FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — After Saturday night’s game, all the Fayetteville Guard can do is brush off their second straight loss to the Columbus Lions and get ready to face them again.
That’s what the team will have to do anyway because they face the top-seeded Lions on July 6 in Columbus in the first round of the AIFA playoffs.
The Guard struggled offensively and defensively, losing 44-25 at the Crown Coliseum.
Starting quarterback Shawn Whity-Allen couldn’t get the offense in rhythm, throwing for 168 yards with three interceptions. The running game was also inexistent, accumulating a mere 56 yards. On defense, missed tackles and assignments on special teams were a problem.
The only good news for the Guard is that it will still make the postseason. The top two teams from each division make the AIFA playoffs and since Guard won two out of three games against the South Carolina Force — the Force finished third in the division — they will advance.
Despite the Guard’s third straight loss, coach Charles Gunnings is looking on the bright side of things.
“Now the playoff is 0-0,” Gunnings said. “There are no records right now and we have to win when it counts.”
If the team is going to have any success against the Lions, Whity-Allen will have to cut down on his turnovers. In the last three games, he has thrown seven interceptions.
“We just have to tell him to calm down and relax and let the game come to him,” Gunnings said.
“The offense in general has been horrible right now in the last three or four games. We have to put more points on the board and the defense has to stop the offense.”
The Guard has struggled on the road this season, losing four of its five games. They failed to make the playoffs last season, but Gunnings knows what his team has to do in order to be successful come game time.
“They have to be hungry,” he said. “If you’re not hungry you’re not going to win. We have to step up to the challenge, and we have to look ourselves in the mirror and hold ourselves accountable of what we need to get done all the way from the coaches to the trainers.”