After a bye last week the 1-5 Upstate Dragons are headed back into the Dragon’s Den refreshed, reloaded, and intent on making the AAL playoffs.
In opening this week’s ‘Dragon Talk’ segment that airs each Monday on My Pulse Radio, Upstate owner, head coach, offensive coordinator, and – until a separated shoulder sidelined him – 50-year old starting quarterback Kent Merideth noted how the Dragons are still in the league’s playoff picture and have to run the table to remain there. That figures to be a tall order given the Atlanta Havoc team coming to Anderson this Saturday is undefeated, but Merideth promises, “If we get into the playoffs, we’re going to be dangerous.”
For most, this will come across like so much balderdash, but if you’ve followed the Dragons you know it’s not all that new. This organization is like some character out of a Monty Python movie who is dealt a mortal blow and pronounces it merely a flesh wound. In a recent game in which the Georgia Doom scored on three one-play drives and added two more defensive touchdowns en route to a 35-point halftime lead, broadcaster Luke Ruff declared victory on Merideth’s plan to control the clock, calling it the key to a second half comeback. He was dead serious.
Whatever is in the water down in Anderson, I wouldn’t mind trying a glass with a beer chaser.
So, how does this table-running campaign get started against the best team in the AAL? It’ll be hard to slow down Havoc quarterback Michael Eubank and his cadre of receivers, so Merideth is looking to keep pace with them on the scoreboard and eventually pressure Eubank into making mistakes. That’s unlikely. The Dragons are averaging less than 15 points per game over their last four games, or about the same as a typical quarter for Eubank. So, Merideth will count on a trifecta of improbabilities.
First, he’s bringing in 5’ 11” quarterback Joshua Ross, who played a handful of games for the Triangle Torch in the Supreme Indoor Football League last season before a quad injury. Ross cited a lack of preparation time as a limitation on his effectiveness with the Torch, and on a roster with the ignominious distinction of having the league’s three least effective quarterbacks, he’ll be stepping into the same situation as Saturday’s apparent starter.
Meredith is also hoping his O-line – which has been rolled over by defensive fronts from Anderson to Trenton – can give Ross the requisite 1.5 seconds of protection for each play to develop. Things are looking up here. Given they’re at home, all three starters can get off work on time to make the game.
Lastly, among receivers, Meredith is putting a lot of stock in developmental project Xzanvion Smith’s return from injury and the conversion of stat-minded Rochelle Peebles to wide-out where he can recoup those all-purpose yards he’s losing from non-returnable kickoffs. The fly in his ointment will be the absence of Brandon Ford, Upstate’s biggest target, who will not be available Saturday.
Personally, I admire this Dragons organization and have to admit to a wanderlust for the Neverland of the South they call home, a place where hope springs eternal, a land free from the interruptions of reality. Unfortunately, my tagline is the good, the bad, and the ugly of arena football, and there’s a lot more of the latter than the former with this team between the dashers. I’m sure Eli Wallach never saw Clint Eastwood when he looked at himself in the mirror.