Over the past two weeks the expansion Duke City Gladiators have had a chance to hone their game at home against an all-star team from Mexico and winless Champions Indoor Football foe San Angelo.
Duke City needed to improve its game after a season-opening 56-16 loss to the host Texas Revolution on March 28, a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate.
Now, after an melee-marred 27-13 exhibition win against Mexico and a 51-34 victory over San Angelo (0-4), the Gladiators (1-1) make a leap in class when they play the Dodge City Law (4-1) tonight at Tingley Coliseum.
Dodge City is on a four-game winning streak and tied for the best record in the nine-team league with Wichita. The Law’s norm of 52.6 points a game ranks No. 1. Running back Dominique Carson leads the way with 10 rushing TDs.
Then again, the Dodge City is yielding a league-high 49.4 points an outing. This could be a shootout.
“Their defense really isn’t bad,” Gladiators coach Dominic Bramante said before Wednesday night’s drills at Tingley. “When you have the kind of offense they do, on defense you can ball-hawk and gamble more.
“They are the cream of the crop in this league. This will be a good barometer of where we need to go.”
Since that loss at Texas, the Gladiators have had quite a roster transformation. Because of additions/cuts and injuries, only one of six players along the offensive and defensive lines from that March 28 game – OT Calvin McDowney, a UNM alum – is scheduled to start tonight.
In all, there are nine new faces on the roster since the opener. Included is a former New Mexico Highlands quarterback Taylor Genuser, who signed with Duke City this week. He had been starting for the Billings (Mont.) Wolves of the Indoor Football League before suffering a concussion three weeks ago and subsequently being cut.
With Genuser now cleared to play, he took reps for the Gladiators during midweek drills, enabling starter Kasey Peters to rest his injured right (passing) wrist and a sore calf.
“I’ll be good to go,” Peters said Wednesday.
“Kasey’s a little banged up,” Bramante said, “but the reason he’s not practicing is because I want him to rest, not because the trainer said he shouldn’t be out there.”
Genuser, 6-foot-2, 220 pounds from Fresno, Calif., has received a crash course in the Gladiators’ offense after being released by Billings because the Wolves opted to go with a running QB.
“If we need him to play (today), we’re confident he’ll do the job,” Bramante said.
Said Genuser: “The transition is a little bit hard because the receivers get open a lot quicker here, but I’m a competitor and I’ll get it down.”
In the backfield, last week the Gladiators got a lot of mileage out of RB Seth Smith, a New Mexico State alum, who had 108 rushing yards against the Bandits and scored Duke City’s first two TDs. Throughout, he appeared to be delivering more punishment to defenders than vice versa. And although he said he tweaked a hamstring late in that game, it didn’t keep him from participating in drills Wednesday.
Smith says the league rule that allows for one more DB and one less linebacker gives him more room to roam.
“I understand the game better because we’re back to IFL rules (from his 2012 season), and it’s me basically one-on-one with the jack linebacker,” Smith said.