Introducing your 2007 ArenaCup Champion Tulsa Talons! Can the Talons master the af2 for an unprecedented third title is six years? Will the Arkansas Twisters and Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz become fodder for the Tulsa franchise again this season?
It's amazing how winning cures what ails. The Talons laid the blueprint for all af2 franchises. Both on and off the field they epitomize what is right about the AFL's little brother.
A solid front office, excellent coaches and tremendous players fuel the little engine that could. Can the team live up to the bar they set a season ago?
"The one thing I keep on telling the players is that last year is done. It's a new season. The teams that we are playing aren't going to care a whole lot about (last year's championship). We had some time to enjoy it in the off-season. Now it is back to work and getting ready for another year," said head coach Mitch Allner.
Allner enters his second season patrolling the sideline. His inaugural regular season at the helm ended with a 14-2 record. He's officially a championship caliber coach.
The team lost a couple of key contributors from last year's squad. Fullback Odie Armstrong elevated to the AFL's Orlando Predators. The defense remains intact for the most part.
Olivier Fletcher, Jermaine Hope and Delenell Reid return to secure the defensive backfield. "That's quite a few guys coming back from a defense that was pretty decent last year. We put up some pretty good numbers and hopefully we can do the same this year," said Allner.
They lost some offensive veterans. The Talons are replacing two of four starters on the O-line. "I think we've done a nice job of bringing in the right players.
We've got some younger guys at those two positions but they are coming along," said Allner.
If given time, quarterback Justin Allgood delivers. He stepped in for an injury riddled Josh Blankenship and led the team to a championship. All eyes will be cast upon the incumbent QB to see if the momentum is carried over.
"There's a big difference in (Allgood's) attitude coming in as a leader instead of coming in as the backup," said assistant coach/offensive coordinator Craig Strickland. Strickland should know having won a title as quarterback for the Talons in 2003.
He plans to implement the same offensive system from a year ago. We can expect a few new wrinkles along the way.
Allgood received a real boon when receiving threat Jeff Hughley was reassigned to the squad.
The diminutive Hughley led the Talons in an array of statistical categories last year including scoring (198 points), total touchdowns (33), receptions (84), receiving yards (1,069), receiving TDs (26), kick return TDs (3--tied for 1st in af2), kick return yards (1,363--4th in af2) and all-purpose yards (2,515--6th in af2).
I promised myself I wouldn't fall into the af2 trap. Everyone understands the league promotes a glorified offensive shootout. We know points come in bunches. Back-and-forth, up-and-down action creates a cacophony in the arena.
Let's talk a little defense. Linebacker Michael Shack is back. He'll also play some fullback but defense is where he'll knock heads.
The defensive line is led up front by returning starter Terrance Carter. Last year was the D-lineman's first championship...ever.
"I've been to bowl games and conference championships but it's nothing like winning a league. The whole experience was new to me and I was glad to be part of it," said the 6-foot-4-inch, 275-pound QB marauder.
He's excited about defending the championship. The challenge of losing players and adding new faces to the mix motivates him.
So what's his take on the new guys on the offensive side of the ball? "I'm not going to say that we're just throwing them around. It's all competition but the defensive side is getting after it. Everybody knows their job. I'm going to put it like this--the adrenaline is pumping on the defensive side," he said.
The defense can't wait to see a different colored jersey to slap around.
Playing defense in the af2 is a thankless job. You can give up 66 points and emerge victorious (see last year's title game).
"When you come into the arena game you just have to accept that it's a faster paced game. In two plays the game can turn around.
"There were situations last year where we were down with a minute left by two scores and we came back and won the games. You can't let down at all, in any point of the game, at any time," said Carter.
Keep an eye on the following developments this season.
Oklahoma State standout and castoff Prentiss Elliott is on the Talons roster. He personified athleticism and speed in college. Can he stay out of trouble in T-town and regain his collegiate form that dropped jaws?
Steady kicker Luke Phillips is back. His accurate leg shouldn't be discounted in a game of inches.
The Tulsa 66ers dance team raised the ante this season. They represented the D-League in New Orleans during All Star Weekend. Can the Talons cheerleaders rise to the same level of cheer professionalism?
Can Paul Ross and Henry Primeaux continue to elevate the Talons franchise to new heights? They continue to be the benchmark in Tulsa and in the af2. Get well Henry!
Interested in single game or season tickets? Call 877-TULSA CC or visit tulsatalons.com for more information.
Are you curious why the Talons are so successful in T-town? They are the most victorious franchise in af2 history. So, before the other minor league sports teams bellyache about attendance, do yourself a favor and win some games.
Stop your whining and get a Grip!
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