Barracudas' road to IFL title goes through Corpus Christi
ROBSTOWN -- The CenTex Barracuda Professional Indoor Football team got the rubber match it wanted.
Coach Chris Duliban's Barracudas certainly grabbed everyone's attention by making the Intense Football League post-season tournament with the league's most impressive turnaround in the first place, then posting an overwhelming 71-18 first round playoff victory over the Alaska Wild last Saturday in the first-ever playoff game at the Bell County Expo Center.
But CenTex (9-6) remains well aware that the only way to earn the league-wide respect it desires will be to eliminate the perennial powerhouse Corpus Christi Hammerheads (10-4) in the IFL semifinal game at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Central Pavilion Arena.
"This is what we've been playing for all season, a chance to play in the championship game," said Duliban, who turned the franchise around in his first season as head coach following a 2-12 finish in 2007. "It's only fitting that we have to go back to Corpus to do it."
After splitting two evenly matched regular season games, the Barracudas will face a Corpus Christi team focused on returning to the IFL championship game, the Intense Bowl IV, for the second straight season. On the other hand, the Barracudas enter the game hungry to leave no doubt they belong among the IFL elite teams.
Only six points separated the two teams following the two regular season clashes, but the margin of victory on Citgo Field Saturday night won't matter as the winner advances to the title game to player the winner of Monday's semifinal game featuring 2006 champion Odessa (8-7) at undefeated defending champion Louisiana (14-0).
The highest-seeded team remaining in the post-season tournament will host the Intense Bowl IV next week. Then on August 2, the IFl champion will advance to the inaugural National Indoor Bowl Championship.
In their first meeting on June 9 in Belton, the Barracudas jumped out to an early lead, then hung on for a 70-60 victory. In the final minute of the game, Corpus Christi trailed by only two and had an opportunity to steal the game before the Barracuda defense rose to the occasion. Former Texas Longhorn quarterback James Brown completed 12 of 24 passes for 224 yards and five touchdowns to lead the CenTex offensive attack.
The second game in Robstown June 24 proved to be a see-saw battle until late in the contest when several crucial calls went against the Barracudas and turned the tide of the game in Corpus Christi's favor. Hammerhead running back Fred Wallace scored four rushing touchdowns and quarterback Dustin Almond passed for 209 yards and four scores as Corpus Christi put CenTex away, 70-60. "Corpus is always an emotional game, so we have to keep our composure and poise," said Duliban after watching two Barracudas get ejected from the second game. "The team that holds it together the longest will win the game."
Even though the Hammerheads lost the last game they played on Citgo Field earlier this month against the Louisiana Swashbucklers, there is no doubt that Corpus Christi has a huge homefield advantage. Since moving into the tight confines of the Central Pavilion Arena before last season, the Hammerheads have posted a 13-2 record at home.
"Corpus is a really tough place to play," Duliban said. "The arena is really small, there's no room to move in there, and it gets really loud. I think it's going to help us a lot to have already played there last month. We know what we're up against this time, so there won't be any surprises."
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Intense Football League Stories from July 18, 2008
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