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Receivers coach Harrell a good catch for Power

| Friday, June 27, 2014, 10:26 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Power's Shawn Kauleinamoku makes a touchdown catch against the Iowa Barnstormers during the game Friday, June 20, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Coach Ron James had plenty of reasons to smile as he prepared the Power (11-3) for Saturday's game against the Sharks in Jacksonville.

His face lit up especially bright when he told the story of the part he played seven years ago in stopping one of the most amazing streaks in Arena Football League history.

It involves a stingy defense, Power wide receivers coach Damian Harrell and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

James was the line coach for the Utah Blaze, and Harrell had caught a touchdown pass in a record 78 consecutive games for the Colorado Crush, a now-defunct AFL team that Elway co-owned. On June 4, 2007, the Blaze defeated the Crush, 51-14, and Harrell's streak ended.

“I tease him about that,” James said.

Reunited in Pittsburgh, James and Harrell are friends and colleagues who are having the times of their lives.

James' team has qualified for the playoffs with four games left in the regular season; Harrell has been nominated for this year's AFL Hall of Fame class while presiding over, perhaps, the deepest pass-catching group in the league.

Wide receivers Aaron Lesue (knee) and Rodney Wright (broken hand) are lost for the season, and Tyrone Goard, a rookie who shares the team lead with 18 touchdowns, will miss his second consecutive game with a knee injury. Prechae Rodriguez (also with 18 scores) has returned after missing eight games.

Somehow, the Power are second in the league in touchdown receptions (87) and quarterback Tommy Grady is second in passing yards (3,622). Five players average at least 10 yards per catch, led by Shaun Kauleinamoku (95 catches for 1,096 yards and 15 touchdowns).

Despite the injuries, James keeps finding replacements and wondering why people are surprised.

“That's my job, you know,” he said.

He credits Harrell, whose experience includes setting all-time AFL records in catches (1,164), yards (15,128) and touchdowns (357).

“To have as many receivers go through the mix as we have had and have somebody like Damian, who can steady them and can teach them because he has been through it, has been invaluable,” James said. “Without him, we are not as seamless moving players in and out as we have been.”

The most recent acquisition is Jeremy Kelley, who was with the Indianapolis Colts last year — he made it to the final cut of training camp — and the Minnesota Vikings this spring.

James said the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Kelley may be effective in Jacksonville's Veterans Memorial Arena, where rounded end zones are only 2 yards deep in the corners.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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