New season gives Power jolt of hope
There will be fireworks — a Pittsburgh tradition even for indoor football — gifts for fans, contests and $1 hot dogs.
But for the Power to make a significant impact when their third season opens Saturday at Consol Energy Center against the Utah Blaze, they must do something that everyone demands, but the team has yet to deliver:
Win more games than it loses.
Coach Derek Stingley said there is reason to believe the team, which went 5-13 last season, can succeed.
“The guys are a whole lot more focused,” said Stingley, who has a two-year contract in the hope to build franchise stability after a season of salary discontent among players. “We paid closer attention to detail (in training camp). We didn't have the issues that were pressuring us before. It's just football.” The defense needs to pay attention to Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady, who's tough to miss at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds.
“He's probably, in my opinion, the best quarterback in the league,” Stingley said. “He has always been a big-play guy, throws a great deep ball. We're hoping we can make him force some throws and make him feel a little uncomfortable.” That pressure could come from four of the team's most accomplished players: defensive lineman Neil Purvis, one of only two Power players who have been with the team all three seasons, All-AFL linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson and defensive backs Chris LeFlore and Sergio Gilliam.
Jackson played for Stingley in New Orleans and has 22 interceptions in the past two seasons.
Gilliam, who played at Clemson, has 18 interceptions in three seasons for three indoor teams, and LeFlore has 14 in two for the Dallas Vigilantes and Power.
The Power will be without linebacker Gary Butler, a product of Langley and California (Pa.) who sat out last season and is on the nine-week injured reserve list with a concussion. Rookie Ryan Lewis, a four-year starter at Bethune-Cookman, will replace Butler.
“Gary is a tough guy; his motor stays on. Ryan has the same toughness,” Stingley said.
The key to victory in indoor football is the passing game, and Stingley is taking a chance with quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who never has played the game.
Stingley likes the size and skills of the 6-5, 225-pound Jefferson, who set an LSU career rushing record for quarterbacks (1,018 yards).
His main targets are Aliquippa's Mike Washington, who enters his third season with the Power, P.J. Berry and Perry Baker, who played at Fairmont (W.Va.) State and is the brother for former Steelers player Dallas Baker and the nephew of former NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Chandler.