Photo by John King – UltiPhotos.com
With playoffs on the horizon and two straight losses behind them, the Rainmakers look to reestablish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the ever tightening Western Conference.
The Rainmakers (4-4) are the only team that has defeated the Stags (6-1) and they’re back to just about full strength this week, missing only a few players to planned absences.
The Rainmakers on the other hand will be playing without star handlers Adam Simon (90.7% completion rate on 237 throws) and Matty Zemel (90.2% on 224). This puts Gavin McKibben (94.8% on 211) and Chris Rupp (98.0% on 149) squarely in the frame to march Seattle’s O-line down the field.
“Offensively, our deep game is killer,” said Khalif El-Salaam, “but getting a lot of yards underneath is something we need to implement going into the second half.”
In order to perform against Portland, Seattle’s offense will do well to minimize any risk-taking behavior, especially around Portland’s Topher Davis and Peter Woodside, who lead the Stags with ten and six defensive plays on the season, respectively.
On the other side of the disc, expect the Rainmakers to put heavy pressure on the Stags all over the field. If they’re able to strand Portland players like Jeremy Norden (91.9% completion rate on 283 throws), Steve Kenton (95% on 200) Breeze Strout (95.0% on 179), and Eli Friedman (97.1% on 306) without an easy dump, then they’ll force the requisite 50-50 plays that they rely upon to create turnovers.
“Our defense needs to roll,” said El-Salaam. “Just like the last time we played the Stags, it’s all about applying pressure and punching it in when we get it. Portland has a great offense and since they rarely mess up, we can’t take converting their turnovers into breaks as a light subject.”
Though Portland is still playing without 2013 standout Timmy Perston, his absence doesn’t seem to have slowed them down. Downfield defenders Todd Sliva and Sam Harkness will certainly have their hands full with the likes of Cody Bjorklund and Camden Allison-Hall.
This game also marks the first time former Rainmaker and current Stag Mark Burton steps onto the fields at Renton Memorial Stadium in his away kit. Rumor has it that Burton has upped the ante on his friendly wagers with former teammate Danny Trytiak.
Despite being in a tough situation with only two games left to play, both against the top seeded Stags, the Rainmakers are excited about their prospects.
“It’s going to be a fun match in front of the best fans in the MLU!” said El-Salaam.