August 10, 2016 by Terrance Biggs
Football brings out the best in most people. The competitive fires are stokes by the reward of victory. For the Oklahoma Thunder and Crescent City Kings, Saturday’s game marks a pivotal moment in the 2016 season for each. The winner of this game will probably compete for the GDFL Championship.
Steamrolling: Gazing at the Thunder’s 2016 schedule, numbers leap off the page. They’ve score no less that twenty-five points and forty five times. They aren’t just beating teams, they are obliterating them. Can this torrid streak continue throughout the playoffs?
From the Ashes: Defeated the Vipers in consecutive weeks proved the Kings belong in the postseason. For the last two months, Crescent City embarked on a playoff hunt rarely seen in the GDFL. Every game was a must win. They enter this game battle tested.
Roundtable Discussion: Normally, there would be more of a lead-in. Those participating were: Thunder Head Coach Jeff Bigger, WR Prentiss Elliott, Kings Director of Football Operations Sherman Gillum, Executive Vice Chairman Devin Richardson, offensive lineman John Gustavis and defensive lineman Josh Keelen. This interview became contentious early and all of the quotes are only corrected grammatically.
Q: It is widely held by multiple teams that the Thunder bully lesser teams and seemingly shies away from top tier competition. Why do you think you are perceived this way?
Bigger: We are looking forward to a great game this week. We have a great respect for the teams in the 2016 GDFL playoffs. (He was asked to answer again) Charles Thompson and GDFL set the schedule. I have or have I ever had a say in the schedule. I would welcome any team and would suggest in the future a re- alignment take place.
Preseason is a suggestion that could pair up some rival games. We welcome any schedule the GDFL sets for us and welcome those match ups. We are working to prepare our players and organization to bring success in play offs. We respect all teams in the GDFL and look forward to being a part of the GDFL success in 2016.
I’m not sure if that negativity is about me. I talk to coaches all across this league to promote coaches and expressed to not only coaches but to the GDFL on Coaches Clinic as well as a coaches association to promote coaches in return to better the league. But, if you could let me know if there an issue with me as a coach I would love to set down and talk some football.
Note: The above question was intended to serve as an opportunity to clear the air and dispel rumors.
Q: The Kings are one of the few teams that are willing to travel anywhere to play. What is the motivation behind this?
Gillum: The motivation of the Kings as an organization to travel is the recognition as one of the top teams in the country! Also our players realize in order to gain maximum exposure to upper leagues it’s in their best interest to showcase their talents around the country. Also, they make it quite clear that they want to travel and play top tier competition! We use travel as bonding time and camaraderie. So to ensure that the team can do this the organization works hard during the offseason to make sure travel budget is met.
Q: The Thunder appears to be a first half team, racing out to a big lead early, coasting for the second half. How will you alter your approach facing a well-conditioned team that practices in extreme heat?
Bigger: Our approach is defined by our opponent. Winning all three phases of the game is important to our game plan every week. Not sure, but Oklahoma heat is as hot as anywhere. Our players work every day to define their commitment to this team and it shows in our performance. We are looking forward to this week’s match up. I’m actually not surprised by the questions we were asked to comment to. What makes Thunder perceived as a bully? It’s because we play professional football and we are a well-oiled machine?
I am offended that the other teams we beat this year are considered less than. The teams we have beat this year were great GDFL organizations they just we not ready to play an organization structured and prepared as we are this season. They were given a test and taught a lesson. We have played some the best teams at this level of football for nine seasons and we have won and lost which is what defines this league as one of the greatest. There are teams who leave this league because they can’t win a championship in the GDFL and never will. If you want to battle Thunder you got to earn it. You come to us then we will come to you.
Q: You said that if teams come to you, you’ll go to them. The Kings are on their way. Does this mean you are headed to New Orleans next summer?
A: Get with Roper/ Charles GDFL / Kings, get it set up and contract. (Earlier in the interview, Bigger mentioned not having a say in scheduling.) Your focus is way different than mine. I’m in coach’s office getting ready for a great game. I’m hired to Coach, prepare my players to win-get involved and get it set up. Next time call we can do a phone conference. (We had a roundtable discussion, where both teams could read the others’ responses in live time) Look forward to meeting you. Set up all the games you want, get with all the owners and league go get them done. Looking forward to this week’s game! (Repeated again)
Note: The above question was a follow-up to the previous answer.
Q: The Thunder offensive line is abnormally large for this level, and the Kings’ defensive line is predicated on combining blinding speed and power. What challenges do you face when outweighed by an offensive lineman?
Keelen: I have to out think and out work him on all levels of the game and I can’t let him get his hands on me but I love a challenge
Q: Last year, the Thunder had issues dealing with the Kings’ pass rush. How have the Thunder grown since that loss?
