Xplorers try to stay unbeaten in rematch of season opener
SOUTHAVEN --- The Memphis Xplorers (2-0) and the Tennessee Valley Vipers (1-1) will meet for the second time in the season's first three weeks this Saturday night at the DeSoto Civic Center at 7 p.m. The Xplorers did something they had never done in the first meeting on April 1; win a game at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville and will be looking to improve to 3-0 and sweep the season series from the Vipers.
The 47-25 season opening victory gave Memphis their second overall win versus Tennessee Valley in eight tries. The Vipers rebounded from that loss last week with a 58-50 win at South Georgia last week. The win was historic in that it was the Vipers' first since returning to af2 after a one year hiatus.
The Xplorers are coming off a 78-46 win over the Florida Firecats that raised a few eyebrows around the league. Enough, in fact, that in this week's af2 coaches poll, Memphis claimed 19 of the 23 first place votes and 255 total points; 56 points ahead of the second ranked Arkansas Twisters.
The Week Two accolades also included Brian Jones being named the Schutt af2 Offensive Player of the Week. Jones passed for 279 yards and 7 touchdowns while also running in a pair to lead the team over the Firecats. Rookie offensive specialist Kenny Higgins has also had a couple of big weeks to start his career. His 18 receptions, 308 receiving yards and six touchdown catches are tops in the league.
"Kenny has been all that we hoped for," Head Coach Danton Barto said. "He has really come to play both weeks and now we need to see if he can do it week-in and week-out. I believe that he can. He is a special player."
Tennessee Valley wasn't without recognition after Week Two. Viper OL/DL Rashad Gibbs is the reigning ADT Defensive Player of the Week after collecting three sacks and helping the Viper defense force six South Georgia turnovers.
The Xplorers outscored the Vipers 21-6 in the second half on April1 and continued that trend in Week Two with a 41-14 advantage in the second half versus Florida. That gives Memphis a 62-20 second half margin in the first two games of the season.
"I have told our guys that nobody works harder than us in practice," Barto said. "The players think we're crazy sometimes, but it pays off in the second half and fourth quarter of games. We've seen that already this season."
According to the coach, that first win at Tennessee Valley wasn't all wine and roses, so he is looking for some improvement in certain areas.
"I think we need to protect the ball," he said. "That is one thing we didn't do so well in the opener over there."
Memphis committed three turnovers (two fumbles and one INT) in that first game, but was able to cut that to just one (a fumble) in Week Two.
Kickoff on Saturday night is a 7 p.m at the DeSoto Civic Center.
The Memphis Xplorers...2005 ArenaCup Champions
The Xplorers are defending their Arena Cup Championship in 2006 and you can be in on the action.
Season Tickets are still available for as low as $7 a game. Or, take advantage of the Xplorers 4-Pack or fantastic discounts for groups of 15 or more. Don't miss all the action of the "50-Yard Indoor War." For ticket information call the Xplorers office at 662-342-1755.
Single game tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com, by calling 901-525-1515 or in person at the DeSoto Civic Center box office during business hours.
Don't forget to head over to O'Charley's on Goodman Road after every Xplorers home game for the official post-game party.
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