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'Mindset' is the difference for this season's Power team

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 10:13 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Power kicker Julian Rauch gets a congratulatory handshake from his teammate Arvell Nelson after a successful extra point attempt on Saturday June 7, 2014 against the New Orleans VooDoo.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Power's Sergio Gilliam returns an interception during the game against the New Orleans VooDoo on Saturday June 7, 2014.

Power kicker Julian Rauch, who has twice kept the team's seven-game winning streak alive with clutch kicks, notices a difference in this year's team that goes beyond the obvious.

“The mindset,” said Rauch, who joined the Power midway through last season's 4-14 disaster.

Rauch said the team has evolved through talented players, who are more mature and professional.

“You see guys come in the door, workout guys, and everybody goes and introduces themselves and says hello. We're looking for help,” he said.

“Last year, (players were thinking), ‘I hope you don't take my spot.'

“Everybody is trying to get better every single day. Last year, it was a challenge just to get to the next day.”

For the Power (10-3), the challenge Friday will be to defeat the Iowa Barnstormers (6-7) at Consol Energy Center and clinch the franchise's first playoff berth.

For Rauch, the challenge is helping the Power toward that end while hoping the NFL notices. Not that he needs the money. Rauch owns and operates an investment real estate company in Charlotte and splits his time each week between the two cities.

But at the age of 28, he still dreams about the NFL.

“No one wants to stay at a lower level when there is another level,” Rauch said.

Meanwhile, he is one of only three AFL kickers who are perfect on field-goal attempts. He has tried only four, but his 23-yarder at the buzzer defeated the Philadelphia Soul, 57-56, last week. And his 27-yard extra point with one second left in Orlando last month — set back after a penalty — beat the Predators, 62-61.

“I'm not a coach who kicks a lot of field goals,” the Power's Ron James said, “but when you have a guy who is as accurate as he is at crunch time, it leads me to kind of think about my philosophy a little bit.”

Rauch is best known for kicking the game-winning field goal for Appalachian State in its historic 34-32 upset of Michigan in 2007.

“Just about everywhere I go, (people) figure out who I am,” he said.

He was with the Steelers in training camp in 2008, but Jeff Reed was the established kicker. Last year, he returned to work out for the Steelers, and he said general manager Kevin Colbert suggested he get some experience in the Arena Football League. The Power called before the end of the season.

Note: Wide receiver Tyrone Goard, who has a team-high 18 touchdowns among his 29 receptions, has a knee injury that doesn't require surgery. He will not play Friday.

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