It’s a next man up mentality for the hottest team in the Arena Football League this season.
Off to incredible 11-2 start the Orlando Predators are the top ranked team going into the second half of the 2016 AFL Season. All teams will have a bye week in accordance with Independence Day this weekend, but the Predators will use the time off to get Bernard Morris ready to lead his team into the playoffs.
Having already clinched a playoff birth, and the team guaranteed to host a first round playoff game. The focus of the team must be to finish the season strong in order to get the best matchup possible.
Quarterback Randy Hippeard was having a MVP caliber season leading the Predators with great play under-center. In twelve games, Hippeard had 236 pass completions, 2,967 yards, 65 touchdowns and a 121.4 passer rating. All among the top of the league in quarterback statistics.
Hippeard went down in pain midway through the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Sharks with a torn ACL, and was placed on season ending IR. Many critics said the Predators post-season hopes went out on the stretcher with him.
However, veteran arena football journeyman Bernard Morris is no stranger to leading a team to greatness.
Morris an Orlando native, is no stranger to calling the plays for the Predators. In 2014 he led the team to the American Conference Championship Game, loosing to the Cleveland Gladiators, 56-46. Prior to the start of the 2015 season Morris lost the starting job to Hippeard, but contributed to the team in a variety of positions. Regardless of being a starter or not, Bernard is a leader.
Quarterback Bernard Morris went 16 for 23 with 131 passing yards, and eight total touchdowns. Three were scored on the ground rushing. Overall, he was extremely efficient filling in at quarterback. This performance earned Morris the Arena Football League Offensive Player of the Week.
Playing in front of 13,527 for the first time in Orlando since the tragic events at Pulse Nightclub, the Orlando Predators honored the victims by removing individual names, and wearing #OrlandoUnited on the back of their jerseys.
Morris, a community leader, was able to bring the team the team together to focus on playing the game and executing the plays. The Predators have a good leader on the field and in the locker room to finish out the year.
Additionally, other players will have to continue to play at an elite level to continue the success of the team. Receiver Brandon Thompkins has 1,228 yards and 31 touchdowns, with five kick returns. Greg Carr has has added 1,033 yards and 26 touchdowns. Combined they are one the best receiver duo in the AFL.
The play of the defense must improve in the second half of games to keep opponents from putting late scores or drives together.
On defense, Varmah Sonie has 79 tackles and six interceptions. Paul Stephens has added 59 tackles and five interceptions. Kent Richardson has three interceptions on the year.
The Predators will return to action when they travel to play the Portland Steel on July 9 at 10 p.m. ET.