Only six days ago, the Washington Commandos lost in the final seconds, 37-36, to the Chicago Bruisers at the Rosemont (Ill.) Horizon. At 7:30 tonight at Capital Centre, the Bruisers are the opponent once again.
And if the Commandos lose tonight, they will be out of contention for Arenabowl I, the Aug. 1 championship game between the four-team league's top two teams.
With two games left, both Washington and Chicago are 1-3, Pittsburgh is 4-0 and Denver 2-2. The winner of tonight's game -- before an expected 10,000 -- could be in position to tie or beat Denver for second place, especially if the Dynamite loses Friday night to Pittsburgh.
"Some people on the team can say we're not under the gun," said quarterback/defensive back Mike Calhoun. "But we all are. The pressure is on."
Washington outgained Chicago, 292-159, in yards, had 11 more first downs and kept the ball almost twice as long. But the Commandos lost in the final seconds after a called-back touchdown and a failed final drive. "To have control like we did and then lose is tough to handle," Commandos Coach Bob Harrison said.
This is the second time the Commandos have played back-to-back games against the same team. After beating Denver, 36-20, on June 27, Washington lost to the Dynamite, 73-57, the following week. Harrison said he would rather not face Chicago right away, but receiver Dwayne Dixon disagreed.
"You don't have to worry about changing plans for another team," he said. "Everything is still fresh in your mind, and you know what you have to do."
In the short, four-day practice week, Harrison concentrated on basics, particularly the snap between center and quarterback, and pass defense. He also did a bit of shuffling in the secondary and worked on the team's goal-line offense and kickoff returns.
With the league's single-platoon system, Harrison also was concerned about conditioning. Monday, the players ran ten 100-yard sprints, each in 16 seconds.
Fatigue has been one reason for the constant changes in the secondary. Receiver/defensive back Lenny Taylor pulled a thigh muscle last week and did not practice this week. Harrison said he should be back but may not play much on defense.
Nathan Creer was demoted from his starting cornerback spot, and is now the backup to Calhoun at safety. Dixon and Frederick Motes will man the corners. At linebacker, starter Mike Witteck and Peter Stubbs will split time.
Calhoun used to be the starting quarterback. But with only 16 men on the team, he was able to get back in the starting lineup on defense.
"I'm hanging in there," said Calhoun. "It's like if I'm thinking about myself, yeah, it's frustrating. But I'm thinking of the team and the coaches and what they value."