Xplorers face the Fire in ArenaCup rematch
SOUTHAVEN --- For the third time in af2 history, the two ArenaCup participants from the previous year will play each other in a regular season contest when the Memphis Xplorers (9-4) travel to Louisville to face the Fire (7-5) this Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CDT. The Xplorers defeated the Fire 63-41 last August in ArenaCup 2005 in Bossier City, LA.
The Xplorers are coming off a 38-33 loss at Macon on Saturday while the Fire had a bye last week, but have won their last three and five of their last six.
"Louisville is playing great football right now," Xplorers Head Coach Danton Barto said. "They remind me a lot of last year's Louisville team that started peaking at the right time and rolled into the playoffs. We are going to have to play one of our best games and, certainly, play much better than how we have been playing."
As stated before, this is the third time there has been a regular season rematch of the previous season's ArenaCup teams, and history is on the side of the Xplorers. In the earlier two such games, the defending champs came out on top; Quad City defeating Tennessee Valley in 2001 and Tulsa downing Macon in 2004.
All-time, including last season's title game, the Xplorers hold 5-2 series lead and are a perfect 2-0 at Freedom Hall.
After struggling on offense last week without him, Xplorers offensive specialist Kevin Prentiss returns this week. Coach Barto felt the team really missed him last week.
"That (missing Prentiss) hurt us big time," Barto said. "Kevin Prentiss makes all the difference in the world when it comes to pass coverage. When he is out there, teams can't do the things that Macon did defensively. He is also a guy that understands as well as anybody that it is time for the team to pick it up."
The Xplorers defense will have their toughest assignment of the season in face the Fire's QB Brett Dietz and OS Rob Mager. Dietz is tops in af2 in completion percentage (71.1%) and in passer rating (127.6). The Xplorers Brian Jones is second in both of those categories.
Mager leads the af2 in scoring (264 pts), receptions (117), receiving yards (1558) and touchdown receptions (44).
Despite the loss to Macon last week, the Xplorers remain a half game back of Florida (9-3) in the South Division race after the Green Bay Blizzard's upset of the Firecats on Saturday.
Following this week's game, Memphis will have just two regular season games remaining; home versus Amarillo next week and at Birmingham on July 22.
The Memphis Xplorers...2005 ArenaCup Champions
The next Xplorers home game is July 15 against the Amarillo Dusters at 7pm. It is another Faith and Family Night with a free pregame outdoor concert by Christian artist Shaun Groves. Call 662-342-1755 for more info.
Listen to all the action on the radio home of the Xplorers, 730 ESPN.
Be sure to head to O'Charley's on Goodman Road in Southaven after every Xplorers home game for the official post game party.
Listen to the Danton Barto Show every Monday at 6pm on 730 ESPN live from The Fox and Hound in Southaven.
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