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Arena football: Week of drama behind, Utah Blaze shift focus to San Jose

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ron James, coach and team president of the Utah Blaze, has helped create the organization in his own image: sharp, professional, and with moves that don't always seem savvy at first but can turn out well.

By Christopher Kamrani

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jun 28 2013 02:00PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:34PM

With the drama of the last week now put aside, the Utah Blaze sprinted around the Arena Football League turf Friday afternoon, walking through the game plan for Saturday night’s division rivalry showdown with the San Jose SaberCats.

It was quite a relief.

Following the team’s eviction on June 20, the front office worked tirelessly to reach an agreement with the Larry H. Miller Group to pay back owed rent through the first six games.

Now, back in their home, the Blaze will try to turn around a difficult season, one in which they’ve lost linchpins Caesar Rayford and Aaron Lesue and have gone to backup quarterback Jason Boltus after last season’s AFL MVP Tommy Grady struggled through the first 10 weeks of the season. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

"We’ve got a job to do," said Utah coach Ron James. "You’re professionals and you’ve got to make sure you do your jobs week in and week out; distractions aside, anything that happens outside the field, you’ve just got to march through it."

On to the SaberCats, a team that snatched away a road win from the Blaze 35-34 on May 25 in San Jose, Calif. More importantly, the 5-8 Blaze are still in the postseason picture, so James said the revolving door of players due to various injuries and departures must shut.

And the new guys must step up.

"Mathematically we aren’t eliminated from anything at this point," James said. "We have to cling to that hope until it’s gone."

Boltus is likely to make his third career AFL start. His thrust into the starting quarterback position has been a mixed bag. He’s 1-1 and has shown flashes of ability to run the ball, but has struggled with turnovers.

But the new quarterback is ready to lead the team to a home win that could hold more weight in the long term following the turmoil of the last week.

"Everybody that’s here is meant to be here and everybody can make plays," Boltus said. "Basically, we’re young and we’re trying to get experience and see things before they happen."

Twitter: @chriskamrani

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