A: Oklahoma refused to answer. (It’s a pretty straightforward question)
Q: Thunder QB Brandon Noohi senses the rush better than most QB. How important is it to get off the snap quicker, and will you vary your rush techniques differently because of his ability to feel your presence?
Keelen: It’s always important to get off the snap quicker lower faster that’s a must and I have to do my job and know my brothers are going to do theirs my rush will vary in whatever my coach calls.
Q: The Kings represent an upgrade in competition for Oklahoma. Is your game week prep different or are there extra things you do? Also, what are 4 aspects of the game you hope to personally affect?
Elliott: I’m here so don’t get fined I’m about that action, boss.
Q: So, you are just here to show up and not answer questions?
Elliott: Yep. Because, you don’t respect us, but after this week u will I’m done with this (Again, another basic question. My respect isn’t at issue.)
Q: Louisiana is notorious for unbelievably humid summers. How will your conditioning play a role in Saturday’s game? What are the signs of a fatigued opponent?
Keelen: It’s key we’ll go longer stronger and harder for 60 minutes. They move slower lost look in their eyes and techniques start getting sloppy
Q: Many presumed the Kings’ 2016 season was over, after starting 0-3. What held the team together in tough times?
Richardson: We have tremendous leadership at the head coach position, he welcomes adversity. We play and there are no excuses, after three games we were an 0-3 team and we deserved that record. Now we have reached the second season and the sky is the limit.
Q: What was the turning point in the Kings’ season?
Gillum: The Crescent City Kings turned a disastrous 0-3 start to a strong playoff run on the attitude of one unselfish player. One hot day in Tupelo, MS, the Crescent City Kings sat in the woods preparing for a game against the Lee County Ti-Cats. This prompted Coach Washington to ask for medical clearance before playing. Corey presented a note to Coach Washington that he thought was bogus, but said nothing. Coach explained to Corey that he believes the note was bogus and wasn’t going to play him. Corey strongly disagreed, but in a non-confrontational manner. Corey walked away and sat on the bleachers dejected.
At that moment, he could’ve taken to social media and cursed Coach Washington and the Kings. He could’ve dammed us for bringing him to Tupelo, when he could’ve spent that day with his kids. Instead, he let his teammates in the secondary know he wouldn’t be dressing and encouraged them to ball out.
After a brief discussion between Coach Washington and the staff, he decided to let Corey dress and use him on special teams. As the game played out and we suffered another defeat (our largest margin of defeat in our brief history.) I approached Corey and asked him would he consider playing quarterback the rest of the way. Instantly his face and demeanor lit up as he emphatically said yes! So, I told him I’d clear it with Coach Washington. As we boarded the bus and took the players to eat before the ride home, I sat across from Coach Washington; he saw the frustrated dejected look on my face. I told him the only player that could save our season was Corey, and inserting him at quarterback. Corey went from potentially disgruntled former player to leader and our field general in one night! The rest is still history being written, but it’s looking good every Saturday that passes.
Q: Where do you see the strength of the Thunder defensive line?
Gustavis: I really don’t know they are good at Tackle and End. I guess we will have to see.
Kings’ Keys to Victory:
- Stopping Prentiss Elliott is a top priority. For all of his petulant antics, Elliott is a talented receiver that adds the lethal combination of speed and crisp route running. Kings’ defenders must smother him. QB Brandon Noohi occasionally locks onto to Elliott, making comeback routes and outs dangerous for Oklahoma.
- While Oklahoma is the larger team, the Kings possess speed all over the field. If they can push the pace, by the third quarter, Oklahoma could begin to fade. Being bigger helps in the first half and acts as a lead balloon in the second. Making the Thunder run more expedites this process.
- The Kings need to turn the pass rush loose. In analyzing tape, the Thunder is susceptible to pressure off the right edge. A steady diet of pressure will force turnovers.
Thunder Keys’ to Victory:
- The game plan should encompass brutality at the lines of scrimmage. Size is effective in countering speed. Long drives and third down conversion will drain the Kings.]
- Domination of the kicking game. In previous games, the Kings shanked punts, missed extra points, and generally suffered with their kicker. I’d expect the Thunder to send the house at the punter at least once.
- Slowing the pass rush via screen is a great way of picking up yardage in chunks. Crescent City, especially with a lead will pin their ears back and throw everything at Noohi.
Saturday’s game in Oklahoma will serve as another chapter in the age-old question in football: Which is superior, power or speed? These teams operate diametrically opposed to each other’s theories and execution. Does the Thunder dominate at home, or do the Kings’ magical run continue?
Note: While there is so much to say about the tone of the interview, I prefer to leave a quote
“Difficult questions should never define a person’s character; their answers will eventually reveal it”