The Thunder cannot afford another bad start at Louisville tonight.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
The Mahoning Valley Thunder will try to regain its winning ways tonight on the road against the Louisville Fire.
But to do that, the Thunder will have to get off to a strong offensive start in the game, not like last Saturday when they fell behind 9-0 and lost 51-40 to undefeated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“We can’t get off to a bad start. We can’t come out of the gates so slow,” said Thunder coach Mike Hold. “After they took a 9-0 lead, we matched them point for point but the slow start was the difference. You can’t give [quality teams] a cushion. At the worst, you have to stay even with them.”
But the Thunder did get good offensive performances from quarterback Glenn Gauntt and wide receivers DeMarcus Mathes and Chris Archie.
Gauntt, in his first game after being out five weeks with an injury, was involved in five touchdowns, four coming on passes. He threw two TD passes each to Mathes (39 and 27 yards) and Archie (29 and 16), and one to Tim Murphy (5).
Gauntt still regrouping
“[Gauntt] had a good week at practice last week after being off five weeks in a cast. He had to make a little adjustment. He suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand,” said Hold. “The completion percentage wasn’t there. But we had some drops and he threw some bad balls, but overall it wasn’t a bad performance [although] he can play better.”
Mathes and Archie became the first two Thunder players to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the year. Archie has 1,010 receiving yards on 89 catches while Mathes has 1,009 yards on 69 catches.
Gauntt completed 20 of 45 passes for 292 yards and also rushed for a 1-yard TD, while Mathes wound up with six catches for 126 yards and Archie with six receptions for 102 yards. Kenny Johnson had six catches for 54 yards.
Gauntt, who has played in eight of the Thunder’s 12 games, has passed for 1,976 yards on 172-for-323 with 12 interceptions.
The Thunder (5-7), tied for third place in af2’s East Division with Albany, lost to Louisville at the Chevrolet Centre May 6, 52-34. Louisville (6-6) is in second place in the Midwest Division.
The Thunder has managed a 2-2 record in their last four games following a five-game losing streak after opening the season with a 3-0 record .
Archie won’t be in the lineup tonight, replaced by Chris Johnson, who was activated off the injured list Thursday while Archie was placed on the suspension list.
Johnson played in two games before being injured May 19 against Florida.
“Chris Johnson is a guy we went after and we were trying to get him from the start,” said Hold. “He is an AFL guy and he knows [how to play] and a guy we can count on.”