By Matt Popchock
This episode of “The Power Source,” our brand new weekly Pittsburgh Power podcast, previews the Power’s Military Appreciation Night, as they get set to host former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner’s old employer, the Iowa Barnstormers, this evening.
Hopefully the Power team that takes the field Friday will have a much different look than the one we have seen the previous two games, aside from their special-event camouflage jerseys they will raffle off to several lucky fans at the end of the game. Nothing worth winning ever came easily, and before the Power, who entered the 2012 campaign with much higher hopes, can think about winning a championship, first they must win back their positive pre-season hype after a pair of unimpressive finishes against two divisional opponents.
Local boy Bill Stull kept the home team alive against the Philadelphia Soul Mar. 23 before completely falling apart in the fourth quarter. Stull continued to regress in Milwaukee last week against the Mustangs before injuring his non-throwing shoulder and giving way to Andrico Hines, who quarterbacked the Power to a season-opening win in Orlando.
Stull has been placed on IR, which, in the AFL, permits him to return any time after a mandatory four-week absence, and Hines will get the nod tonight. In this week’s episode of “The Power Source,” you’ll hear from him, as well as leading receiver Mike Washington, who caught four TD passes the last time he worked with Hines.
You’ll also hear from another receiver, Perry Baker, who is expected to make his first appearance of the season tonight. Baker, the brother of former Steeler castoff Dallas Baker, was spoken of highly by head coach Chris Siegfried, and you’ll hear from Siegfried about the proverbial wounds his team has had to lick recently.
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: 7:30 P.M.
WHERE TO WATCH: WPCW-TV* (Bob Pompeani with play-by-play, Craig Wolfley with color commentary); online simulcast on Ustream (CLICK HERE to view the Power’s official channel); live blog later at 93.7 The Fan website
*Tape-delayed coverage to air Saturday at 7:30 P.M.
WHEN WE LAST LEFT THESE TEAMS: The Power are coming off a 63-40 loss on the road to the East Division rival Milwaukee Mustangs last Thursday in which, once again, ball security was a factor; Pittsburgh coughed it up five times in defeat. The Barnstormers are also coming off back-to-back losses, most recently a 62-61 overtime decision against the Central Division rival Chicago Rush in Des Moines last Saturday that came down to a missed extra point by Mike Salerno.
MOST RECENT MEETING: On Mar. 19, 2011, with over 9,100 fans looking on at CONSOL Energy Center, former Pine-Richland product Kevin McCabe relieved injured QB Bernard Morris and guided the Power to a decisive 58-28 win over the Barnstormers, their first victory in franchise history. Mike Washington and Lonnell DeWalt each caught two passes and one touchdown pass apiece, combining for 57 yards receiving in a balanced offensive effort, while DeWalt also added a pick-six.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY: This team, on the field, is fundamentally different from the one the Power faced at home a year ago, to say nothing of the major off-the-field change Iowa made in the off-season (see two paragraphs below). The Barnstormers have three-year AFL veteran J.J. Raterink at the trigger this season, a former Wyoming product who has thrown for 829 yards and 17 touchdowns against just two INT’s thus far. The 17 TD’s rank fifth in the league, as does his passer rating of 123.0. He has also run for 22 yards and one touchdown on seven attempts. Last year Raterink was traded from Chicago to the Kansas City Command in the middle of the season, which ultimately became his first as a full-time starter.
Raterink, 30, isn’t afraid to spread the wealth, but it’s still fairly obvious that wide receiver Jesse Schmidt will be the focal point of the Barnstormers’ attack. Schmidt earned AFL Week 1 MVP honors for helping his team upend the Spokane Shock, and he has hauled in 36 passes for 414 yards–second-most in the league–and ten TD’s entering Friday. He has also run for one score on two carries. Last week he caught 15 balls for 154 yards and three touchdowns in that aforementioned loss.
With all due respect to Siegfried and his resume, perhaps no one in the building Friday night knows the Arena Football League more intimately than new Iowa head coach Mike Hohensee. He’s been in the AFL, literally, from the beginning, so you might say this is “Coach Ho’s” homecoming game. Hohensee, the original quarterback of the Pittsburgh Gladiators, threw the first touchdown pass in the first (official) game in league history en route to a 48-46 win over the Washington Commandos before a crowd of 12,117 at the Civic Arena on June 19, 1987.
ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION: The Milwaukee Mustangs (2-1) get an extra week to enjoy their victory over the Power before resuming play in Week 6. The Philadelphia Soul (2-1), who lost the first leg of the “Lesser of Two Evils Bowl” to the Cleveland Gladiators last week, visit the Georgia Force Saturday for a 7:00 P.M. kickoff. The Gladiators (2-1) host the Orlando Predators Sunday at 6:00 P.M.
HIDDEN STAT: The Power’s defense recorded a single-game best four interceptions in its last encounter with Iowa. The Power have three of those through the first three games of 2012, and DeWalt, who had four in all last year to tie for the team lead, is the only defensive player who played in that game and is still with the Power.
(Follow the Power on Twitter @AFLPittsburgh.)
(Foll0w me on Twitter @mpopchock.)