By Matt Popchock
This episode of “The Power Source,” our brand new weekly Pittsburgh Power podcast, previews the first home contest of the 2012 season, which kicks off tonight at 8:00 against the Philadelphia Soul.
Roughly a year ago at this time the return of the Arena Football League to Pittsburgh after more than a twenty-year absence was a rousing success–except for the final score. A record crowd of over 13,000 fans watched the Soul escape CONSOL Energy Center with a win on a pick-six in overtime.
The Power are understandably eager to deliver a different result to those fans, come what may, as they continue their sophomore season in the AFL with tonight’s home opener against the Soul. Both teams have a very different look and feel heading into this nationally televised contest, and although it is not the 2012 lid-lifter for either of these East Division rivals, the Power are treating it as such.
Due to an abbreviated, and, in the opinion of some, ill-advised, players’ strike, only a fraction of their projected 24-man roster ultimately contributed to a 40-26 victory over the host Orlando Predators Mar. 9. Even head coach Chris Siegfried, always a student of the game, openly admitted to shirking his routine film study following that season-opener in light of the unusual circumstance under which his team prevailed.
Conventional wisdom says the Soul are the most improved club in the AFL, though they needed a last-minute touchdown drive and some help on special teams to defeat the New Orleans VooDoo, 63-62, at the New Orleans Arena last Sunday. The Power, with a new-look roster of its own, want to finish what last year’s league doormat started, and with a familiar face under center, they hope to pick up where 2011 left off.
After coming to town via claim order from the Spokane Shock July 1, former Seton-LaSalle and Pitt quarterback Bill Stull will start for the Power tonight. In his only appearance with the hometown team last season, he led them to a season-closing win in Philadelphia.
In this week’s episode of “The Power Source,” you’ll hear from Siegfried about the dynamic nature of both these teams. You’ll also hear from one of his newest receivers, P.J. Berry, about working with a new QB and matching wits with fellow special teams ace (and friend) Jeff Hughley, who is coming off a historic performance in The Graveyard.
In addition, you’ll hear from defensive coordinator Derek Stingley about two players who he believes might turn heads, starting tonight: defensive back Chris LeFlore, and newly anointed captain Callahan Bright. LeFlore made a key INT in the Power’s win two weeks back, and Bright, a former All-PIAA defensive lineman at Harriton, will make his Power debut.
Check out this latest episode of “The Power Source”:
And here’s a quick look at tonight’s game:
WHERE IT IS: CONSOL Energy Center
WHEN IT IS: 8:00 P.M.
WHERE TO WATCH: NFL Network (Paul Burmeister with play-by-play, Brian Baldinger with color commentary, Anthony Herron reporting); online simulcast on Ustream (CLICK HERE to view the Power’s official channel); live blog later at 93.7 The Fan website
WHEN WE LAST LEFT THESE TEAMS: The Power opened the 2012 season with a 40-26 win in Orlando over the Predators Fri., Mar. 9, setting a new franchise record for fewest points allowed in a single game. The Soul opened their 2012 season last Sunday with a 63-62 win in New Orleans over the VooDoo that was secured when Bryan Robinson blocked a field goal attempt from just beyond midfield on the final play of the game.
MOST RECENT MEETING: Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Power decided to give some playing time to a number of individuals who would later crack the 2012 squad in their 2011 season finale at the Wells Fargo Center. One of them, as previously noted, was Stull, who completed 24 of 40 attempts without an interception in his Power debut, racking up 260 yards and six touchdowns in a 61-48 decision over Philadelphia July 22.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY: Based on the changes celebrity co-owner Ron Jaworski made in Philadelphia, you’d think Jerry Jones was really the one calling the shots. No, we mean that literally. The Dallas Vigilantes (formerly called the Dallas Desperados) ceased operations in the off-season, and the Soul took that opportunity to recruit a number of their cast-offs, including former franchise great/current assistant coach Clint Dolezel, and his protege, new starting QB Dan Raudabaugh. Against the Power last season, Raudabaugh threw for ten TD’s, only to see his team fall in a wild 76-75 finish in Dallas May 28. Last week he went 22-of-30 for 310 yards and seven scores without a pick.
The receiving corps this team boasts is easily as capable as the Power’s, and it’s a little bit more experienced. It features another of the former Vigilantes, Anthony “Tiger” Jones, fellow AFL veterans Larry Brackins and Donovan Morgan, and Hughley. In last year’s season opener, Morgan schooled the Power’s secondary, catching 14 balls for 189 yards and accounting for all five TD receptions by Philadelphia. Last week Hughley set a franchise single-game record with 357 all-purpose yards and 265 kick return yards, earning game MVP honors.
Their secondary is populated by two potential Arena Football Hall of Famers, defensive back Micheaux Robinson and fellow DB Rayshaun Kizer, a First Team All-Arena section at his position two years in a row. If those names don’t ring a bell, perhaps the name of backup QB Adam DiMichele will. The former WPIAL career passing yardage king from Sto-Rox will be holding for kicker Phil Marfuggi, who was once looked at by the Power.
ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION: The Cleveland Gladiators (0-1) host the Kansas City Command tonight at 7:30, while the Milwaukee Mustangs (0-1), Pittsburgh’s next opponent, visit the VooDoo tonight at 8:00.
HIDDEN STAT: Mike Washington caught nine passes for the Power for 166 yards and four TD’s in the season opener. He combined for 20 grabs, 266 yards, and five touchdowns against Philadelphia last season, with four of those scores coming in the season finale.
(Follow the Power on Twitter @AFLPittsburgh.)
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)