The road for the Baltimore Mariners came to a halt in Reading, PA at the Sovereign Center against the Reading Express. The best offensive player on the field, Express’ quarterback, Rob Flowers (Kutztown), was too much for the expansion team from last season as he compiled 262 yards out of 20 for 33 passing, including five touchdown passes as the Express dismissed the Mariners in their first ever post-season contest, 50-20.
The Mariners (9-5) have nothing to feel sorry for or shouldn’t hold their heads down. The Mariners improved in all the major categories and led in some of them like having the AIFA’s (American Indoor Football League) leading rusher in running back, Isaiah Grier (Rhode Island), with 514 yards, defensive back Armar Watson (Duquesne) was the top pick off guy with 17 interceptions and had the best special teams player in J.R. Cipra (Ohio Northern), who had a league leading 191 points in kicking, field goal attempts, 63, and field goals made, 34. Most importantly, their have the right pieces to be a much better squad next season. The only thing that hurt them this season was inexperience in big contests and their inconsistency at the start of games.
Perhaps, the biggest highlight of the season was one of the Mariners, linebacker Brian Bradford (Towson), had a try-out with the New Orleans Saints which is the ultimate goal for all the Mariners, to get a shot or another chance on the NFL stage. “We all congratulated him (Bradford) because he was the first one out,” said Grier. “We all strive to get to the next level and he was the first one to have that opportunity. We congratulated him and wished him the best.”
What’s next for the Mariners? Keeping it simple! Coming into this season, the Mariners set high goals, not impossible, to win the division, make the playoffs and win the AIFA championship. The Mariners know, now, how to get there (the post-season) and win games by keeping it simple. The Mariners don’t have to dominate both sides of the ball or have to be the best team, statistically, keep it simple. The Mariners are talented on both sides of the ball and now they have the experience to win big games by keeping it simple. The Mariners faced several issues this season, an early financial set back (players were paid late earlier in the season because of improper wiring of money), scheduling (the Mariners were scheduled heavy to play away games early in the season which made it difficult to make profit because the organization don’t make money on the road), a minor losing streak, and was blown out (by the Columbus Lions, 82-19). The Mariners were great at taking advantage of their opponent’s, on both sides of the ball, mistakes and running the ball well. All the Mariners have to do is, consistently, start off strong, don’t make early mistakes and continue to be a good second half team because they play well late. “If we play four quarters of football, we are a dominant team,” linebacker Fearon Wright, the former Minnesota Viking. “It’s all about putting the foot on the pedal, keeping these guys going and pushing them at all times. Coming next year, we are carrying on a tradition.”
It’s unknown if all the Mariners will return and how their contracts are structured. After taking the final team photo in Reading, the Mariners started to focus on the 2010 season with a greater foundation to begin with. The Mariners will be under new ownership and if a greater opportunity awaits a player or two, the team should be intact. One thing is for sure, offensive lineman/general manager of the Mariners, Greg Justice will be around and is proud of this season’s accomplishments. “I’m proud to be a Baltimore Mariner and I will be a Baltimore Mariner until the day I die, no matter where I go and I’m very proud of these guys,” said Justice.