The Alabama Vipers will travel west to Utah tonight for a battle with the Utah Blaze in Arena Football action.
Alabama (1-1) is coming off a huge come from behind win over the Jacksonville Sharks last week, after trailing 35-21, the Vipers upended the Sharks 63-49 behind a strong defensive effort and executing an aggressive gameplan.
This week, the Vipers will attempt to add another notch in the win column against the winless Blaze.
Utah fell at the hands of defending Arena Football champion Spokane Shock last week in a 68-34 throttling.
The biggest upside for the Vipers this week is that for the first time this season, the defense will not have to face a proven Arena Football star at the quarterback position.
Michael Affleck and Brett Elliot combined last week for 14-of-29 for 164 yards, with only two touchdowns, both by Elliot, and one interception by Affleck.
The Blaze were led by receiver Aaron Boone, who caught eight passes for 90 yards and both touchdowns.
Defensively, the Blaze did not look any more impressive. The defense gave up 68 points to the Shock and were not able to force any turnovers. However, Chris Solomona was able to garner one sack on the night.
The brightest spot for the Blaze was kick returner Brandon Hampton.
Hampton returned just four kicks on the night due to his electrifying returns. He was able to return two kicks for touchdowns and averaged 42 yards per return.
Utah signed most of their players late in training camp and close to the start of the season, and Vipers' head coach Dean Cokinos noted that there is little familiarity with the Blaze.
"It's a lot of unknowns," said Cokinos, "They're really a new team."
The Vipers know what they need to do in order to come out on top this week. "We need to focus on ourselves and fix some things we did poorly last week," said Cokinos.
Alabama will counter the Blaze with a superb defense that is giving up just over 50 points per game, tops in the AFL.
The Vipers will likely use more of a methodical offense than the Shock, and will utilize fullback Dan Alexander to the full extent if at all possible.
Alexander leads the league in rushing touchdowns with nine so far through just two games.
The fifth year veteran out of Nebraska has been the rock-pounder for the Vipers this season and things do not look to be changing.
However, the football still has to go through quarterback Kevin Eakin.
Eakin has not been as accurate this season as in years past, but the signal caller has been just as efficient with the football. He has not thrown a single interception this season in 79 attempts.
Receiver Michael Johnson leads the team in all-purpose yards, but is still searching to find the end zone.
On the defensive side of the ball, Eric Scott seems to be the team's best pass defender with five pass break ups on the year.
Ahmad Hawkins, Travis Coleman, and Vince Hill will secure the backfield against the Blaze and are looking to continue building on the success and chemistry developed last week.
Hawkins, a wily veteran of the AFL, returned an interception for a touchdown in his return the the league last week and was awarded the league's highlight of the week award.
The contest will be aired on AFL Live by Nifty TV beginning at 8 p.m. CDT.
Cokinos knows that tonight's game is essential to the Vipers success early in the season, "This game is critical, it's a chance to get to 2-1 into the bye."