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Preds Open New Jungle with a Bang

Jason Lucas
Monday March 28, 2011

Orlando Predators quarterback Nick Hill threw for 331 yards and eight touchdowns to help his squad open up the Amway Center with a dominating 68-53 win over the Utah Blaze on Saturday in front of 12,186 at the New Jungle.

While the headlines all talked about the return of Preds wide receiver Bobby Sippio, it was his teammate T.T. Toliver who ruled the stat sheet with three touchdown receptions. Robert Quiroga also had three and Sippio added two in his return.

“We’ve got great receivers it’s just my job to get them the ball,” Hill said. “When they’re flying around out there and our offensive line is protecting well it makes my job easier.”

With Quiroga, Sippio, and Toliver at receiver it would be easy to compare Hill’s job to something like playing the old EA Sports AFL video game. Toliver made a Sports Center Top 10 worthy play in the second quarter when he caught a touchdown pass as he crashed hard over the boards.

Hill and Sippio had the Predators in the end zone on the first play from scrimmage as Utah’s coverage broke down and Sippio came wide open for a 29-yard hook-up on a corner-route.

The scariest thing for upcoming Preds opponents has to be that this offense turned the ball over twice on Saturday and still managed to account for 61 points.

“Sippio brings a lot of attention when we put him in motion,” said Hill. “T.T. Toliver is another great receiver as is Quiroga. Our receivers are so unselfish I just have to find the open man and get him the ball.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Preds defensive back Rayshaun Kizer had three interceptions. In the fourth quarter the “Ball Hawk” took Utah QB Tommy Grady’s errant pass back for a 20-yard touchdown return giving Orlando an insurmountable 58-33 lead. Kizer had what would have been an interception taken away from him in the third quarter on a horrible touchdown call by the amateur AFL officials. Usually a receiver has to catch the football for a score, apparently that point was lost on this crew as Kizer was already streaking down the sidelines.

“The defense played real solid for us tonight,” Preds head coach Pat O’Hara said. “Rayshaun Kizer is a real ball hawk in our secondary and had a great game.”

The first Utah turnover was forced when Mack linebacker Johnnie Balous forced a fumble from Blaze fullback Ben Stallings and Jack linebacker Marlon Moye-Moore recovered for the Predators.

Hill commented quite accurately that the Preds should win any game where the defense is forcing five turnovers as they did Saturday.

Orlando finished the 2010 season a modest 4-4 at home which is not acceptable by Predators historical standards. This is a major point that is not lost on O’Hara and this group of Orlando Predators as they entered their new home.

“We needed to get this win at home right off the bat,” O’Hara said. “Right now my only concern is where we’re at health wise going into next week.”

The health issue O’Hara is referring to has to do with the apparent compound fracture to the hand sustained by Balous as well as an unspecified injury suffered by defensive lineman Frisner Nelson.

Orlando will certainly need to be at full strength on Saturday when they face their first big test against my good friend Odie Armstrong and the Arizona Rattlers. The Rattlers will have a short week to prepare as they come off a Monday night contest with the Tulsa Talons. That game will take place in the “Snake Pit” at 10 Saturday night.

Weekend Thoughts

I got to see the same group of officials twice this weekend as I also went over to Tampa Bay on Sunday to check out the Storm’s match-up with the Cleveland Gladiators. So while I refuse to name the names here, you know who you are. You flagged four teams 45 times (accepted penalties) for 315 yards in two nights. Seriously guys, you must have some sore arms today from all of that flag tossing the last two nights.

Sometimes maybe I am just a humble Orlando Predators beat writer looking through black and red shades, but when it comes to you guys my vision has always been clear. Next week, let’s get it together, have fewer extended meetings, blow less calls, and make the guy who trains you look like a genius, OK?

As for the Tampa Bay trip all I can say is WOW, the Storm has really gone down hill since going to the ArenaBowl last season. A final score of 66-26 speaks volumes and Adam Markowitz posted the line of the week with this quip, “Hey, here comes the Storm offense,” as Tampa Bay’s kick returner Michael Lindsey trotted deep and returned his second kickoff for a touchdown.

Billy Bob Thornton wants to address the Storm today by saying, “Do you think you’re playing football? Do you think you’re playing football?” Whatever happens in Tampa Bay this week, changes have to be made by head coach Dave Ewart to get his team headed in the right direction.

Jason Lucas is a part-time freelance writer based in the Orlando, Florida area. A former director of media relations with the Orlando Predators, Jason is making his return to after a short stint as a public relations assistant with the UFL‘s Florida Tuskers in 2010. Lucas has followed the AFL since 1992 and began covering the Predators for Arenafan during the 2004 season. He held that position until being picked up by the Preds front office after the 2007 season. Jason‘s knowledge of arena football and love of the game is what drives him to continue covering the sport.
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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