Force at halfway mark

Brian Jones

It’s the halfway point of the season for the Georgia Force and they are right where they want to be: on top of the American Conference South division.

But it has not been an easy ride for the Force because they have been up-and-down all season long. The Force started the season on the right foot by defeating the Cleveland Gladiators 41-39 at the Gwinnett Arena. But they lost a tough game to the Tampa Bay Storm the following week.

The Force then got their biggest win of the year by defeating the defending Area Bowl champion Jacksonville Sharks 69-41 at Jacksonville, and it looked like the Force would be on their way to a strong first half of the season.

Those thoughts would go south in a hurry because the Force got shellacked by the Philadelphia Soul 92-42. But head coach Dean Cokinos got the Force to bounce back the next week with a huge win against the Chicago Rush 70-49.

The offense struggled in the next two games which resulted in losses to the Orlando Predators and the Arizona Rattlers. But the defense played huge in the two following games which resulted in wins against the Pittsburgh Power and Tampa Bay.

“We lost some games that we shouldn’t have lost,” Force defensive back Tracy Belton said looking back at the first half of the season. “We just need to continue to get better.”

One of the reasons the Force is on top of the division is the defense. While the offense has been inconsistent all year, the defense, for the most part, has played solid football all game long.

Why has the defense been solid? Because of Belton, who leads the AFL in interceptions with 10. In fact, he only has to get seven more picks to break the single season record.

“I was going for 20 interceptions this year,” Belton said.

But the Force have also received production from defensive back Mario Allen, who has four interceptions to go along with his 35.5 tackles. Jeremy Grier has three interceptions and 23 tackles and the duo of Kris Cooke and Broderick Stewart has 4.5 sacks between the two of them.

On offense, the passing game is ranked 15th in the league. R.J. Archer is the No. 1 quarterback and has thrown for 34 touchdowns. Lately he has caught the eye of NFL scouts and even got to participate in the Detroit Lions minicamp last week.

Because Archer’s future is in question, backup quarterback Kevin Eakin will see more playing time from now on. Eakin has seen action in three games, starting in two of them, and while he did lead the Force to a big win over the Storm last week, he has struggled to get anything going. While the quarterback play has been not consistent, the running game has been running on all cylinders. Ranked second in the league, the Force’s ground attack is lead by Mykel Benson, who has run the ball 22 times and scored twice the last two weeks. The Force are also getting great production out of the receivers. C.J. Johnson, Larry Shipp and Brandon McRae have all been reliable targets, and that trend will have to continue if the Force want to win the division.

When asked about what needs to be done better in the second half, Belton noted that the team was in this same position last year and made it all the way to the conference championship. He believes this team can do it again.

“I have faith,” said Belton, who has a groin injury and will be out the next four weeks.” “We’ll definitely go far this year.”

The Force will kickoff the second half of the season on Friday when they take on the Milwaukee Mustangs at the Bradley Center.


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