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Firecats News

2007-04-28

A Look Across The Field at the Tennessee Valley Vipers

A Look Across The Field
By Adam Berti

Just two weeks ago in the first of three meetings this season between the Florida Firecats and the Tennessee Valley Vipers; the ‘Cats served up a 61-34 beat down that ended with a bench clearing brawl and saw a player from each team get ejected. The game started out innocent enough with the Firecats leading at the end of the first quarter 7-0. The two teams turned it up a notch and both scored 20 in the second with Florida scoring as time ran out at halftime to take a 27-20 lead in to the break. By the time the second half showed up, the Vipers didn’t. Florida outscored Tennessee Valley 34-14 in the second half with Chris McKinney taking the opening 3rd quarter kickoff back 57 yards for a Touchdown. McKinney again grabbed the spotlight with a 23 yard TD catch from Chris Wallace in the third, and the Firecats cruised to their 3rd straight win.

Recently that’s the way the series has gone for both teams. The Firecats handed the Vipers their two worst losses in franchise history, 76-37 and 74-33, in their 2 meetings last year. During the 1st game in May, Quarterback Chris Wallace went 16-27 with 171 yards and tossed 6 TD’s. Receiver Magic Benton did most of the heavy lifting in the 39 point beat down snagging 7 receptions for 106 yards and 6 scores. At that time the loss to Florida was the worst in Tennessee Valley history.

The second meeting just a little over a month later did not turn out any better for Tennessee Valley. A 41 point thrashing was laid upon the Vipers courtesy of the great play by the Offensive Player of the Game QB Chris Wallace, who put up fantastic numbers going 18-28 for 267 yards throwing 7 TD’s and running one in himself for good measure. Iron Man of the game Comone Fisher executed a rare tri-fecta as he collected a sack and an interception on defense and added a TD reception on offense.

The Tennessee Valley Vipers have been in and out of the af2 over the last couple of years. The Vipers were formed in 2000 and were one of the “deuce’s” top teams through the ‘04 season. During that period they never had a loosing record but also had no Arena Cup victories to show for their efforts. In 2000, the Vipers reached the Arena Cup only to lose to Quad City. In 2005 ownership moved the team to an Indoor Football League and changed their name to the Pythons, then changed it again to the Raptors due to issues. When attendance and quality of play started to decline in Huntsville, the team moved to Rockford, Illinois in 2005. In 2006, the af2 returned to Huntsville and so did the Tennessee Valley Vipers under new ownership.

Their return however has yet to yield on field success as the team struggled to a 3-13 record last year and are off to a 1-2 start this season. Tennessee Valley added 6-foot-1 180 pound QB Chris Gunn back to the roster in hopes of ending the losing trend to the Firecats. Gunn threw for 2,192 yards with 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 11 games for the Vipers in 2006. He also rushed for 231 yards and nine touchdowns.

Travis Blanchard had a big game against Florida two weeks ago averaging close to 30 yards per kick return and even took one to the house 56 yards for a score. Blanchard accounted for 259 yards in that game.

The Vipers trail the all time series with the Firecats 5-3, including the playoffs, and would like nothing more than to hand their bitter rivals a loss in their own building. Gunn and Blanchard will need to have big games for Tennessee Valley to come out on top.