Three weeks ago, before the Quad City Steamwheelers took on the Louisville Fire on the road, QC coach Troy Biladeau said this: "Good teams win at home; great teams win on the road."
That was just after QC hammered previously No. 1-ranked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which has been the Pioneers' only loss, and convincingly won at Louisville.
Then, three days before the Steamwheelers took on the Fire at the i wireless Center, Biladeau said this: "Playoff teams don't lose three straight and don't lose two in a row at home."
Saturday night's 55-53 loss to the Fire makes it three straight for QC, and two in a row at home after losing to Iowa two weeks back.
So that begs the question -- Great team or non-playoff team?
"We can fold the tent or we can come out fighting," Biladeau said after the loss left the 'Wheelers at 2-3, now 1 1/2 games behind the division-leading Fire. "I think we have good players. You can never give up. And you don't give up just because you're 2-3."
Wide receiver Kris Peters, who had a great game with 9 catches for 154 yards and 4 TDs, looks at what remains with the 11 games left and sees that as a telling sign as to whether this team can be great or with no playoff fate.
"We split with Louisville, but we have the tie-breaker edge over them because we won by more points," said Peters. "We lost to Iowa, but we have two more games with them, and we play Green Bay here at home. We're still in the division race; we just have to work harder."
The key, says fellow receiver Jesse Schmidt, who added three TD catches and had 110 receiving yards, is the mental game.
"We have to stay positive; nobody can get negative," said Schmidt. "We're down, but we're not out. The thing is, we're capable of beating anyone, and anyone is capable of beating us."
Welcome to arena football, where every little thing matters.
Still, the little things that the 'Wheelers were doing right in the first two weeks have gone the other direction in the last three games. And that's why QC went from feeling really, really good about itself coming off a road win against the Fire to continuing to look for answers after a home loss to the Fire.
"We did a fantastic job of fighting back throughout the game," 'Wheeler quarterback J.J. Raterink pointed out. The 'Wheelers trailed at one point 42-21 and had a chance to tie the game but for an intercepted two-point conversion when they were trying to tie the game at 48.
"I'm proud of the fact that we did come back," Raterink added. "The next time, we have to make sure we come out of here with a win."
Yes, wins. And they've got a tough month ahead of them to try and get those. Next week, they go to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which will be out for revenge. Then comes a home again against Peoria, and May is closed out with road trips to Lexington and that grudge match with Iowa and former QC stars Tim Dodge and Jack Walker Jr.
"We need wins," emphasized Peters. "Whether it's at home, on the road or in the parking lot. We've got to get wins."
Sports editor Marc Nesseler can be reached at email@example.com.
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