In Wichita Force in Focus, the Minor League Sports Report’s Robert Pannier discusses the early MVP numbers of wide receiver Jack Tomlinson as well as talks about some keys to Saturday nights’ game against the Omaha Beef.
Rookie Jack Tomlinson – the Unstoppable Force
The great thing about football is that a relative unknown can quickly become a household name, especially in the indoor game. Last season in the Champions Indoor Football (CIF) League there were a pair of rookie quarterbacks, both playing in the state of Kansas. Salina Liberty quarterback Derrick Bernard threw for 49 touchdowns with just 13 picks in 13 games while Kansas City Phantoms signal caller Donovan Portiere finished second in the CIF with 55 touchdowns, while throwing for 2512 yards, tops in the league.
This season, another Kansan is making his mark in the league, however, it is not from the quarterback position. Wichita Force wide receiver Jack Tomlinson has quickly proven to be an unstoppable force for the Force as he ranks in the top five of most receiving categories three games into the season.
Offense Beginning to Roll
Entering Saturday night’s game against the Omaha Beef, the Wichita Force offense finally looks like they are gelling. After the team was dispatched with extreme prejudice in an opening loss to the defending champion Duke City Gladiators on opening night, 76-24, the offense has improved to the point that they helped lead the Force to a 42-32 come from behind victory last Saturday, their first win of the year.
It is no coincidence that as the chemistry between Jack Tomlinson and quarterback Joe Hubener has improved that the offense has clicked as well. That was no more apparent than last week when, tied at 20, Hubener went down the sidelines and looked like he had overthrown his intended target, but Tomlinson seemed to come from out of nowhere, making a diving catch as he fell into the end zone to put Wichita on top.
The Hubener to Tomlinson connection has been one that could earn the wide receiver an MVP award. Already, the rookie has six touchdown receptions, tied for second in the league, to go along with 79.7 yards per game, third in the league. He leads the CIF in receptions with 24.
It is clear that Hubener has come to see the rookie as his No. 1 choice. Of the eight touchdowns the Wichita QB has thrown, six have gone to Tomlinson, and the duo have hooked up for five in the last two weeks. Tomlinson appears almost impossible to guard, and Hubener clearly looks confident that when he throws the direction of his receiver that the rookie will make the play.
A Battle for First?
When the Wichita Force take on the Omaha Beef on Saturday, this will be a battle for first place. Omaha is tied atop the Northern Division with the Sioux City Bandits at 1-1. Sioux City does not play this week, so a Wichita victory would move them to 2-2 and into a tie with the Bandits. A Beef win would give them the lead in the division.
The Beef pose a different kind of threat than previous opponents in that they are led by a bruising running game. Antonio Bray has 208 yards rushing on 29 carries this season, easily leading the league with a 104.0 yards per game average. He has scored seven touchdowns, making himself an early MVP candidate as well.
If the Wichita defense can hold down Bray, they should be able to have their way with this Omaha offense. The two quarterbacks have combined for 86 yards passing with 2 touchdowns with 3 interceptions. All they have to do is contain Bray, which is a tall order. However, Sioux City had some success in doing that last week.
After the running back gained 99 yards and 4 scores on 12 carries in Week 1, he gained 109 yards on 17 carries, reducing his per carry average from 8.3 to 6.4. That Force need to keep Bray to under six yards a carry and let their surging offense do the rest.
Joe Hubener threw for two touchdowns last week against Oklahoma, giving him eight this season, but it was the first time this season that he has not thrown an interception. The Wichita quarterback is tied for the lead league in interceptions, but that number is misleading as he is averaging just one a game as one of just two quarterbacks who have already played in three games this year…Marcus Carter is the CIF leader in tackles so far this year with 21. Carter is simply making plays, adding 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. His fumble recovery to start the second half turned around last week’s game…Jordan Drake kicked five field goals last week. He is 8 of 14 this season with 31 points, which leads the CIF.
By Robert Pannier