Barracudas begin quest for IFL title Saturday
BELTON -- After having nine players named to the Intense Football League all-star game this week, the CenTex Barracuda professional indoor football team knows its earned the respect of the league. But for first-year head coach Chris Duliban and his squad, that's not enough. They want it all.
For the first time in franchise history, the Barracudas will be bringing the IFL playoffs to the Bell County Expo Center as CenTex will play host to the Alaska Wild at 7 p.m. Saturday in a first round playoff game. The winner will advance to the IFL semifinals to face the Corpus Christi Hammerheads July 19 in Robstown.
Despite losing their last two regular season games on the road to traditional powerhouses Louisiana and Corpus Christi, the Barracudas (8-6) proved they can play with the IFL elite. Now, they want to prove they can do more than that in the post-season tournament. The IFL's Intense Bowl IV champion will advance to play the United Indoor Football League champion in the first-ever National Indoor Football Championship at a date, time and place to be determined. Three-time champion Sioux Falls and Bloomington will play in the United Bowl IV at the Sioux Falls Arena Saturday.
"I think all of the players have a hunger for more," said Duliban, who led the Barracudas to several franchise records this season, including most wins and most points scored in a game. "They've committed to each other to do what it takes to get there, they know there is no tomorrow, and they're ready. It was great to get three weeks off to get rested and healed up, but they're chomping at the bit now. They have a goal, and they know the ultimate goal can only be achieved if taken one step at a time. And right now, they are focused on Alaska."
Getting focused and motivated against the Wild (5-9) could be one of the biggest obstacles the Barracudas face coming into the game. Not only does Alaska come into the game as the lowest seed in the tournament, the Wild backed into the playoffs despite a 68-66 loss at Fairbanks, have lost seven of their last eight games, and were crushed 54-7 by CenTex May 24 in the Expo Center.
"It's going to be tough," Duliban said. "We know they didn't have a full complement of players the first time we played them. So we've been talking about it a lot, the players are aware of it, and they aren't expecting this game to be like the last one. Our last two game experiences have been losses, and they are anxious to get back on track. There is a sense of urgency out there right now. They know that's it's one and done if we don't take care of business."
The Barracudas were riding high going into the final two weeks of the regular season, having won six of their last seven games since signing former Texas Longhorn record-setting quarterback James Brown and clinching a playoff berth. But CenTex finished the regular season with back-to-back road games against the two toughest teams in the league, losing at Louisiana, 45-32, before falling at Corpus Christi, 70-54, in a see-saw battle for second place.
Although Alaska played shorthanded on their last trip to Belton, the Wild is expected to show up with full contingent for the playoff game. And despite the lopsided score the last time the two teams met, Alaska enters the game with one of the league's best defenses, led by all-star linebacker Demarcus James.
"Alaska does have a good defense," Duliban said. "We can not play like we feel pressure. We pressed the last two games and we lost both of them. We have to be patient. We need to relax and take what they give us. And offensively, we have to understand that the little ones will become big ones."
Behind the leadership of Brown and the big play ability of wide receiver-kick return specialist Olan Coleman, the Barracudas have done just that. Brown finished the regular season as the IFL leader in quarterback rating (104.2) and completion percentage (60.1), while Coleman set a new league record with six kickoff returns for touchdowns along with 19 touchdown receptions.
While the Barracudas appear focused on taking care of business against Alaska, everyone in the organization wants another shot at the Hammerheads in Corpus Christi. And they are excited about getting a playoff game against the Wild at home.
"I think it's going to be great," Duliban said. "We are real comfortable in the Expo Center. We play real well here, and we seem to have an extra gear at home. We haven't played at home in a month. I think it's great for the football fans in this area that we're getting another gamer here. I hope they come out in droves and make a lot of noise.
"I think you'll see a high energy level by our players. We have to come out with guns blazing and hit them hard early. If we do that, I think we'll have a fun night, and a big night."
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Intense Football League Stories from July 11, 2008
- Barracudas begin quest for IFL title Saturday - CenTex Barracudas
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