Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Utah Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady
Utah Blaze weigh high stakes leading into AFL playoffs
AFL playoffs » Utah will face top-seeded San Antonio, which has beaten Blaze twice.
First Published Jul 26 2012 06:07 pm • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:33 pm

On Wednesday morning, Utah Blaze coach Ron James was wearing a relic from the earlier days of the franchise — a military-style camouflauge shirt styled like a football jersey.

How appropriate: The Blaze general is about to lead his team into the playoff fray for the first time since 2008.

At a glance

Utah Blaze at San Antonio Talons

Kickoff » Friday, 6 p.m.

Records » Utah 12-6, San Antonio 14-4

TV » NFL Network

Radio » 97.5 FM

In short » Utah marches to Texas to try to knock out the top-seeded Talons in the first round of the AFL playoffs.

Where to watch » The Blaze are having the official team watch party at Wing Nutz at the Gateway Mall (188 S. Rio Grande St.).

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

A win this Friday night might be more important than ever for the team. And against San Antonio (14-4), a team that’s already beaten them twice this season, the test couldn’t be any stiffer.

"They’re probably the best football team in the league," James said. "We’ll find out if we belong right away."

Making the playoffs represents an important step in the Blaze’s gradual ascension from cellar dweller to contender in the past three seasons. The organization was crestfallen when a rash of injuries plagued them in 2011’s 9-9 effort, just missing the postseason.

Record-wise, this 12-6 squad is the best team Utah has ever had — even dating back to the 2006-2008 incarnation of the squad. Behind quarterback Tommy Grady’s record-shattering season, the Blaze offense has been among the best in the league. The Blaze defense has also been strong in recent weeks since bringing in new coordinator Rob Keefe.

But that won’t count for much if the franchise can’t break through for its first playoff win ever. Everyone in the organization is agreed on that point.

"It’s been really rewarding coming from frustration to where we are now," wideout Aaron Lesue said. "But now we’ve got to put it together for a championship. We’re feeling like we can get there."

Unfortunately for the Blaze, they face the unenviable task of picking themselves up from a 69-34 drubbing at Philadelphia — the worst loss of the season — on Sunday. The loss was not only humbling, but it dropped Utah down to the fourth seed in the conference, cost them a division title, and gave them a short week to prepare for a road game.

"It was a game in which it seemed everything started going the other way," Lesue said. "[The Soul] didn’t play the defense they thought we would, and we didn’t quite make the adjustments."


story continues below
story continues below

The third match with the Talons will again feature Grady head-to-head against another premier AFL quarterback, Aaron Garcia. San Antonio’s previous wins have been by a combined nine points.

The Blaze think they can take them, and they better hope they’re right. Winning means another week, but it also could mean more fan interest next year, and more sponsorship opportunities that elevate the franchise.

Of course, the players and coaches aren’t necessarily playing for more crowded arenas. There’s some pride at stake.

"Internally, we’ve set this goal all season," James says. "We’ve been very demanding this week trying to keep these guys mentally focused. We’re eager to keep playing."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.