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MEMPHIS SPORTS SCENE

MEMPHIS SPORTS SCENE

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XPLORING A NEW SEASON The Memphis/Mid-South Xplorers have started their season with back-to-back wins and feature talent such as former Memphis Tiger receiver and NFLer Russell Copeland. The Memphis Flyer caught up with head coach Danton Barto (also of UM Tiger fame) to talk about his squad. Flyer: Talk about the two wins. Barto: “The first win against Louisville was a great victory for us to get on the board, and to get a win on the road. Louisville played pretty tough, but we were able to score 60 sports which let the people know that we have a good offensive team. And then, going into Peoria, Head Coach [Bruce] Cowdrey was 18-0 at home, and we won in overtime. We decided to go for two, to go for the win, and we converted the play and won the game. It was a really hostile environment, a tough place to play, so for us to win was huge.” Flyer: The Xplorers struggled to find wins last season. What’s the difference now? Barto: “I think it’s a combination of new coaches, new attitude, and a new system combing for the wins. The guys believe in the talent we have and the system we’re running. And that’s what it takes, for guys to believe they’re going to win. That’s what we have been able to accomplish the past two games.” Flyer: Talk about the connection between quarterback Tim Lester and receiver Russell Copeland. Barto: “It’s phenomenal. Russell and Tim have been on the same page since day one of camp. Tim has a good feeling for where Russell is going to be on the field, and Russell has a good understanding where Tim will put the ball. So they’ve been clicking on all cylinders. The scary point is that we can get better with those two. They’re still making mistakes. Tim under threw a ball to Russell last week that should have been a touchdown. Russell dropped a ball he should have caught.” Flyer: So they’re not in mid-season form just yet. Barto: No, not at all. Flyer: Has Russell developed into a leader for this team? Barto: “Russell has been for us a true professional and leader for us on and off the field. He calms us down when we need to calm down. He tells us that it’s not a big deal. They kicked a field-goal, Peoria did in the second game, and that sent us to overtime. He said, ÔHey, it’s no big deal, we’re going to score anyway.’ He’s great for our team. He’s been there, he’s done it. He’s been in the biggest game of the world in the Super Bowl, so it’s nothing new to him.” Flyer: After a good start, some coaches start to feel the pressure to keep winning. What about you? Barto: “We just talk about this game. We take it one game at a time. This is a division game, and so it’s the biggest game of the year for us. Last week, Peoria was the biggest game for us. A lot of people say there’s a pressure to keep winning, but I say the pressure is on the other team because you know now that you can win, and it’s like a big ball rolling down the hill. It gets bigger and bigger.” Flyer: Your first home game is this Saturday, April 20, against the Bossier City Battle Wings. Talk about the importance of winning at home. Barto: “I know, for this area, it’s huge. To say nothing bad about the fans here, but they want winners. I think that we’ve done a good job of winning two on the road, and we’ve created a little excitement. Now we have to get these fans, and let them jump on our backs and ride us. The only way to do that is to win.” Flyer: So was having the first two games on the road a blessing, or a curse? Barto: “It was kind of a blessing. We got on the road and we thought we would be a good team and it showed us that we were a good team. And there’s a lot less distractions on the road, believe it or not, because you are away from your family, and that sort of thing.” (Care to respond? Write mailonthefly@aol.com.)

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