Power not seeking redemption in Saturday clash with Gladiators
The Power won't seek redemption Saturday night when they try to defeat the unbeaten Cleveland Gladiators at Consol Energy Center.
Redemption doesn't count in the standings, ensure improvement or clear a path to the playoffs — the only prizes that matter to Power coach Ron James as the best teams in the Arena Football League's American Conference meet for a third time this season.
James calls this game another “opportunity” for his team, which has lost twice to the Gladiators (9-0), including a 55-28 defeat in Cleveland on April 28.
“When we played them earlier, we played one of our most incomplete games of the season,” he said. “And a lot of that is because they are good team and they forced the issue.”
Yet he is careful not to give the Gladiators too much credit.
“I felt like we kind of imploded in that game,” he said.
Penalties and sloppy offense — the Power committed two turnovers and scored 27.3 points below their average — angered James to the point that he called the team together and voiced his displeasure.
“We had what coaches call a come-to-Jesus meeting where we basically tell them exactly what it is that we are not doing right and what it's going to take to get ourselves on track,” James said.
It worked. The Power (7-3) are 4-0 since that game, scoring at least 50 points each time.
“A real wakeup call as to what we needed to do as a team,” James said.
That game also was the last for Power receiver Aaron Lesue, who suffered a season-ending knee injury after he was horse-collared in the end zone.
James holds no public grudge toward the Gladiators, noting the injury occurred before the whistle. But he admits it was unusual.
“I've never seen anybody get pulled down from behind the way he did,” he said. “It was a freak injury. The (pass-interference) penalty doesn't bring the player back.”
James knows what to expect from the Gladiators, a team he calls “arguably the best team in the league.”
“Cleveland plays with a chip on (its) shoulder,” he said. “They are a very aggressive bunch. We just have to rise to the occasion.”
The Gladiators have won five of seven games between the teams since the Power joined the AFL in 2011. Another Pittsburgh loss means the Gladiators would need to lose five of their final eight games to relinquish first place to the Power.
“We know we can beat these guys,” receiver Prechae Rodriguez said. “We are going to knock them off their high horse.”