Rejuvenated Firebirds have a lot riding on final home game

Albany Firebirds head coach Tony Bowick was walking a fine line all week.

Albany Firebirds head coach Tony Bowick was walking a fine line all week.

On the one hand, he knew tonight’s game at 7 with the Manchester Wolves at Times Union Center would be the biggest game of the season for his arenafootball2 club. But on the other hand, he realized that if his team got too keyed up about the game’s outcome, the Firebirds’ emotions could betray them.

Both teams own 6-7 records and are tied for second place in the af2’s American Conference East Div­ision. Albany holds the head-to-head tiebreaker for the eighth and final playoff spot by virtue of its two wins in three previous games.

A Manchester win would not only even the series at 2-2, but it would also turn the tiebreaker back over to the Wolves, who would have an advantage in point differential in head-to-head matchups. In the first three games, the Wolves outscored the Firebirds, 171-154.

“This is a must-win. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. We must win,” said Bowick.

Yet Bowick didn’t want his team to think that its outstanding effort over the last seven games would be wasted with a loss. Albany has won five of its last seven matchups.

“You can’t put too much pressure on them. That won’t work,” he said. “We’ve just got to execute our game plan. Hopefully, they will execute it the same way they have for the last few weeks. We’ve had some ups and downs this year, especially with some key injuries. But those things will happen. We must keep plugging along.

“Sure, there is actually some extra flavor in this game because of what it means, but I don’t want our guys worrying about their mistakes. I want them to play like they have all year.”

Albany is still missing three key players. Wideouts Christian Wise and Johnnie Butler, along with defensive back Lawrence Wade, are on the injured-reserve list.

“We are still missing Johnny, Wise and Wade, but we’ll have them back for next week. This is professional football, and those things happen,” he said.

Albany did pick up one player this week to help on the defensive line.

“Rodney Warmley has a real quick first step. He’s a veteran,” said Bowick. “Speed, a lot of speed. That’s what he brings to the team. He’s a guy [who is] a veteran and knows the game. He’s a high- motor guy that we can really use right now. I’m excited to have him. When you get veteran guys like him, it does not take them long to pick up the system. He picked it up quickly this week in practice, and should be ready to contribute.”

Quarterback Stephen Wasil threw for a season-high 368 yards in Albany’s last game against Peoria, and tied a team record with eight TD passes. In eight starts, he has a 116.25 passer rating with 2,609 yards and 53 TD passes. His 289.9 passing yards per game ranks third in the league.

Wasil’s top targets are Anthony Rodriguez, who has 70 catches for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns, and wideout/linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson, who has 793 receiving yards and a team-best 23 touchdowns. Defensively, the two-time IronMan of the Week paces the Firebirds with seven interceptions and 43 tackles.

Kenneth Williams tops the club in tackles (47) to go along with an interception and three fumble recoveries.

Quarterback Mike Potts will make his fifth straight start for Manchester after the team cut veteran James Pinckney. The final cut from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2008 training camp, Potts has completed 106 of 160 passes for 1,234 yards and 20 scores. Steve Savoy (81 catches, 988 yards, 28 TDs) and Emery Sammons (76 catches, 1,086 yards, 21 TDs) are the team’s leading receivers.

After tonight’s game, Albany completes its regular season with road games at division-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton July 18 and at Milwaukee July 24.

Categories: Sports

Leave a Reply