DULUTH - Troy Bergeron's return to action and the start of the Georgia Force's seven-game winning streak both took place on May 3.
That's hardly a coincidence.
Bergeron has played three seasons for the Force and the team has won three Southern Division titles in the Arena Football League.
That isn't a coincidence, either.
"I think this is the best," said the wide receiver after wrapping up first place with a 50-47 victory over the Chicago Rush on Saturday night in the Arena at Gwinnett Center. "We've come a long way to do this."
With Bergeron nursing a thigh injury, the Force opened the season 3-5. But the Columbus native returned to score four touchdowns in a 66-39 victory over New Orleans and the Georgia offense hasn't been stopped since.
"I knew we had the talent to win again," Bergeron said. "We just needed to get everyone on the field and clicking."
The Force certainly is clicking now.
When Chris Jackson left the team in the offseason to sign with Philadelphia as a free agent, the Force had a big hole to fill. With Bergeron hurting and new receivers to break in, quarterback Chris Greisen struggled at time early in the year after a record 2007.
"It was tough not being out there," Bergeron said. "I was the only receiver back and Chris needed me. It's hard when you don't know your receivers."
Now everyone is in complete sync, making the Force the hottest team in the Arena Football League and one of the contenders to win the Arena Bowl.
"We're rolling," Bergeron said. "Now we need to keep it up."
Bergeron didn't have one of his bigger games in the clincher against Chicago, but he caught 10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. The score came on a 7-yard pass from Greisen into the corner of the end zone, where Bergeron had to hold on as he crashed into the boards.
Bergeron needs nine catches in the regular-season finale at San Jose next Saturday to become the first AFL player to have 100 catches in each of his first three seasons.
Despite missing four games, Bergeron has 91 catches for 1,255 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.
With Carl Morris getting better game after game and late-edition Tiger Jones maturing quickly as a rookie, the Force now have won of the best receiving corps in the AFL.
Morris, who is also valuable on defense, caught four touchdown passes against the Rush. He leads the team with 117 catches and has 23 touchdowns.
The last two seasons as a backup, Morris had 20 catches and six touchdowns.
"Carl has stepped up this season and given us the tall receiver that we needed," Bergeron said. "He is a big part of his winning the division again."
Bergeron, who led Shaw High School of Columbus to a state title in 2000, had 31 catches for the Force in 2005 as a rookie and 41 last year.
In 2006, the 24-year-old tried to make it the NFL, spending time with the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills.
That didn't work out, but Bergeron has certainly shown his worth in the AFL.
"When he is on our team healthy, we are a different team," Force coach Doug Plank said. "He's our catalyst.
"He's quiet and doesn't say much. But his play makes the difference.
"When he's out there, he draws the defense's attention and that opens up things for our other receivers. It makes a big difference."
The Force's most dramatic victory during the seven-game winning streak came against Philadelphia, when Georgia rallied from a 21-point deficit for a 63-62 victory.
Bergeron caught the last two touchdown passes and the game-winning two-point conversion toss from Greisen.
"I've never had a game as a coach or a player like that," Plank said of the comeback. "It was very, very special."
So is what Bergeron means to the Georgia Force.