The Pittsburgh Power embark on their third season in the Arena Football League and are hoping to revert back to their winning ways after a disappointing 5-13 season last year.
“There’s nothing I can do about the 2012 season, I can only move forward,” Head Coach Derek Stingley said. “By moving forward there is nothing to learn from that because team’s makeup is totally different from 2012. Half of these players on this team weren’t even here, so we’re looking forward and trying to get better. Hopefully we can get this team to the playoffs and try to win a championship this year.”
With Head Coach Derek Stingley now leading the team and the respect he has among the AFL, the Power have become a popular destination. Alvin Ray Jackson who spent the last two seasons with the New Orleans VooDoo signed with the Power.
Jackson had 14 interceptions and 75 tackles last season in making the First-Team All-Arena. Stingley previously coached the VooDoo.
“Coach Stingley and I have a really good relationship and I believe in what he does. He told me that I had to come here,” Jackson said.
The signing is one of many that also include Sergio Gilliam [70.5 tackles last season] and Brandon Freeman [92.5 tackles in last two seasons]. Add that with returning players Chris LeFlore who set a Power record with nine interceptions and Christian Wise who had three upon making the switch to defender, and the top ranked Power defense may have gotten stronger.
“[Stingley] has a great philosophy; everybody runs and gets to the ball.” Jackson said. “His defenses are very complicated for offenses to decipher. Only think he needed was for me to bring some turnovers and I think we’ve got a bunch of guys with Sergio Gilliam, myself, Brandon Freeman, Christian Wise and Chris LeFlore and I think we can do that this year.”
Well known throughout the league, Stingley has made connections and many of those guys joined Stingley.
“I tried to bring in some good guys that can help us win some games,” Stingley said. “I’m more about the guys gelling together quickly as a team. Most of these guys I picked up I knew throughout the league.
On the offensive side of the ball, Jordan Jefferson will get the start at quarterback on Saturday. At LSU, Jefferson threw for 4,733 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Mike Washington [44 touchdowns] and P.J. Berry [3,340 all-purpose yards/18 touchdowns] return as top wide receivers with Perry Baker and Curtis Walls joining them.
Ready to call the plays for this offense is a familiar name in Pittsburgh sports, Mike Tomczak. Upon Stingley being named interim head coach, Tomczak was made the offensive coordinator. Last season it was Stingley calling the plays on both offense and defense, but this season, Tomczak is ready to make the jump.
“I put the whole thing together in the off-season and evaluated our team objectively,” Tomczak said. “I studied the other teams around the league. You only have so much width of the field and so much length of the field and a lot of teams run the same plays but have different terminology. The transition was educational for me, but I think I learned a lot from it.”
Watching the Power practice, it is clear that this team has a personality and a swagger that was not seen last season and Jackson already is making that step of becoming a leader on this team.
“I want us to be bullies and make it hard to come in here and play,” Jackson said. “I want people to think that when they come into the Steel City, that we’re some hard workers and blue chip type of guys and that it will be hard to get a win.”
The home opener is Saturday against the Utah Blaze and the first 5,000 fans in the door will receive fleece blankets. Also all season Smith’s Hot Dogs and 7UP fountain drinks will be sold for $1. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Box Office at Consol Energy Center, calling  745-3000 or online at ticketmaster.com.
Stingley knows his team is prepared for Saturday and for the games to start counting again.
“We’ve got a much better winning attitude,” Stingley said. “I’m all about attitude and constantly preaching that we need to be a physical team but at the same time execute. If everyone understands what we’re doing the sky’s the limit for this team.”
Tags: Pittsburgh Power