Vigilantes make bold move for division
When Dallas Vigilantes quarterback Shane Stafford went down for the season in the third quarter of the team's first Arena League game, head coach Rich Ingold had a reasonable excuse for poor play.
After four games and just one win with backup Collin Drafts under center, Ingold is still not making excuses.
Arena League: Chicago at Dallas
Rush (4-2) at Vigilantes (1-4)
7:30 p.m. Saturday
American Airlines Center, Dallas
ESPN 103.3. FM
In fact, after Wednesday's practice, he guaranteed that his Vigilantes would win their Southwest Division.
"I'm going to go out on a limb right now and I'm going to tell you -- we're going to go out, we're going to compete and win this division," Ingold said. "That's our goal."
The Vigilantes will play host Saturday to the Chicago Rush (4-2), who enter the contest with a two-game losing streak hanging over their heads.
Ingold said the Rush have an experienced team and coaching staff, but this week's Vigilante team should be different from what the league has seen so far.
"Doesn't matter who we play this week, we're going to come out and give it our best effort because we're looking to get a win," Ingold said. "We're looking to start this thing up this week and be physical. And if fans get out to this game, I'll tell you right now, they're going to see a hungry football team."
The Southwest -- one of four divisions -- features Dallas, the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings and the Tulsa Talons. The Arena League returned this season with 15 teams (including some former AFL and the smaller AF2 teams) after ceasing operations indefinitely in August 2009.
While the division is within reach with leader Tulsa sitting at 3-3, it would require a 180-degree turnaround for a Dallas team that has given up 70 points in its last two games.
Ingold brought in several new players this week to reach his goal, primarily revamping his offensive line.
"It got to the point where we were having big-time breakdowns in the protection, and we were turning the ball over, and a lot of that was due to our protection," Ingold said.
The only change among the eight offensive starters will be shifting Adrian Gonzalez to starting center. However, Ingold said having offensive lineman Thomas Taggart off injured reserve -- as well as a new addition in offensive and defensive lineman Tony Washington -- will do wonders for the team's depth.
However, in the Arena League's pass-first offense, the Vigilantes will be depending on better performances from Drafts behind the reconstructed offensive line. The quarterback has the support of his coach as well as Stafford, the former starter.
"Collin has ability," Stafford said. "He can make all the throws, and every week he's grown but you have to learn from your mistakes."
Drafts has a 61 percent completion percentage but has thrown five interceptions in four starts and struggled with the center exchange -- another reason for the roster moves.
"I think he's doing a great job if he just keeps working hard and staying focused, which he is," Stafford said. "He's in here every day watching film, he's with coach early, he's listening to what coach tells him and he's starting to create that leadership ability that you need to [succeed in the Arena League.]"
Drafts also has a gifted receiving corps, including Arena League veterans Larry Brackins (who leads the team with 11 receiving touchdowns), Derek Lee (leads in receiving yards with 508) and Kenny Henderson (second in the league in all-purpose yards).
"I just think attitude-wise, we have to stay positive," Drafts said. "Going forward, the team leading our division has three wins. It's wide open. We just need to go out and get a win Saturday versus Chicago and get to 2-4."
Josh Davis is an ESPNDallas.com intern and a writer for TCU's student newspaper, the Daily Skiff.