EVERETT – The National Indoor Football League computer rankings list the Everett Hawks as the No. 1 team, just ahead of the Miami Morays.
“Not one darned bit,” Hawks coach Dan Maciejczak snapped.
How about when the same blasted computer places your next opponent, the Lincoln (Nebraska) Capitols, near the bottom of the heap?
“You get a wounded dog up against the fence and sooner or later he’s gonna turn and fight,” Maciejczak said of the Capitols, who are indeed hurting.
The Hawks, fresh off of last Sunday’s 64-48 home victory over Rome, will be seeking their fourth consecutive victory today at Lincoln. Kickoff is at 5:05 p.m. (PDT).
Lincoln, 0-2 and playing it’s third straight home game, fell to Billings last Saturday by a score of 45-35. The loss proved especially costly for Lincoln. Starting quarterback Aaron Thumann and back-up quarterback John Brady were both knocked out of the game with knee injuries.
Defensive back Ty Goode, who played at Notre Dame, mopped up at quarterback for the Capitols, who have now dropped nine consecutive games dating back to last season.
Garth Glissman, a former back-up quarterback at Nebraska, has joined the Capitols and is expected to start today. Mike Pozzi, who most recently played for the Evansville (Ind.) Blue Cats of United Indoor Football is the new backup.
Perhaps the most serious threat to Everett’s three-game win streak is complacency.
“That’s a big thing to worry about,” Maciejczak said. “Our guys have to take this seriously.”
Unlike Rome, which basically mirrored Everett’s offensive style, the Capitols prefer to grind it out as opposed to simply airing it out.
“They like to run the ball, just line it up and play smash-mouth football,” Maciejczak said.
Lincoln running back John Hall was second in the NIFL in rushing in 2003 when he gained 868 yards. He missed much of last season while trying to catch on with a Canadian Football League team and was ineffective in three games with the Capitols in 2004.
Against Billings he showed signs of returning to form by rushing for 62 yards on 19 carries.
Provided Glissman can get him the football, Lincoln does feature a flashy wide receiver in Adrian Perez. Perez caught six passes for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a season opening 48-30 loss to Odessa.
“He’s very fast with legit 4.2 speed,” Maciejczak said. “We’ll try to slow him down.”
The Hawks, with an arsenal of offensive threats that is perhaps unmatched in the league, seem to find a new face to bedevil defenses each week.
In the season opener at Billings it was sure-handed running back Verna Owens who scored four touchdowns in a 55-43 victory.
In week two against Wyoming, Cory Grow caught a 39-yard TD pass from quarterback Albert Higgs on the Hawks’ first play from scrimmage and the rout was on.
In last Sunday’s closer encounter with Rome, Jason Quinn emerged to catch four TD passes, including three in the fourth quarter.
Then, there is AJ Street, who is second in the league in kickoff returns with an average of 29.2 yards per return. He is among the league leaders in all-purpose yardage with 286.
Higgs ranks No. 1 in both yards passing (722) and touchdown passes (17). Quinn is fourth in receptions (20) and fifth in receiving yards (201).
“We don’t try to create superstars,” Maciejczak said. “We just have a lot of great players who are trying to win a championship.”
Everett was hampered by three first-half fumbles last week, a series of miscues Maciejczak has no desire to endure again.
“It was kind of a snowball effect,” Maciejczak said, indicating the Hawks had made tucking the ball away a teaching point in practice this week.
“We know they’re a scrappy group,” Maciejczak said of the Capitols. “But, if we don’t turn the ball over I don’t think anybody can stop us.”
Austin out after surgery: Defensive back Jamley Austin is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks after surgery Thursday to repair a broken left thumb sustained in the victory over Rome on Sunday. The earliest he could return to game action would be on May 6 when Lincoln visits Everett.
To have and have not: Besides Everett, three other teams remain unbeaten. Miami is 4-0, Odessa (Texas) 3-0 and River City (Saint Charles, Mo.) 3-0. In addition to Lincoln, four teams in the 22-team NIFL remain without a victory. New Jersey is 0-4, Lubbock (Texas) 0-4, San Angelo (Texas) 0-4 and Fayetteville (N.C.) 0-3.