Heroes meet Phantoms again

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 7, 2008

FLORENCE, S.C. - History is something that can be repeated, but not rewritten.

For Huntington Heroes, they can be the first to rewrite their own history and do it where it all began.

On April 25, the 5-1 Heroes were set to travel to South Carolina to face the Florence Phantoms in what was thought to be just another showdown with their division rival. Instead the players decided not to board the bus. This was done to show the owners that they were unhappy with not being paid on time for several games.

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The league sent a replacement team in place of the Heroes, which consisted of local players along with the practice squad from nearby Baltimore and was handled 66-12.

The pay dispute was settled by owners Brent Blankenship and Barbie Moody-Wood, but the damage had been done.

As a result, head coach Teddy Keaton would resign a day later. Several of his assistants were either fired or resigned and several players departed for other AIFA teams or the Lexington AF2 team.

Since the no show to Florence, the Heroes have gone 1-7 and saw another head coach, Carlos Clayton be let go. So with all that, the Heroes made the playoffs via a Fayetteville loss last Saturday night.

Huntington (6-8) now can rewrite what turned their season upside down as they face the Phantoms tonight at the Florence Civic Center in the first round of the American Indoor Football Association playoffs.

“We’ve had some pieces of bad luck that have kept us from coming in the playoff front door,” said Heroes head coach Paul Blankenship. “But sometimes fate smiles upon you I guess and here we are.”

Tonight’s game for Heroes quarterback Darnell Kennedy, is a way to correct their season back where it went awry.

“It was the game we didn’t show up to. And since then, we’ve only one game,” said Kennedy. “Now we get to play the team where this whole thing started.”

In contrast to the last three games, only one drastic change was made during this week’s game preparation practice.

They practiced.

“The players didn’t practice the last few weeks because of lack of pay,” said Blankenship. “Now they’ve put their differences aside because they have a bigger goal than that. They want to win a championship.”

Florence (10-4), who comes into the contest winners of their last 7 games, will look to the play of their quarterback Omar Jacobs.

Jacobs finished the season throwing for 3,016 yards and 56 touchdowns.

“He has unbelievable stats,” said Blankenship. “We just got to get after him. We’ll have to do our best to contain him.”

For the second straight game, Heroes defensive coordinator Kevin Bruce will suit up for the game. Bruce, who played with the Heroes in 2006, was forced to dress in the Canton due to shortage of defensive lineman. He recorded one solo tackle and helped combine for 2 more.

The winner of tonight’s game will then travel to face the Reading Express in the AIFA Conference Finals.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.