(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 6:14 PM
There is something about a frying pad and fire that has the Swashbucklers hoping not to get burned.
After spending the last three weekends on long road trips, the Bucs are back home, their yearly Contraband exile from the Lake Charles Civic Center over.
Since leaving town, the Bucs (3-4) have played their way back into playoff contention in the Pro Indoor Football League.
Though with four of the league’s seven teams making the postseason, that might not be too hard. Finishing off the run into the playoffs might be much tougher.
“It is good to be home so we don’t have to be in a bus for a day or so,” said Swashbuckler head coach Darnell Lee. “You get an extra day really to prepare and you get to get your legs under you.
“Playing on the road is tough. Your sleep is off, your preparation time is off. It is a hard thing to do.”
No bus will be needed when the Bucs host one of two teams tied for the league lead at 5-2. The Richmond Raiders will come to town for the 7 p.m. kickoff tonight. Following them will be the Alabama Hammers, also 5-2.
“These are the two top teams right now and we get them back-to-back,” said Lee. “This will go a long way in how our season ends up.”
Actually, the Bucs will play league leaders each of the next three weeks as they travel to Alabama after the mini two-game home stand.
“It is important we get these games at home,” said Lee. “It will be hard to finish up on the road, but that is the position we put ourselves in.”
That’s because the young Bucs lost their first three games, all at home.
“We have a chance to make a real run at the playoffs,” said Lee. “That’s all you can ask for.”
The improved play by the Bucs is coming from a growing defense which is currently ranked second overall in the league.
The Bucs are one of two teams, along with two-time defending champion Albany, which allows fewer than 40 points a game. The Bucs give up an average of 38.4 with Albany at 37.3. Alabama and Richmond are next at 46.9 and 48 respectively.
“Our defense is playing much better,” said Lee. “They are looking to make big plays, get stops and not give up the long scores. We want to make the other team work the ball down the field.”
Greg Harvey is second in the league in interceptions for the Swashbucklers with four. Kenny Kitchen has two. They will try and contain Richmond QB Warren Smith, who has throws for 1,499 yards and 25 touchdowns on 111-for-190 passing.
However, Smith has thrown 11 interceptions in his seven games.
“Coming up with turnovers when we needed them has been a big plus,” said Lee.
Richmond is the No. 2 rushing team in the league, led by Mike Jones who has a league best 41.5 yards per game average. His 13 touchdowns is far ahead of any other running back.
The Swashbucklers Kendrick Perry is second in the league with almost 35 yards per game but has just four TDs.
“Even though it is an indoor game and throwing is key, we also want to establish a running attack,” said Lee. “We want to stay balanced as best we can.”
The Bucs real improvement on offense has come at quarterback. Chris Mitchell has taken over the team’s leadership role since coming off the bench in the season opener.
“Chris has improved on keeping his eyes down the field even in the face of a big rush,” said Lee. “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 only 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.