The Duke City Gladiators will be on the road for the second straight week tonight when they face the Mesquite Marshals in a Champions Indoor Football game.
On March 26 at Tingley Coliseum, the Gladiators (4-4) won 70-24 in the team’s most one-sided league victory in its two-year history. The Marshals (1-7) have dropped their past six games since beating defending champion Sioux City 27-26.
With four games remaining, Duke City stands half a game behind the Amarillo Venom (4-3) for the third and final playoff spot in the CIF’s Southern Division, with Dodge City in second at 6-2. The Gladiators and Venom have two more meetings this season, including next week in Texas, followed two weeks later by a match at Tingley.
“Our motto this week is that this is Week 1 of the tournament,” Gladiators coach Dominic Bramante said Thursday. “Right now our goal is to get the No. 3 seed. So we’re not overlooking Mesquite.”
In the meantime, Bramante has been on the prowl for another quarterback after starter Bryan Randall broke his left arm two weeks ago. Randall’s replacement, Taylor Genuser, threw five interceptions last week in a 56-34 loss to the front-running Texas Revolution. A week earlier, against the same team, Genuser had five TD throws and no interceptions.
“I’ve stopped looking for another quarterback this week, but i’ll start again next week,” Bramante said. “Quality quarterbacks don’t grow on trees, especially this time of year.”
Genuser, who will get his third start, surely will be looking for receiver Dello Davis, the most productive pass catcher in the league. Of his league-high 22 TDs, 19 have been on receptions. All last season, no one in the league had more than 17.
Also, recent acquisition Cody Nuzzo has been perfect on 13 PAT tries since joining the team two weeks ago. That might not sound like much, but over the past two seasons other Gladiators kickers have failed on 18 of 89 attempts for a 79.7 percent success rate.
NEW MEXICO STARS: The New Mexico Stars (2-1) of the American Indoor Football league are scheduled to play host to the Texas Stealth (1-4) in a nonleague game at the Santa Ana Star Center tonight.
Last week, the Stars won 90-6 at home against a semipro team out of Santa Fe – the Capital City Warriors – that was a last-minute replacement for the Austin Cobras, who bailed late on their scheduled trip to Rio Rancho.
Stealth director of operations Jordan Dunn said Wednesday his team was heading to Albuqeurque Friday with a full complement of players. The Stealth already has made a trip to the metro area this year, facing Duke City at Tingley in an exhibition game March 5. The Gladiators won 46-36.
On the postseason front, the Stars were informed by the AIF this week they still are in a playoff race in what is now a two-team Western Division after six teams disbanded since this winter. Only the Corpus Christi Fury (2-0) remains. It was the Fury that gave New Mexico its sole league loss, 59-53 in Texas on April 3.
New Mexico co-owner Tracy Duran said the playoff scenario is still sketchy, but that when the Stars face the visiting Fury on May 15, they would have to win by more than six points to stay alive. If Stars win by seven or more, Duran said, the Stars would play host to the Fury again, at an undetermined date, with the winner advancing to the playoffs.
Yet there’s still another postseason scenario, Duran said. The Stars have formed an unofficial alliance with a handful of Texas teams in the North American Indoor League along with one from Mexico (Tampico Lagartos) and are considering a postseason tournament of some sort to declare a champion. That, of course, depends on New Mexico’s AIF playoff situation.