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Firecats shore up line play

April 10, 2009
By RYAN RYLES, Special to the Breeze

Needless to say, it hasn't been the usual start to the season that the Florida Firecats are accustomed to.

After losing two weeks ago 56-41 at the South Carolina Wildcats, the Firecats find themselves starting the regular season 0-2 for the first time since 2001, their inaugural season.

"Right now, it's hard to tell where this team is at," said Cats coach Kevin Bouis, "because we've only played the same team twice."

One thing they do know for certain is the things that traditionally made the Firecats the team to beat in the South Division of the arenafootball2 league - dominant offensive and defensive lines - have been lacking this season.

Typically, the Firecats boast top-five lines. Not so this year.

Through two games, they have just one sack, while surrendering three on starting quarterback Chris Wallace.

In an effort to try and correct the problem, the Firecats added some much needed experience and depth to both lines this week with the addition of Greg Walls, Brian Cross, Raymond James and George Lewis.

Cross is a 6-foot-2, 265-pound rookie defensive lineman from North Carolina State. Lewis, a linebacker, played for the Firecats last year, but was undecided on returning to the team until recently. His addition is expected to had depth to the current young and athletic corps of linebackers.

Walls and James are familiar faces and should be major upgrades to interior line play. Both were anchors on the Firecats' lines from 2005 through 2007, when they boasted one of the league's best offensive fronts.

"It's big," Bouis said of the additions. "Any time you can upgrade your team, its big ... getting Raymond back is huge, he played in Corpus Christi last year and they only gave up nine sacks all season. Last year we went through six centers ... and to get him back and have him anchor our offensive line again is huge."

In the meantime, Bouis says it has been trying to prepare this team for the long trip to Albany, N.Y., to face the Firebirds (0-2) Friday night.

"Our focus in practice all week has been to just get back to the basics of playing football," said Bouis.

Wallace is on the verge of becoming the league's all-time passing yards leader. He needs just 129 yards to take over the top spot, currently held by former Oklahoma City QB Craig Strickland (22,688 yards).

"I've been blessed to play a long time and still be able to produce," said Wallace. "A record like this means you've been playing a long time and that's a good thing. I love it and I just want to keep playing."

Through 94 career games, Wallace has thrown for 22,560 yards. He holds af2 career records for attempts (3,072), completions (1,837) and touchdowns (491).

The Firecats have been on the road since their opening-week loss to the Wildcats. They return to Germain Arena April 18 to take on the Lexington Horsemen.



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