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Force head south with growing confidence

FLOWERY BRANCH - When the Georgia Force last prepared for a road trip to Florida the mood under the roof at Flowery Branch seemed uncertain.

That week, they lost.

The next week, frustration and anger moved uncertainty to the side.

This week, for the first time this season, the team looked settled. The energy from the previous week still lasted, but the pained looks on the faces and the strained tone of the voices had subsided.

The Force's (1-2) first win eased the strain.

"There is that whole, high level of disappointment, not only for yourself, your team and the whole organization," Force coach Doug Plank said. "This gets us back into the mind set that we are playing another division opponent this week in Orlando, one of our competitors or rivals or whatever you want to call it."

Back in the division is the key. After three weeks, despite the two losses, the Force are in the middle of a muddled division, but are desperately in need of a Southern Division win.

It makes this week even more special in terms of the challenge," Plank said. "Especially playing down in Orlando. It is very similar to Tampa. It is a hostile environment. They have a great crowd. They have the whole package of distractions."

Plank knows about the environment in Orlando. In his seven years as a coach in the AFL, Plank didn't win a game in Orlando until the Force's June visit last season. Quarterback Chris Greisen threw eight touchdowns in the 55-44 win.

This week, Greisen will face one of the league's most generous defenses in Orlando, which yields more than 321 yards a game. Not far behind the Force offense are the Predators, racking up 314 yards a game. Ten of leading receiver T.T. Tolliver's catches are for touchdowns.

"Their receivers are hard-working, tough guys that run real well off the ball," Plank said. "They do a great job inside the 10-yard line making catches and running over players. Their players just have a mental toughness, a mental and physical toughness about them."

The pressure will again fall on the Force's defense, which limited its offsides penalties in the home win over L.A. It will need to be steady against a team as consistent as Orlando. Quarterback Shane Stafford completes 70 percent of his passes.

"I have never really seen them play badly," Plank said. "I have seen them where they haven't really been as sharp as they have at other times, but never really saw them where they came out and gave bad effort and poor execution."

Orlando is coached by Jay Gruden, brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach John Gruden.

SideBar: Force at Predators

· When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

· Where: Orlando, Fla.

· Radio: 790-AM