Forfeit ruling favors Lakeland's playoff chances
Lakeland, Fla. - It's official! Thor conquered New Jersey without a fight. In other words, Lakeland's ThunderBolts took the forfeit from the Extreme, authoritatively by a 6-0 penalty score. The added win could mean a trip to the playoffs for Lakeland (6-8) now that its regular-season has concluded. Coach Garrett Hagin and his 30-man, 'frozen' roster awaits this week's decision on whom will play where in the 8-team Atlantic Conference bracket.
Playoffs aside, the team very easily could have been 8-6, losing two games by 4 and 7 points. Another three were by 11, 12 and 14 points. Thor had no excuses, so he'll ride his bolt of lightening to another venue.
There was one team record that the T-Bolts established. That was kickoff returns for touchdowns in a game. Lakeland had 3 at Kissimmee in the last (played) game of the season on June 18. Will Glover had returns of 41 and 51 yards and newcomer (in his first ever NIFL game) Greg Golden had a 55 yard return at the beginning of the second quarter.
What is not to be left in the dust is the fine effort by some talented individuals. For example, there were some National Indoor Football League records tied by receiver/kick return specialist Tavarius Johnson and defensive back Lance Small.
Johnson's two kickoff, and Glover's pair against Kissimmee, returns for touchdowns in one game tied the NIFL record which is also held by five others. Johnson did that against the Warbirds in Dayton on April 29.
After the end of season statistics hit the desk, there was no arguing: The ThunderBolts had one of the best scoring special teams around. There was so much promise locked up in their special teams.
Separated by only half of a yard, the top four teams in kickoff returns were filled with the best teams in the league. Lakeland ranked in at number four, with six returns for touchdowns and 19.2 average yards per kickoff return. The highest ranked team was the Corpus Christi Hammerheads with six touchdowns and 19.7 average yards per kickoff return.
With two touchdowns a piece, these Glover and Johnson returned more than half of the kickoffs. Glover was the primary kickoff return specialist, with 40 of them totaling 782 yards and a 19.5 average return value.
Johnson had a season-high total of 138 return yards in that game against Dayton. His 23.2 yard KOR average ranked him 6th in the league.
The other facet of the offensive special teams that is just spectacular is the field goals. Steve Kratz made the Lakeland ThunderBolts third in the league in field goals. At 13 of 30, Steve had almost a 44% success rate, making him one of the best in the league. There could be nothing more priceless than a good kicker, and Kratz fit the bill.
Quarterback Jeremy Martin also had a huge year. If it weren't for a couple minor injuries which forced hi to sit out four games, the talented Martin would have had a 2,000-yard plus season. He collected 1,814 yards and his average (181.4 per game) placed him 5th in the league. Martin was one of only six passers to connect on 60% of his throws.
Within the top third of the league in his pass rating, the former Gardner-Webb University quarterback had stormed the league with a 105.8 rating, which ranked him 7th in the NIFL. He threw for 34 touchdowns in his ten games this year. Martin should be a great asset to the 2006 ThunderBolts!
Red Zone Defense is also of note. The Bolts came in at sixth place for red zone defense, forcing a lot of turnovers inside the red zone area. They also have stopped a lot of drives, forcing them into a field goal situation.
On the defensive side of the ball too was defensive backs Lance Small and Damon Demps for their outstanding play. Small tied a league record for most tackles in a game (17.0) which he shares with three others.
Small led the league in tackles, collecting 109.5, 100 of them in 13 games as being solo.
Demps tied for 7th in the league in interceptions with 8 and had 27 return yards on those picks. He also tied at 13th in passes defended with two a total of 14, which included six pass breakups. Aramis Harlason had five interceptions and 7 pass break ups and John Jefferson collected 8 pass deflections.
Other team leaders included Nunnie Booker's rushing for 20.9 yards a game, on 69 carries, with five TDs. Martin also had 39 carries for 95 net yards and three scores.
Johnson, Glover, Williams Andrews and Raymond Hardy were the key receivers and Martin always spread the ball around to the group that averaged 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. The Balance for catches and yards was Johnson (46-515), Glover (45-524), Andrews (43-502) and Hardy (41-580).
Hardy's 15 TD receptions led that department and Johnson (12), Glover 10) and Andrews (7) followed.
The ThunderBolts look forward to a year when everything will be more in place. Once some stability is in place with the team, there should be more room for improvement, and maybe bring a championship to the great city of Lakeland!
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National Indoor Football League Stories from June 28, 2005
- Forfeit ruling favors Lakeland's playoff chances - Lakeland ThunderBolts
- Mauler Mania to air this weekend - Montgomery Bears
- Kreatures excited fans in Silver Spurs Arena - Kissimmee Kreatures
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