Force face critical test against Orlando

Another week, another critical game for the Georgia Force in their chase for a berth in the Arena Football League playoffs.

This time, the Force welcome the Orlando Predators to The Arena at Gwinnett Center for a 3 p.m. kickoff this afternoon.

With the two teams ahead of them in the South Division standings -- the Jacksonville Sharks and New Orleans VooDoo -- playing each other, the Force (7-8) must handle the last-place Predators (2-12) to stay just a half-game off the lead with only two games remaining after today's contest.

"The last three games are essentially playoff games for pretty much everyone in the division," Georgia coach Dean Cokinos said. "In the big picture, we probably need to win at least two out of the last three (games remaining), but all that's important right now is this one (against Orlando)."

As they have been the past several weeks, the Force remain somewhat short-handed today due injuries and other transactions, especially on defense.

Though injured defensive back Marrio Norman may return to the line-up, linebacker Matt Marcorelle and defensive back Ahmad Hawkins will both miss today's game after being injured in last week's 61-38 loss at Utah, while defensive back Tracy Belton remains out at least one more week.

But with a bye scheduled for next week, Cokinos is hoping to piece together enough healthy bodies to get the defense through today's game and then get enough players back to get closer to full strength for the final two games -- July 14 at home against Pittsburgh and July 21 at New Orleans.

"If we can find a way to the win this week and then get healthy in the bye week, I think we've got a good chance (to get into the playoffs)," Cokinos said.

Another key area today and the rest of the season will be at quarterback.

After stepping in when R.J. Archer left the team to sign with the NFL's Detroit Lions, Bryant Moniz had a solid, if not spectacular, AFL debut last week.

The 6-foot, 215-pound rookie out of Hawaii completed 27 of 47 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, and ran for 22 more yards on five carries in Georgia's loss.

Cokinos hopeful for the the same kind of effort, and perhaps even more, from Moniz this week.

"He did an outstanding job for his first time playing in an arena game," Cokinos said. "For him to do that with no training camp and no experience, I think he handled himself well. Will that carry over to this week? We'll see."