Thunder G.M. hopes for quick turnaround with new coach

By John Bassetti

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning Valley Thunder general manager Adam Tokash made it clear in five words: “We want to win now.”

That’s why the Valley’s af2 team brought in Chris MacKeown to stop the bleeding.

“He’s got experience turning teams around in the past,” Tokash said of the 10-year veteran at AFL and af2-levels who was named the Thunder’s head coach on Tuesday. “Hopefully, we can not count ourselves out yet and make a run and at least get in playoff contention and see what happens.”

The Thunder has lost seven straight games and its road losing streak is a franchise-record 16.

Will a 9-7 record do it?

“Absolutely,” said Tokash. “A team with an 8-8 record got in the playoffs last year,” the GM said of Manchester. “We’re not out of it. We’ve got a tough game this weekend. The Horsemen have been scoring a lot of points,” he said of the af2’s No. 1-scoring offense.

Tokash expects more offense immediately

“Coach MacKeown has a little different offensive philosophy. You’ll see some more balls thrown downfield, taking more chances because we’ve got to score some more points.”

The Thunder’s scoring offense is ranked 23rd among the af2’s 25 teams.

Tokash also expects fewer points allowed by Mahoning Valley’s defense.

Asked if a black cloud hung over the organization, Tokash said: “We’re staying positive. We don’t know what the future is going to hold, but all we could do is get the thing turned around on the field and generate the same excitement that we had in the past.”

Tonight, Ray Williams, Jamar Landrom and Darrell Carlton will be the defensive backs, while newcomer Joe Kleinsmith will be the backup.

Brandon Taylor will make his eighth straight start as the Jack linebacker.

Last week against Manchester, Taylor led Mahoning Valley in tackles with 6.5. He is the team leader with 48.5 stops.

Kleinsmith will help fill the slot vacated by a departed Clarence Curry.

C.J. Brewer had a wall-flipping TD catch in the last few minutes of last week’s loss at Manchester, a feat that earned the former 49er the Cutters Catch of the Game and the af2’s catch of Week 9.

The catch from Blake Powers culminated a 39-yard catch with one minute left in the game.

Defensive end Tim Cheatwood did not make the trip to Manchester after banging up his knee against Wilkes-Barre at the Covelli Centre.

Cheatwood will need to be held back this week to get extra rest.

Of the league’s 25 teams, the Thunder is 23rd in scoring offense with 44 touchdowns, 35 extra points and four field goals for 311 total or 38.9 points per game.

Mahoning Valley is 23rd in passing defense (allowing 290.9 yards in the air a game) and 24th in total defense (317.9 ypg.).

As a gauge of the Thunder’s strength of opponent, they has played the league’s top pass-defense team (Milwaukee Iron, 197.2 ypg.) and Nos. 2-3-4 in the same category: Wilkes-Barre (215.5), Tulsa (215.9) and Albany (219.6).

Strangely, MVT non-opponent Iowa Barnstormers are No. 1 in rushing defense — allowing only 8.8 yards per game rushing, yet they’re 24th in pass defense (298.5 ypg.) and 22nd in total defense (307.2 ypg.).

The Barnstormers (5-3) lead the American Conference Midwest Division.

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