EVERETT – Slavish adherents of smash mouth – as a gridiron style, not the surf and garage influenced rock band – should be drawn to this contest much as fans of the Indigo Girls flock to Lilith Fair.
The Green Bay Blizzard (8-6) will be looking to freeze out the upstart Everett Hawks (4-9) when the teams meet in an arenafootball2 clash at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Everett Events Center.
After last Saturday’s convincing 63-34 triumph over a Bakersfield team which led af2 in total defense, Everett enters its final home game needing to figure out how to overcome a Green Bay team that is No. 2 in scoring defense.
“We beat a pretty decent team last week,” said Everett coach Tony Wells, who turned things up a notch in practices all week. “But, I’m not going to let them lose focus because these guys are 100 percent better than Bakersfield.”
Green Bay is known for playing with a stifling physical approach that is a reflection of their coach, one-time Philadelphia Eagles lineman Bob Landsee.
“I’ve always believed a team takes on the personality of its coach,” Wells said of Landsee. “He likes to go at you NFL-style. Rough, tough and just beat you down.”
After qualifying for the playoffs in 2005 – Landsee’s first year at the helm – the Blizzard enters today’s game in contention for the hotly contested American Conference East Division title.
Should the Blizzard be tripped up against the dramatically improved Hawks they could potentially wind up missing out on the post-season party altogether.
The Hawks, meanwhile, can best be described as late bloomers.
Despite a disastrous 0-7 start to its inaugural season in af2 Everett has surged with four victories in its past six outings and remains in against-all-odds contention for a National Conference playoff berth.
As tangible evidence of the Hawks’ improvement of late its worth noting just the four teams that have gone 5-1 – Central Valley, Florida, Louisville and Spokane – have a better record than Everett over the past six weeks.
Green Bay had its own three-game winning streak snapped last Saturday when the Blizzard blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead at home and was dealt a 62-58 defeat by the division rival Manchester Wolves.
Hawks’ lineman Ufuoma Pela formerly played for another of Green Bay’s division foes, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, and is familiar with the challenge presented by the Blizzard.
“It’s a good organization and they do everything right,” said Pela who has helped spur the Hawks line to dominance since his arrival in Game No. 7 at Tulsa. “If we don’t play like last week it’s gonna be a long night. We have just got to come to play.”
Up front Green Bay is led by Robert Boss, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound rookie product of Northern Michigan University, who leads the Blizzard with 4.5 sacks.
The expected warfare in the trenches is welcomed by Everett’s Clay Harrell who is seventh in af2 in sacks (7).
“We’re solid all the way across the ball now and handle the good groups,” Harrell said.
Green Bay defensive specialist David Crocker, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound, second-year player from Stephen F. Austin, ranks fifth in af2 with 86 tackles.
Defensive specialist Toure’ Butler – a Cascade High School and UW alum – leads Everett with 50.5 in 11 games.
On offense the Blizzard features something rare indeed in arena football – a running attack.
Green Bay leads the league in rushing yards with 567 (Everett is 12th with 271). Peter Lazare, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound fullback/linebacker, is fourth in af2 (behind three quarterbacks, including former Everett QB Julian Reese) with 241 yards on 59 carries and ranks second with 16 rushing touchdowns.
“They’re a 50-50 team that can hurt you running or passing,” Wells said.
Quarterback James McPherson, a rookie from Wake Forest, has been very effective since taking over as the starter. In nine games he has thrown for 28 TD’s with seven interceptions.
The Blizzard – an opportunistic group – is 4th in turnover margin (plus-0.86). Everett, despite a game-altering plus-three performance against Bakersfield is a dismal 18th in that category (minus-0.67).
The word from Mount Baker: Everett’s towering quarterback Brian Baker – who spread six touchdown passes among four receivers against Bakersfield – reflected briefly this week on the critical victory.
“It was a great feeling and we needed that,” the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Baker said. “We put it all together as a team.”
Baker quickly shifted his attention to the task at hand.
“Everyone’s mentally focused and pretty sharp,” Baker said of the preparations for Green Bay. “I think we’re gonna come and reproduce that same energy we had last week.”
Injury report: WR/DB Milton Myers is expected to miss a second straight game with a right knee injury suffered against Central Valley on June 24 … OL/DL Willie Shine, a force against Central Valley, is out for two games (ankle) … WR/LB Clint Dodson missed a month with shin splints, returned to practice this week, tore a hamstring and is expected to be out at least two games.