The Nebraska Danger will head into the second half of the Indoor Football League season with a 5-2 record.
Not bad, especially when you consider all the injuries the Danger has had.
The offense has been hit especially hard. Jameel Sewell, the IFL most valuable player a year ago, missed a game with a bruised back, then missed two more with a bruised leg.
Receiver Marcus “Bones” Barnett has played in just two games this year. Running back Troy Evans has missed the past two games with a hamstring problem.
“When you lose your MVP quarterback, that’s hard to get over,” Danger general manager Mike McCoy said. “We still won two games without him when he was injured. But with Bones being out and Evans being out, that’s tough too when you’re best ball carrier is out and one of your top receivers.”
But even with all those injuries, the Danger still are tied for the lead in the Intense Conference with a 5-2 record. The Danger will host Wyoming Friday at the Heartland Events Center to start the second half of the season.
“We feel pretty fortunate to be in this situation with the injuries we’ve had,” McCoy said. “We’ve had an unusual number of injuries this year, which is hard on everybody. Based on how short-handed we’ve been at times, I think we feel very fortunate to be 5-2 and on a bye week where we can get ready for the game next week with Wyoming.”
The defense has been banged up some too, but not nearly as much as the offense. The key, McCoy said, has been the performance by the linemen up front.
The defensive line has been strong all season, as has the Danger defense as a whole. The Danger lead the IFL in both points allowed per game (36), passing yards per game (139.5) and sacks (20).
Defensive lineman Clause Wrotten is tied for the league lead in sacks with 5.5.
“The most important thing is the offensive and defensive lines have managed to stay healthy,” McCoy said. “We’ve been so good up front on both sides of the ball. We’ve really been able to win those games because we’re bigger and stronger up front than anybody else.
“And those linemen are very well coached too.”
After hosting Wyoming, the Danger will hit the road for the first three weekends in May. The Danger will play at Tri-Cities (2-5) May 3, at Wyoming (1-6) May 9 and at Green Bay (0-7) May 17.
“We think those are three winnable road games, but you know how tough it is to win on the road,” McCoy said. “It’s very hard, but our guys are veterans. They know how to travel. We’ll take the plane flight to Spokane in early May and we take long bus trips to Green Bay and Casper, Wyo., those guys have done it before. It’s not going to be completely new to them.
“We feel like if we can just get healthy and play our game, we should be fine.”
The Danger has been very tough at home. The team has won 13 straight IFL games at the Heartland Events Center, but if you count preseason games that streak would be at 15 in a row.
The Danger will host Colorado May 22 and Sioux Falls May 31 before finishing the regular season at Texas on June 14.
Those back-to-back home games with Colorado and Sioux Falls could be huge.
Sioux Falls leads the United Conference standings at 7-0, one game ahead of Cedar Rapids at 6-1.
Colorado is tied with the Danger for the Intense Conference lead at 5-2.
“When we played Colorado out there, that’s when we were so short handed,” McCoy said. “But it looks like a two-team race between Colorado and us and it looks like a two-team race between Sioux Falls and Cedar Rapids in the other division.
“We’re kind of hoping Sioux Falls can get beat by Cedar Rapids a couple of times, and Sioux Falls has to come down here and play us on May 31. We really feel confident about how the schedule is unfolding.”
The Danger got a big boost heading into the second half of the season win it downed Texas 35-33 on a 16-yard field goal by Joe Houston on the final play of the game on April 5.
Houston had missed a potential game-winner with 31 seconds left, but the defense
“My big concern at the end was that when we were lining up to kick to field goal, I didn’t want any time left on the clock,” McCoy said. “If there is any time left on the clock, you can kick off, they can take a knee so no time goes off the clock and then have a chance to kick a field goal and win it.”
But the Danger won to set things up for a second-half run.
“We’re in a great position in our conference,” McCoy said. “We’re hoping to host a playoff game again next year like last year and we’re hoping to get Sioux Falls down here for the championship game in June.”