Orcas aren't road warriors yet

"What has happened to the West Sound Orcas thus far in their inaugural season as a full-fledged member of the Northwest Football League (NWFL) has been downright rude.Scheduled to play the top two NWFL teams from last year in their first two outings. Outscored by that duo 104-7. Off to an 0-4 start. Facing their second straight caravan to Oregon for this weekend's game against one of the league's most decorated teams.Ouch.We've got to get our noses to the grindstone, Orcas coach Robert Mulligan said after last Saturday's 51-7 shelling by the Multnomah County Buccaneers, the reigning NWFL runners-up, at Portland. We've got to bring the caliber up above average, or we're going to be struggling.So far, the season - the Orcas' first after competing as a probationary team and compiling a 4-3 record against NWFL opponents in 2000 - has been a struggle, to say the least. After two nonleague losses, they opened at home with a 53-0 loss to the NWFL and National Football Alliance (NFA) champion Puget Sound Jets. Then came last week's shellacking, where the Bucs afforded the Orcas no respect either on the field or off it.They made it clear they didn't want us there, Mulligan said. We had one player show up late and they made him pay to get in. He had all his stuff on, but they still made him pay. We had a couple of wives who, frankly, were scared to be there.We're still learning this travelling stuff, Mulligan said. When we have people come to our place, we try to treat them as guests. But when we went down there, we were treated as the enemy, pure and simple.The Orcas, who didn't play any road contests during their seven-game 2000 season, have been doing a lot of learning in the early part of the season, against the two teams in the league best equipped to do the schooling.They're both bona fide tough teams, Mulligan said of the Jets and Buccaneers. This last team (Multnomah County) had a great offensive line, very athletic-looking, able to trap. Their quarterback was able to scramble, and he threw a very nice-looking pass.The Orcas did score their first touchdown of the regular season, a 70-yard pass-and-run production from Don Purser to Shawn Parker. But they were unable to get much else going, especially after Purser left in the second quarter with a foot injury and was replaced by Kris Lowry.And the defense, for the second straight week, was shredded, particularly through the air.It wasn't a good showing on either offense or defense, Mulligan said.West Sound most likely will have to go back to Oregon for this Saturday's game against the Oregon Thunderbolts without Purser. Though the extent of his injury wasn't known Monday, Mulligan wasn't optimistic about his availability. Lowry, a first-year Orca, and veteran Matt Gates - who played a half in each of the team's two preseason losses - are Mulligan's choices to replace Purser.Mulligan admitted that starting the season off against the league's top two incumbents, including a lengthy road trip, was an early gut check for the Orcas. He also said the two one-sided losses have left players and coaches alike scrambling for answers.You're there for the whole season, he said. That includes the losses. If you're just there for the winning ... well, nobody likes to lose, but it is part of the game.A key to the season will be how the Orcas respond to the early adversity, and how united they still are when they start to match up against teams that are closer in talent level to themselves.Every week, we should be putting all these lessons in our pockets, and then using them the next week, to get better, he said.NOTES: Running back Todd Lewis, slowed in the Orcas' first two games by an ankle injury, is questionable for Saturday's game, Mulligan said. ... The score against the Bucs represented just the third touchdown and the first conversion in four games this season by the Orcas. ... Mulligan estimated last Saturday's crowd at Portland's Jefferson High School at about 200. "

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