The Florida Tarpons will begin their fifth playoff run in five years Thursday when they host the Savannah Steam at Germain Arena. The game will begin the Tarpons’ quest for a fifth straight championship appearance.
The two-time champion Tarpons (7-1) walloped the Steam (3-5) at home 70-6 during their regular- season finale. They’re heading into the American Indoor Football League playoffs after scoring 70 or more points in three straight games.
Florida coach Michael Taylor said his squad will be looking for another strong performance on Thursday. It hopes to gain momentum each game as its playoff competition gets tougher.
“I think our focus is that we’re in the postseason now,” Taylor said. “It’s win or go home.”
Quarterback Chris Wallace plans retire after this season. He’ll hang it up after 16 years playing indoor football, although he doesn’t seem to have hit a decline. The 40-year-old tossed nine touchdowns against the Steam in his last game. Earlier in the season, he set a career-high 11 touchdowns during an 81-25 thrashing of the Central Florida Jags.
The three-time champion, Wallace, refuses to take his team’s recent hot streak for granted.
“I’m been doing this a long time,” Wallace said. “The main thing you’ve got to do in the playoffs is not get into the hoopla. You can’t get into, ‘I had a great game last time’.”
Wallace is counting on his offensive line, led by veteran Raymond James, to keep the Steam’s pass rushers out of the pocket.
“That gives me time to look downfield (and) make my reads,” Wallace said. “That all comes from protection up front and Raymond James has been the anchor of that for years.”
Taylor will rely on all of his veteran players to step up during the postseason. The Tarpons have won two championships and they hope to earn their second consecutive league title — and first in this league. The key to their success, according to Taylor, has always been an experienced roster.
“We’ve have a solid group of veteran guys,” Taylor said. “There’s no substitute for it. Your season’s not long enough to where you can train and bring along guys, so that’s why I think veterans are so valuable.”
Florida will have to win two playoff games before reaching the league championship. If they advance passed Savannah, the Tarpons could end up facing the Columbus Lions — the only team to hand them a loss all season.
According to Taylor, the Lions (8-0) are favored over their first-round opponents and a victory would set up the coveted rematch. The Lions face the New Mexico Stars on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
“We are looking forward to redeeming ourselves against Columbus,” Taylor said.