Force return to Arena to meet Vigilantes



It seems like ages since the Georgia Force played their first Arena Football League home game in three years on March 13.

In reality, it’s been just three weeks after two road games with a bye week sandwiched in between.

In any event, the Force are simply glad to be home as they welcome the Dallas Vigilantes to the Arena at Gwinnett Center today for an 8 p.m. kickoff.

There will be a lot of hoopla surrounding the game, with a national television audience from the NFL Network looking on, plus other off-field activities that include Atlanta Falcons running back Ovie Mughalli singing the national anthem.

Force coach Dean Cokinos is hopeful his team can keep its focus on the field.

“It’s exciting for us,” Cokinos said of finally getting another home game. “Being a national TV game in front of our home crowd, it always adds something to the players. But this is a big game even without it.”

Indeed, the Force (2-1, currently tied for second with Orlando just a half-game behind Jacksonville in the South Division) hope to build on a strong outing after last Saturday’s 61-35 road rout of New Orleans.

That impressive victory was built on defense, which currently leads the AFL in fewest passing yards allowed at just 594.

The Force held the winless VooDoo to just 218 yards of total offense, recorded five sacks — two each by Aaron McConnell and Benji McDowell — and created six New Orleans turnovers, including a pair of interceptions from Eric Crosby.

Add to that the continued steady production of quarterback Brett Elliott (59-for-91, 792 yards, 16 TDs) and receivers Maurice Purify (27-364, 7 TDs), Larry Shipp (19-291, 6 TDs) and C.J. Johnson (18-226, 1 TD) and it is a recipe Cokinos would like to see the Force continue to follow.

“The key to the (New Orleans) game was we got five sacks and (six) turnovers),” Cokinos said. “And our offense scored on our first seven or eight possessions. Any time you do that, you should dominate. It’s a good place for us to be right now.”

But in Dallas, they face a team in a similar place.

The Vigilantes (2-1, tied for second with Iowa a half-game behind Chicago in the Central Division) also have shown a strong pass defense, ranking sixth in the league, and have been ninth in scoring defense (51.7 ppg), just one place behind Georgia (eighth, 51.0).

They are led by defensive back Chris LeFlore (23 total tackles) and linebackers Joe Goosby (21.5 tackles) and Dusty Bear (three sacks).

“I expect a good pass rush from (Dallas),” Cokinos said. “They can really pressure the quarterback, so we really have to pay attention to their front four.

“On offense, they try to get the ball out of (quarterback Dan Raudabaugh’s) hands quickly. It should be an interesting matchup.”