(Long Island, NY) The New York Dragons of the Arena Football League have had their share of problems so far this season. Similar to the New York Jets, they have lost their starting and back-up quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. But unlike the Jets, the Dragons are still in position to qualify for the playoffs. Call it league parody if you like, but with a 5-4 record they have time to go on a run and extend their season.
Losing the best quarterback in AFL history would have put most teams in a tailspin to lose their grip on the season. Aaron Garcia went down with a broken leg in week five and the second stringer Juston Wood was lost two weeks later with a knee injury. Newly signed quarterback Nick Brower came off the bench at Austin to merely throw five touchdowns and lead the Dragons to a 59-56 win versus the Wranglers.
The Dragons have split their last two games, losing to the Tampa Bay Storm on the road and defeating the Kansas City Brigade at the Nassau Coliseum. The remainder of their schedule is, with record in parenthesis:
- Grand Rapids (3-6)
- Dallas (7-2)
- At Columbus (5-4)
- At Los Angeles (3-6)
- Philadelphia (5-4)
- Georgia (5-4)
- At Dallas (7-2)
They have the advantage with four out of the remaining seven games at home. Their toughest games are obviously against the division-leading Dallas Desperados. Hopefully the last game of the season will not be a ‘must-win’ for the Dragons to secure a post season berth. Currently, the Dragons hold the tie breaker on common opponents against Columbus, Tampa Bay and Georgia. With six teams qualifying for the AFL playoffs in each conference, the Dragons can stay close if they do not go on a long losing streak. At press time, they are in fifth place in the National Conference.
All season long, the Dragons defense has been their Achilles heel. Head Coach Weylan Harding has stated that this was an area that needed to step up. On the offensive side of the ball, the Dragons have a talented crew of wide receivers in ex-Jet Kevin Swayne, Mike Horacek and Will Holder. The former Valparaiso product Brower has looked as comfortable throwing to the trio as Garcia did. On special teams, kicker Jesse Obert has settled in nicely to a position that has been a long troubled spot for the Dragons.
Let the schedule play out and we’ll see where the Dragons stand when the dust settles. The way it appears now, their consecutive division crowns will end at three. But as long as they can put themselves in a position to pick off Dallas in the playoffs, they will be satisfied with passing the torch on the top spot. They also owe the Orlando Predators for ousting them in last season’s first round of the playoffs.
If there is a storm in Arena Football, the Dragons are on their way to weathering it if they can once again play for ‘the prize.’