At 5-2 the Nashville Kats are off to their best start in franchise history, but like in horse racing or marathon running the finish is always more important than the start.
"We compare the season to a marathon or a horse race and the winner seldom leads from wire-to-wire," said Kats coach Pat Sperduto. "We're in the pack right behind the leader (Tampa Bay, 6-0 in the Southern Division). We have to stay in that pack until it is time for us to make our move. We don't want to peak too early."
The Kats are coming off a 49-46 victory Saturday night in a neutral site game with the Houston Thunderbears in Bismarck, N.D. The Kats return home Friday night to face the Florida Bobcats (3-3) at 7:30 at Gaylord Entertainment Center. The Kats have beaten the Bobcats in all seven meetings between the two teams including a 46-26 rout on the road April 28.
Sperduto, however, is not downplaying the game. The Bobcats are coming off a 51-44 come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Phantoms. Sperduto is afraid that the last-minute turnaround for the Bobcats might be a springboard for them.
"A game like that can make a difference for a team," Sperduto said. "I've always felt like Florida was a team with a lot of talent, but they have been in a rut. Beating Toronto like they did may get them out of that rut."
Sperduto would still like to see more consistency from his team.
"When the door is open we're a team that knows when to step through it," Sperduto said. "We played in spurts against Houston. We need to play more consistently. When we do, we will be a better team. And we are trying to get better every week so we will be stronger later in the season."
He may be the smallest man on the team, but offensive specialist Tyronne Jones can block with the best of them. A key block by Jones turned a first down catch by 6-foot-5 receiver L.C. Stevens into a touchdown. The receivers all contributed key blocks to help Jarrick Hillery score on a 31-yard touchdown run, the longest in team history against the Thunderbears.
Sperduto credits the ability of his receivers to block, plus their desire to do so as keys to the team approach to winning.
"One of the most impressive things about this team is the way our receivers have blocked all year," Sperduto said. "When you look at the video of Hillery's run, Tyronne Jones and Darryl Hammond have two guys pinned against the boards with blocks.
"Our linemen do a great job of opening the holes up front. Our receivers do a great job of blocking to keep the play going. For Hillery the receivers blocking turned a six- or seven-yard run into a 31-yard jaunt."
Sperduto has said on many occasions that Jones loves blocking as much or more than he does catching a pass. It's a matter of pride for the receivers.
"Some guys take pride in what they do and some guys don't," Sperduto said. "All these guys Jones, Hammond, Hillery, Stevens and Ron Carpenter take pride in what they do. Our goal is to make things happen and win as a team."
One of the Kats who continues to make things happen is Carpenter who made a key interception in the fourth quarter against the Thunderbears.
"All Ron Carpenter does is make big plays," Sperduto said. "You can cut it any way you want but all you see through his career, everywhere he has been, is Carpenter making interceptions, fumble recoveries or run backs."