Barracudas host defending champion Louisiana
BELTON - It may be early in the 2008 Intense Football League season, but this match-up has all the makings of a classic confrontation when the CenTex Barracudas play host to the defending champion Louisiana Swashbucklers Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Bell County Expo Center.
So much so, IFL commissioner Dan Blum will be on hand to watch the clash of the two undefeated teams battling for first place.
Certainly, the importance of the game and the monumental challenge his team faces has not been lost to Barracuda first-year head coach Chris Duliban. An intensely competitive coach, Duliban has been focused on Louisiana (2-0) since the moment last Saturday's 52-23 victory over San Angelo concluded.
In fact, the former Dallas Cowboy and University of Texas linebacker was already making his checklist of what it would take for the Barracudas (2-0) to pull off the upset as he walked off the field and into his office.
"They are the defending champions, and they play like it," Duliban said after watching the Swashbucklers on film. "They are extremely patient and make few mistakes. They force errors and play at a high intensity level. It's going to be a great challenge."
Last season, the Swashbucklers swept through the IFL to a 15-1 record, knocking off two-time finalist Corpus Christi Hammerheads, 46-27, in the Intense Bowl III. By demolishing the Katy Rough Riders 89-26 last Saturday, Louisiana extended its home win streak to 15 games, dating back to their 2006 season finale, a 63-60 loss to the CenTex Barracudas.
In the process, the Swashbucklers claimed two of the league's three of player of the week awards for their efforts against Katy. Quarterback Alvin Bartie, in his first game as an IFL starter, lit up the Katy Ruff Riders for 215 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception to be named the IFL Offensive Player of the Week. Defensive back Damien Huren earned IFL Defensive Player of the Week honors by picking off two passes from Katy quarterback Albert Higgs, deflecting three more and tallying nine tackles.
But even with that kind of success, Louisiana refuses to be content and stand pat.
Last week, the Swashbucklers announced the re-signing of quarterback Freddie Harrison. Harrison decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the team he led to the IFL championship last year. He hung up his helmet and pads after accepting the head coaching job at Ferriday High School, but now returns to give Louisiana experience along side Bartie.
Harrison has been activated for Saturday's game, and it remains questionable who the starter will be come game time. He entered the game late against Katy, completing 6 of 8 passes and tossed two touchdowns.
"We'll just have to see who lines up under center," Duliban said. "Bartie did a great job for them last week, but Harrison is special."
Whoever lines up at quarterback for the Swashbucklers will have the luxury of throwing to IFL MVP Shawn Piper, who split time playing offense and defense last season. In his return to the field as a full-time receiver, Piper hauled in six passes for 98 yards and three touchdowns against Katy.
But Piper is not the only receiving threat as Henry Hunter matched his three-touchdown performance while three other players, Marcus Wilridge, Sammy Knight and Jabari Hendricks added touchdown receptions.
In fact, the Swashbucklers were 9 for 9 in red zone opportunities against the Rough Riders on their way to setting the IFL regular season single-game scoring record.
While the Louisiana offensive attack appears flat out unstoppable, the Swashbuckler defense looks downright punishing. Huren, the 2007 IFL defensive player of the year, leads a defensive backfield that has allowed almost 30 points less than any other team in the league while surrendering only one deep pass in 120 minutes of action.
"If we want to beat the defending champs, we will have to continuing becoming a better team," Duliban said. "Offensively, we need to expand our playbook and work on spacing with the receivers. Defensively, we need to disguise our coverages and expand blitzes and stunts. And on special teams, we have to become more consistent overall.
"Without a doubt, it will take a total team effort. On thing is sure, though, our fans are in for a real treat."
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- Barracudas host defending champion Louisiana - CenTex Barracudas
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