New-look Swashbucklers open season Saturday night

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

When the Louisiana Swashbucklers take the field Saturday night, they will have more than a few fresh faces inside their helmets.

Gone is the trio of quarterbacks who last season led the Bucs to the playoffs despite each one suffering injuries.

Also gone is fan favorite John Paul Jones, a defensive lineman who was long in the tooth perhaps but also had a place in the

hearts of local fans.

There will be other names missing from the roster, but that was all part of the offseason plan.

Last season the Swashbuckers struggled on defense, giving up too many big plays. It cost them more than a few games as they

finished the regular season 6-6.

A first-round playoff loss stung for a

franchise that had grown accustomed to playing for and winning indoor

football championships.

In an attempt to return to the title hunt, the Bucs have tried to get younger and faster this season, hoping to cut down on

the big plays allowed and make more of them themselves.

“That was our goal, to become more athletic and fast, especially on the back end,” said Swashbuckler president Chris Meaux.

This is the second year Meaux and his group have owned the team. They say interest in both sponsorships and season tickets is up from a year ago. Now, they want to turn that interest into a title.

“We want to reward our fans with the best product we can,” he said.

Thus, the new Bucs will open play in the Pro Indoor Football League with a game inside the Lake Charles Civic Center against

Albany. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

It is the first of four straight home games for the Bucs to start the season. They will play only twice more the rest of the

regular season at the Civic Center, finishing with six of their last eight games on the road.

“It is tough,” said Darnell Lee. “It is very important that we get off to a good start and the outcome of these first few

games will determine how much pressure is on us those last few games.”

Quarterback will be key for the Bucs. Last year, they had trouble keeping one healthy. This season the Bucs cut last year’s

opening night starter Alvin Bartie in camp, leaving the job open to Tim Curry and Chris Mitchell.

“We like both of those guys,” said Lee. “Both can run and both are big and have nice touches on the ball.

“One thing we have to do is to keep our people healthy and standing up. We have to take care of the quarterbacks. We will

use both of them.”

Lee said Curry is set to start but the competition remains open.

With that in mind the Bucs added “fresh legs” to the offensive line. But they also will once again be counting on the legs

of Kendrick Perry, who led the PIFL in rushing a year ago with 439 yards and 20 touchdowns .

“Even though it is the indoor game, a big part of what we like to do is still run the football,” said Lee.

The Bucs did resign one fan favorite, Sammy Knight, who will be back at his slot receiver position. Knight has been forced

the last two years by injury to play some quarterback.

The Swashbucklers recently signed

former AFL standout A.J. Harris in the offseason. Harris finished his

collegiate career

as New Mexico State’s all time leader in receptions and yards.

“A.J. has an insatiable work ethic,” said Lee. “He will make

the most out of any opportunity presented. He has been the

ultimate team player on every team.

The Bucks will bring back a pair of All-PIFL performers from the 2012 season. The Bucs resigned 6-foot, 220-pound defensive

back Damien Huren, and 5-10 speedster Jordan Rideaux.

Huren, will move to linebacker for the 2013 season.

“His size, speed and strength make him a

natural in the box,” said Lee. “We were able to add some missing pieces

to the defensive

backfield with the addition of some young, fast talent.

“Moving Damien to linebacker will make

our defense extremely stingy. I look forward to Damien securing more

tackle opportunities.

He is a beast on the field.

Huren was first-team All-PIFL last year.

Rideaux had a big season in 2012. He pulled in 18 TD’s to lead the Bucs and was the first Swashbuckler in history to amass

1,000 receiving yards.

“Jordan is our fastest receiver, and a great route runner,” said Lee. “He caused a few twisted ankles last season.”

Overall, the main thing for the Bucs is the newness. They are hoping that while not a complete overhaul, there have been enough

changes to at least make for a better outcome to the season.

“I like the things we have done,” said

Lee. “I like some of the new people we have brought in. I think they

will make a difference.”

We will find out just how improved the new Bucs are starting Saturday.