One of the better things to happen to the Washington Federals during their training camp in Jacksonville, Fla., was a scrimmage against Birmingham. The Federals defeated the Stallions, 31-21, and their spirits have not been as high since.
Today, when the Federals host Birmingham (1:30 p.m., WMAL-630), they will be trying to do something even more important than making training bearable; they will be trying to turn their season around.
"It's good to know we beat them before," said defensive back Doug Greene. "We could use the win. Maybe beating them before the season will give us the confidence we need."
The Federals have won just one of eight games; the Stallions have won three times--twice against the Oakland Invaders, once against the Arizona Wranglers. Washington is in last place in the Atlantic Division, and Birmingham is last in the Central.
"We may have beaten them in the preseason, but to tell you the truth, that doesn't mean a whole lot," said Federals Coach Ray Jauch. "They've obviously improved since we played them."
So far this year, the Stallions' offensive strength has primarily been running backs Earl Gant and Cornelius Quarles. Quarterback Reggie Collier, the team's first-round draft choice, is Birmingham's third-leading rusher with 253 yards on 39 carries and leads the team in touchdowns with four.
All week the Federals prepared for Collier's tendency to run or throw from the rollout. "A lot of our defensive game will depend on how well we contain Collier," Jauch said.
Collier, from Southern Mississippi, has passed only 108 times, with 47 completions and seven interceptions. He has thrown mainly to tight end Darryl Mason and former Pittsburgh Steeler Jim Smith.
The kicker, Scott Norwood, a rookie from James Madison and formerly of Falls Church, is the team's leading scorer, having made eight of 10 field-goal attempts.
Defensively, the Stallions' pass rush has proved exceptional. In their 21-9 defeat of Oakland last week, the defense swarmed the quarterback, as linebackers Dallas Hickman, cut by the Federals in Jacksonville, and Herb Spencer and end Reggie Lewis had two sacks each. Considering the inconsistency of the Federals' offensive line, the Stallions' rush may again be a factor.
"They're very aggressive," said Jauch. "They don't blitz a whole lot, but they haven't had to."
Although the weather forecast for today's game is not promising, the Federals have enjoyed, for the first time in several weeks, a full six days of practice in which they were unhampered by rain or injuries. Only tight end Vince Rogusky, with a broken bone in his hand, will miss the game, and he will be replaced by Bubba Diggs. Defensive tackle Bennie Smith is questionable with a sprained knee.
"Yeah, it's been a pretty good week of practice," Jauch said. "A nice change for us."
The Federals are hoping that Craig James, playing in his third game since returning from a spinal injury, will break loose for long gains as he did in the preseason. So far he has gained just 139 yards on 47 carries, for a three-yard average. Last week Tampa Bay limited Washington's other running back, Billy Taylor, to six yards on seven carries.
Rookie Mike Hohensee will start at quarterback, but there is no doubt that Jauch will replace him with Joe Gilliam if the Federals fail to move the ball. Although Kim McQuilken has two 300-yard passing days and led the team to its one victory, he remains on the 10-man developmental squad. Jauch probably will continue to use both Gilliam and Hohensee unless one of them clearly takes command of the offense.