matching the AFL's most regular-season victories in a single season. They come into the game having won seven of their past eight. They come into the game with a veteran quarterback (Clint Dolezel) who already has pocketed an ArenaBowl title during his previous 10 seasons and who has been the hottest thing going in the AFL this season.
And, the Desperados are at home.
But then, that means pressure.
"The majority of them, I don't know if they've been in a game quite this big," Gray said. "But they'll respond, they have all year."
Gray is right. As for players, Dolezel, OL/DL Devin Wyman, OL/DL Rickie Simpkins and offensive specialist Terrill Shaw have won ArenaBowl titles. That, though, is it.
The rest are experiencing some of this for the first time, and so is the Desperados franchise, advancing to the conference championship game for the first time.
"Last week they handled it like I was worried that they'd handle it," Dolezel said of the team's opening playoff game after earning a first-round bye. "Over-amped up."
He means the Desperados came out far too emotional, and got into some pushing and shoving matches with the Force, along with too much jawing, or as Gray puts it, "Don't get so amped up and fired up that your head is about to explode, and I think we did that last week."
There is another reason why this is no lay-up, other than the Predators finishing 10-6 during the regular season and earning the No. 2 seed in the National Conference:
Only seven No. 1 seeds in the previous 19 AFL seasons have won ArenaBowl titles, and the seventh, Colorado, ended up a co-No. 1 seed last year when it defeated fellow No. 1-seed Georgia for the Foster Trophy.
Now it may be a good omen, at least for Sunday, that nine of those other No. 1 seeds in the playoffs at least lost in the ArenaBowl.
But in Arena football, nothing is guaranteed.
"It's the nature of the game - anything can happen at anytime," Desperados head coach Will McClay says, knowing the intrinsic quirks of this indoor game, what with balls bouncing off the sideboards in the end zone for touchdowns, as one did this past weekend for Georgia, or balls boomeranging off the end-zone nets for touchdowns or interceptions, as one did for the Desperados this past playoff game. Plus, with a 50-yard field, no matter if you are at your one or the opponent's one, you're always within scoring range.
And just look at the random results this year in the playoffs. The lower seeds have been able to go 4-4 in the playoffs, with the American Conference's No. 1-seeded Colorado Crush already getting knocked off, leaving second-seeded San Jose to play fifth-seeded Chicago.
Hey, this is not the NFL, and it's not meant to be the NFL. This is a different game requiring a different set of skills. This is one-on-one football, a game where you had better put at least half-a-hundred on your opponent or risk getting throttled. This is sophisticated backyard football in pads. In other words, a veritable blast to watch.
What happens Sunday at the AAC doesn't equate to what will take place twice out here at The Ranch the same day. But football is football, and the Cowboys organization has some double-barrel action taking place this weekend.
Desperados conference championship.
Good stuff, no?
|Even though he was out doing some agility-type drills with a few of his teammates while the Desperados were holding practice on Thursday, linebacker Kevin Burnett won't be taking part in this weekend's mini-camp. He's coming off that reconstructive knee surgery the beginning of January, so probably is a couple of months away, shooting for the start of training camp. Says he's coming along just fine. And now that the Cowboys released linebacker Kalen Thornton, Burnett is the only player expected to be held out of the mini-camp.|
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