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(Rick Hickman / American Press)

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

Streaking Bucs return home after long road swing

Last Modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 10:41 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Having worked their way back into playoff contention, the Louisiana Swashbucklers are hoping they are back in their fans’ minds as well.

On Saturday night the Bucs return home for the first time in nearly a month when they take on Richmond inside the Lake Charles Civic Center.

The last time the Bucs played at home they stopped a season-opening three-game losing streak, all of which came at home. Since then they have won three of four and are tied for fifth, a half game out of a playoff spot in the seven-team Professional Indoor Football League.

Now, though, comes the tough part.

The Bucs (3-4) open a two-game homestand with one of the two teams tied for first place at 5-2. After Richmond the Alabama Hammers, the other team tied for first, will come to town.

That is when things really get interesting. After that the Bucs will hit the road for the final three games of the regular season. They will travel to Alabama and finish in Richmond. Sandwiched in between is a game against the last-place Nighthawks of Knoxville, who the Swashbucklers have beaten twice.

“If we get in we are going to have to earn it,” said Bucs head coach Darnell Lee. “That is the way we like it. We control our own destiny and have to play the best.”

Lee went on to say he thought the Swashbucklers would win their way into the playoffs, something they have done in each of his previous seven years at the helm. For that to happen they will have to keep their turnaround going.

The Bucs lost last week to the defending champs 45-42.“We had our chances and kind of gave that one away,” Lee said. “We can’t do that anymore. Every game matters.”

The Bucs say they are playing much better, especially on defense. No longer are they giving up big plays in the secondary. Now they are forcing offenses to work their way down the field and trying to get turnovers.

“We are playing twice as good as we were before, maybe even more,” Lee said. “We are a completely different team. We knew going in to the season we would be young and it would take time to come together.

“We are jelling now.

“The big thing is our defense now understands the indoor game a little more. They know the game is designed to give up points but you want to make the other team work for their points. We have done that the last few games.”

There has also been the improved play of quarterback Chris Mitchell, who took over the starting job after the first week. Lee said Mitchell has improved his decision making more than anything else, taking what the defense is willing to give him.

“Chris has improved on keeping his eyes down the field even in the face of a big rush,” Lee said. “By doing that he is able to find the open receivers late and we are making more plays down the field.

“Before Chris would put his head down when he got pressure and take off running. Now his thoughts are on throwing the ball to the open man.”

Mitchell has hit on 87 of 135 passes for 1,107 yards and 22 touchdowns while throwing four interceptions. His QB rating is at 107.87.

Most of those throws go to Jordan Rideaux, who has 42 catches for 535 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Still, the season might come down to the next two games, the final two at home for the Bucs. They are 1-3 this year in the Civic Center.

“We have not played well there but we are happy to be back home,” Lee said. “We have to make the most of these games right now.”

For the Bucs, things are getting better but time is also running out.

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