the Force defensive unit provided additional opportunities for the offense all season with turnovers, the unit has stepped up in clutch situations game after game to make stops to keep the opponent off the board. This week will be more of the same; the Force defense will provide stops and turnovers against an inconsistent QB that has been picked off 11 times in eight games.
Special Teams- After making eight consecutive three-point tries Carlos Martinez was 1-of-3 last week and is 13-of-22 for the season. Mark Lewis is 9-for-16 for Orlando in field goal attempts. Martinez gives the Force the advantage in the kicking game. Johnson moved into 13th on the AFL career kick return yardage list last week and has returned three kicks for scores this season.
Intangibles- For the Force this is a must-win game. Currently a half game back of both the Jacksonville Sharks (7-7) and New Orleans VooDoo (7-7) Georgia cannot afford to lose more ground with only two games remaining after this week. Add to that the final game on the schedule is on the road against the VooDoo (who are 1-0 against the Force) and it is clear Georgia should come into this game energized. In contrast, Orlando is 0-7 on the road this season and coming off a disappointing loss to New Orleans last week on the road, the kind of loss that often lingers and results in a less than motivated effort the next week.
The Force and Predators will meet at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth Sunday with kickoff set for 3:00 p.m. The game will be televised locally on WSB MeTV 2.2 and streamed on Ustream.
The Georgia Force are members of the South Division of the American Conference in the AFL. The Force play home games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, located off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.
Mike began his third season reporting on the Georgia Force in March, 2012. Coverage includes weekly game previews and recaps, exclusive interviews and AFL news. Mike has been a Gwinnett County resident (the home of the Force) for two decades and provides coverage of the counties other pro sports franchises, the Gwinnett Braves (Braves Triple-A affiliate) and the Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL, player development deals with both the Phoenix Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres) as well.