With only two games left in the season, the Chicago Slaughter of the Indoor Football League finds itself in a three-team race for a playoff spot.
The Slaughter (7-5) is tied with the Cedar Rapid Titans for the last playoff berth and is 1½ games ahead of the Texas Revolution (5-6). The Titans own the tiebreaker over the Slaughter after winning three of the four meetings.
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"It's a bottleneck at the top," Slaughter defensive coordinator Steve Szpejnowski said. "It's do or die for the playoffs."
The Slaughter closes its regular season with two games against the Green Bay Blizzard (4-7) starting Friday night atSears Centre Arena. The final game is set for June 15 in Green Bay.
The Blizzard changed its offensive scheme after its second loss to Chicago, which saw the Slaughter win 27-14 in Green Bay. The Blizzard switched quarterbacks due to injury and hired a new offensive coordinator, John Pate. Pate has the Blizzard on a roll, and the team has averaged nearly 57 points per game since their March 22 meeting. The Slaughter only averages 40.5 points for the season, second worst in the league.
Szpejnowski has been preparing his team for the Blizzard's unique offensive attack.
"They are running a lot of exotic plays," Szpejnowski said. "It's a completely different offensive strategy than last time we played."
Offensive coordinator Pat Pistorio wants his team to reestablish its successful run game. Slaughter running back Daniel DuFrene, a former Fighting Illini, currently sits sixth in the league in rushing with 437 yards and second in attempts, but he hasn't seen as many carries in the recent weeks. The Slaughter ran the ball more than their opponent in each game during a five-game winning streak in the middle of the season. Since then, Chicago is 2-3 and has fewer rushing attempts than their opponent in each loss.
This rushing attack balances out their offense in a pass-heavy league, but it also keeps the ball out of the opponent's hands. When the opponent does attack, the Slaughter defense has been stout. Chicago leads the league in interceptions (23), forced fumbles (11) and defensive touchdowns (7). The defense is anchored by Ameer Ismail and Lenny Radtke, the second- and third-leading tacklers in the league.
The Slaughter is scheduled to kick off its final home game tonight at 7:35 in the Sears Centre Arena. Chicago looks to win its sixth in a row at home. Tickets are available at www.searscentre.com.