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Force hope to bounce back against undefeated Chicago

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Georgia Force wide receiver CJ Johnson (5) runs a kick return back for a touchdown during arena football action at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth on Saturday.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Georgia Force wide receiver CJ Johnson (5) runs a kick return back for a touchdown during arena football action at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth on Saturday.

SUGAR HILL -- After giving up the second-most points ever in an Arena Football League game last week in a loss to Philadelphia, it would be easy to think the Georgia Force couldn't face a more difficult situation this week.

However, things won't be getting any easier for them as the Chicago Rush invade The Arena at Gwinnett Center tonight at 7.

And as bad as last week's loss was, the specter of a visit by the AFL's lone remaining undefeated team has convinced Force coach Dean Cokinos that it's more important to look forward during this week's practices at Gary Pirkle Park, rather than look back.

"That was about as bad as it gets," Cokinos said of last Saturday's 92-42 loss to Philadelphia, in which which Soul's total placed behind only the New York Dragons' total in a 99-68 win over the Carolina Cobras on July 7, 2001, in the league's records. "There are always reasons why you win or lose. We really didn't want to spend (much) time identifying reasons ... because there were multiple reasons why we lost (last week).

"Really, we're 2-2. So, our approach now is really to restart the schedule. It's a 14-game schedule. We're .500, and we're just starting all over. We kind of went back to training camp mode (in practice this week) and got back to basics."

Indeed, things aren't desperate for the Force (2-2), who remain tied with New Orleans and Tampa Bay atop the AFL's South Division standings.

But as Cokinos pointed out, last week's debacle did illustrate the need for some changes.

From a personnel standpoint, the Force made a few this week, activating nose guard Chris Cook off the AFL's refusal to report list and receiver Jake Allen off the injured list and signing defensive lineman Louis Ellis and defensive back Israel Route.

Most of those changes were directed at the defensive end, and the Force's defensive unit faces another tough challenge this week against a Chicago offense that ranks fifth in the AFL in scoring at 63 points per game and features one of the league's top passers in Russ Michna (85-130-3, 1,116 yds., 26 TDs), plus receiver Reggie Gray (35-425), who leads the AFL with 15 TD receptions.

"We've got to have a better effort (defensively) regardless of the points (allowed)," Cokinos said. "You can't win with that defensive effort we put on the field last week.

"The thing about Chicago is they're a complete team. They're solid on offense. They're solid on defense. They're solid on special teams. They're well-coached. That's the reason they're 4-0. They're a good football team everywhere. So, that's our biggest challenge."

Just as big a challenge for the Force might be gaining some consistency.

As bad as they were last week, they were just as good in their previous outing, a 69-41 win over defending ArenaBowl champion Jacksonville on March 24.

And the goal for this week is for the Force to shake off the lows of last week's loss and to get more of an effort like they showed in their 2-1 start, like strong play from receivers Larry Shipp (36-483, 12 TDs) and C.J. Johnson (690 all-purpose yards, 3 total TDs) and defensive back Tracy Belton (23.5 tackles, 4 INTs).

"It's really just getting back to the team that we've always been -- playing together and being physical," Cokinos said. "We got away from all the fundamentals that we preach -- the unity and the physicality. ... That's really what we've got to get back to."