Port Huron Pirates Season Preview
On August 4, 2005, the Great Lakes Indoor Football League announced its sixth franchise, an unnamed team to play at Port Huron's McMorran Place Arena. The Pirates will begin the GLIFL's inaugural campaign as the preseason favorite. Why? Four championship rings on four players from the same team. A couple of the players even have more. It's not every day that a new team in a new league gets four championship-caliber players. It's not every day that team may also not be considered a shoe-in for the GLIFL championship. This is the fifth in a series of six team previews; one for each team in the new Great Lakes Indoor Football League.
Rayshawn Askew, Shane Franzer, Shawn Hackett, and Eddie Bynes may form the nucleus of a championship contender, but the Pirates aren't solely a team full of big-name stars. They're also working to become a force in the Port Huron community. The team has had a booth at the Home, Sports, and Garden Show in Port Huron, amongst other engagements. There will also be publicity for the team in the form of Port Huron Times-Herald writer Bill Shea, who will be writing of his exploits as a member of the Pirates' practice squad. Shea also plans to write a short book about his days with the Pirates.
"The community is behind us, but we still have to prove our worth," said Pirates owner Dan Pilgrim. "We are doing what we have to do to build momentum in Port Huron." Part of that will include local bands for different pre-game, halftime, and post-game shows at McMorran Place. The work Pilgrim and the Pirates staff have done is paying off. The Pirates report they will have two filled fan charter buses for Friday's season opener in Battle Creek. "We've never played a game, let alone a home game," said Pilgrim. "And we're going to have 100 people three hours from here at a game."
The Pirates roster is full of talent, which helps the excitement level. The four players, who won a 2003 title going 17-0 for the NIFL's Ohio Valley Greyhounds, have provided unique input to help coach Brian Hug and the rest of the team learn the game. "The little nuances are the biggest help," said Hug. "These guys have given their input from years of experience in the indoor game. Timing is the biggest difference in this game, and they already know that."
The inexperienced players in Port Huron, like LB Reuben Gay, will get help from people playing their position. LB/S Shawn Hackett has played years of indoor football. LB/S John Cousins will also help with his big-game experience at the University of Southern California. Hackett can also help with DB/WR Jeremaiah McLaurin, who is also inexperienced. DL Eddie Bynes, who also has a Greyhounds ring after a 29-sack season in 2003, will help youngsters like Jermaine Jackson learn the game. The indoor game is a learning experience, and good experience simply helps that process go more quickly. The Pirates defense will be in contention to be the GLIFL's best.
The offense also looks strong. Tyler Moore, Wael Jarbou, and LeRoy Barnes will provide necessary beef up front to open up holes for RB Rayshawn Askew. Those holes will help him add to his career 2,903 rushing yards on the 50-yard field. They'll also help QB Shane Franzer, who is looking for his record fourth indoor football championship (2002 & 2003 Ohio Valley NIFL, 2005 Memphis AF2). Franzer's biggest weakness is his lack of touch on shorter passes, but the deep ball and his hard-nosed running style will help deflect that criticism.
The receiving corps, led by WRs Darryl Frager and Robert Height, will have plenty of time to get used to the indoor game with the running abilities of Askew and Franzer. Askew also has 111 career catches, so he will be able to make plays in the Pirates passing game as well. Their biggest problem on offense may be the kicking game, where rookie Dustin Thomas looks to make an impact.
With so much talent on the Pirates team, Coach Hug's toughest challenge has been the roster size. "It's tough telling a guy who can play in this game, a guy who has worked his butt off, that he won't be traveling with the team," Hug said. "This 19-man active roster is frustrating." Overconfidence may also be an issue. The Pirates have the best experience in the GLIFL, but they don't have the most. The Pirates still have over a dozen players on their 19-man roster that have no 50-yard experience. Will that hurt the Pirates? It is impossible to tell now. But one thing is for sure; those players who have won championships before likely will be hungry to prove themselves once again.
The Great Lakes Indoor Football League kicks off its inaugural season on April 7 with two games. The Pirates travel to Battle Creek to face the Crunch, while the NY/NJ Revolution travel to Rochester to face the Raiders. The Lehigh Valley Outlawz close the league's opening weekend with a trip to Marion to face the Mayhem on April 8. For more information about the league, please visit the GLIFL website at www.glifl.com, or contact GLIFL Director of Media Relations Josh Stein at [email protected]
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