The Tennessee Valley Vipers take on the Green Bay Blizzard in af2

Chris YowAnalyst IMarch 27, 2009

Tennessee Valley will begin their quest of defending their 2008 Arena Cup championship on the road this season.

It will mark the first time the Vipers have started their season away from the Von Braun Center since 2003, when the Vipers defeated Florida on the road.

The af2 season can be hard to predict in the early going. Who would have ever thought the 7-9 Vipers would come back the next season to win the Arena Cup?

Based on last year's performances, the season opener at Green Bay will have the makings of a dandy.

Green Bay finished last season with a one-point, last-second loss to Manchester in the playoffs at home. However, the Blizzard did defeat the Vipers head-to-head 37-35 when the Vipers could not convert a two-point conversion to tie the game at the end.

Green Bay will enlist Gino Guidulgi at quarterback this season. Guidulgi played the final three contests for the Blizzard last season and finished with an impressive 14 touchdowns and just one interception.

Guidulgi also rushed for four scores last season.

Only Brian Hernandez and "Superman" Robert Garth have experience for the Blizzard at wide receiver and the defensive line took a huge loss when Joe Sykes signed with the CFL.

Tennessee Valley will counter Guidulgi with Kevin Eakin. Eakin entered his first game as a Viper in the second half of the Albany game last season and brought the Vipers from behind to win that game and never looked back.

Eakin was the full-time starter until a knee injury took him out of the Arena Cup and he was replaced by back up Tony Colston. Eakin will once again be given the reigns and is undoubtedly the starting quarterback.

Eakin will have to work with receivers that are new to the Vipers, but not to the af2. Chris Bocage was part of the Albany team that Eakin beat last season and Bradly Chavez is a three-year veteran, who was the af2's Ironman of the Year last season with the Manchester Wolves.

Michael Johnson is the expected third starter. Johnson is the only former Viper on the receiving corps. Injuries plagues Johnson last season, but the team says he is 100 percent and ready to play.

Eric Scott will have to work with a few newcomers as well. The defensive front will not include Rico Reese or Terrance Ford and linebacker RaJohn Myles is not with the team pending a CFL try out, but Tennessee Valley will have experience throughout the defense. Keller Speakes joins the Vipers after two seasons with the Louisville Fire.

Speakes recorded 30.5 tackles last season, including six sacks. His one interception and three forced fumbles also anchored the Fire last season.

Speakes will have a college teammate in front of him at nose tackle. John Scott will play nose tackle along with Benji McDowell. Beside Speakes will be Chavez.

The defensive backfield is set and should make Vipers fans comfortable. Demetrius Derico, Desmond Foster and Travis Blanchard will be anchoring the last line.

Expect a fight to the finish with these two teams on Saturday. Both squads will be looking to get the season off on the right foot, and Tennessee Valley will have the targets lit up on their backs as the defending champions.

Key Players:

Green Bay - QB Gino Guidulgi, WR Robert Garth
Tennessee Valley - QB Kevin Eakin, WR/LB Bradly Chavez, DE Eric Scott

Pit Prediction:

Tennessee Valley 54 Green Bay 48

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