Slow and Steady Just Doesn't Work in the AFL
Records and stats certainly tell one side of a game. Los Angeles, who so far has been in the middle of the pack this season, have controlled all of the teams in the AFL who have been under .500. In fact, five of their six wins have been against those teams, and each game hasn’t been close. It was the same result against the Tampa Bay Storm. A 40-6 routing in the first two quarters had set the tone the rest of the way.
Surely the Storm know that they are the bottom feeders of the league. Riding their final few games to end the season before they prepare for the playoffs, they are willing to try anything that works just to stay in games. So why not let the game fall in their hands and control the clock and frustrate the living daylights of their opponent.
For the first 30 minutes of the game the Storm held on to the ball for over 18 minutes, although it felt like an eternity. It not only kept the KISS offense off the field, but it certainly took away a lot of momentum from both sides of the ball. It was however all for not as the KISS eventually pulled through with a couple of touchdowns late and shutting down the Storm offense for most of the second half. Winning 48-21, the KISS can finally start talking about the importance of Saturday night, even if nobody from the KISS really want to.
“In Arena Football, no matter what the records are it is hard to win any game,” KISS head coach Omarr Smith said. “Tonight it was two teams fighting hard to win. They had their game plan together and it came down to adjusting after halftime and getting back what was ours. I felt like we did a good job to counter act what they were doing.”
Nathan Stanley got the call over Pete Thomas and looked rather shaky in his debut after the league wide bye. He finished 17-for-32 with 186 yards and four touchdowns. Much of the scoring however came in the final 30 minutes, where it seemed like Stanley was able to shake off the cobwebs after sitting out for a few weeks.
“I was real proud with the way he handled himself,” Smith said. “He got hit a few times and got back up and played well right after. We put ourselves in some bad situations on a lot of third and fourth down plays, but Stanley was able to get out of them. With our receiving core stepping up and Nathan playing well, our offense clicked real well.”
“It felt great to be out there and complete some balls,” Stanley said. “It felt really good to come in and play well. It was hard to get momentum in the first half, but it was nice to get back into momentum in the second half and flow well. My shoulder and neck feels fine and I was aching to get back.”
With so much control from the Storm, the KISS refused to fall into the hands from what the Storm were trying to do. They were calm and collective, and Smith did all the adjustments he needed to force Tampa Bay to score if they wanted to keep things close. For the Storm, it wasn’t the case.
“We never panicked,” Smith said. “All we needed to do was to take care of the football and execute our game plan.”
But now the KISS got what they wanted and earned the right to play what could be one of their biggest games in their franchise history. Before they played in games where the focus was to win and stay alive to just make the playoffs, only to lose out and be done with everything. Now with everyone playing after the regular season, the KISS are still in a battle that with two other teams to earn the fourth seed and a first round playoff game. Cleveland had their chance to control a bit of their own destiny, but a tough loss to Orlando last Saturday night has pitted them and the KISS in a game that could have high implications of seeding and playing at home for the first round of the playoffs. Cleveland is ahead of Los Angeles at 7-7, but they did lose back in week 3. A KISS win would mean earning the tie breaker and being in fourth over the Gladiators and a shot of paving their own road.
Is coach thinking about what Saturday means?
“All I am thinking about is beating Cleveland. Nothing else” Smith said.
Do the players know how important a battle with the Gladiators is a few days from now?
“Every game from here on out will be a playoff atmosphere, and it starts with Cleveland,” wide receiver Donovan Morgan said. “We have to set our mind since everyone makes the playoffs, but Saturday we are going in with a playoff mind into hopefully a playoff atmosphere.”
It is a problem, but considering how the KISS have been in years past, it’s a good one to have.