Freedom travel south for tough challenge
Having already assured themselves of a trip to the Professional Indoor Football League playoffs in their inaugural season thanks to five straight wins, the Trenton Freedom are in Huntsville, Alabama Saturday to try for a rare road win.
No team from the PIFL’s National Division has beaten an American Division team on the road this season.
Saturday’s game at the Alabama Hammers and the regular-season finale June 28 at first place Nashville are the only two games Trenton has scheduled at an American Division club. Which makes this a major challenge for O’Hanlon and his 7-2 team even if the Hammers come in 3-6.
The Hammers got their first win after an 0-4 start doing something Trenton did not do this season — win at Lehigh Valley.
O’Hanlon believes a big reason no PIFL National team as won at an American Division site is because the officiating seems to be different at the southern teams.
“Wide receivers seem to flourish down south,” O’Hanlon explained the other day. “Their two receivers Mico McSwain and Charles McClain are very tall, quick, and seem to fight each other for the ball.
“They outjump the defensive backs who cover them, so their quarterback — Russel Hill — likes to put the ball up high and quickly and let them outfight the defensive backs for it.”
Which they usually do since McSwain leads the league with 55 catches for 812 yards and 18 touchdowns, while McClain is 48-for-522 with five scores. Alabama has run for only 57 yards.
That means Trenton’s defense – tops in the PIFL in sacks (31) — must get to Alabama QB Hill quickly and with arms raised so he can’t look downfield for a receiver breaking past a defensive back.
Although Alabama is at the bottom of its division, it did win the PIFL title in 2013 when it defeated Richmond, which had current Trenton QB Warren Smith as it’s quarterback.
“Down south it’s the hotbed for football, and the players they recruit know the game and play it very good,” said O’Hanlon. “Our players are more regimented up here. Their quarterback will drop three steps and throw it across the field knowing his receivers will go for it and outjump anyone defending them. The skill guys down there have a different mindset.
“We have a plan to beat their receivers and feel it will work,” said O’Hanlon. “Their team dynamics changed as soon as they brought Russel Hill in when they were 0-4. They’ve won three of their last five and are very dangerous.”
Despite slow starts this season the Freedom have been dangerous, too, something they plan on proving tonight with a road win by a National Division team at an American Division franchise.
Trenton has lost defensive back Muhammad Sheasid-Dean for the season with an IR tear and cornerback Christian Wise who was signed by the AFL’s Cleveland Cobras.