Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Thunder Notes


It didn’t take coach Matthew Sauk and the Portland Thunder brass long to call an audible at the all-important quarterback position.

Two games into the team’s first Arena Football League season, Sauk was ready to implement Plan C. So the winless Thunder brought in Danny Southwick, a relative AFL journeyman QB, to help complete a trade last week that sent former Portland State center Antonio Narcisse to the Pittsburgh Power.

Sauk says he didn’t expect Southwick to have an impact in last week’s road game against the Los Angeles KISS, given that the former Oregon State and Occidental QB had only 2 1/2 days of practice with the Thunder. But after Portland fell behind early, Sauk turned to Southwick, and he responded with 21-for-29 passing, 270 yards and four touchdowns.

The Thunder went on to lose 44-34 and fell to 0-3. But they may have found their quarterback for the rest of the season.

And now one of the team’s two rookie QBs, Nathan Enderle or ex-Oregon Duck Darron Thomas, is likely expendable, especially with receiver Alvance Robinson expected to arrive this week after being part of last week’s deal. Robinson will need a roster spot. “I’m going to have to do something,” Sauk says.

Southwick’s play — along with another solid defensive effort — gave the Thunder a shot versus the KISS (2-1) in its home opener at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

“It was the best game we’ve had from a quarterback,” Sauk says.

Thomas started, but he went 3 of 8 for 26 yards with no TDs and one interception, and the Thunder were down 14-0 midway through the first quarter.

Enter Southwick.

“I had planned on using Darron,” Sauk says, “but I owe it our players to give us our best opportunity to win, and I absolutely hate losing; it kills me inside. I’m just too competitive to accept it. I feel that with the defense we have, we easily could be 2-1.

“We’ve scored seven points in the first quarter of our three games, and that’s not good enough. We’re in the hole too often. You can’t win games when you’re constantly trying to catch up.”

The Thunder are Southwick’s fourth AFL team in four years. He had contacted the Thunder in the offseason as a free agent. Sauk told him “we’re going with the young guys, but I’ll give you a call if something comes up.”

Until Saturday, the 32-year-old, 6-2, 205-pounder from Provo, Utah had attempted only 120 total AFL passes.

“Some things he does really well, and some things I need to learn that he’s not very good at — it’s a learning process for me,” Sauk says. “He understands when to throw the ball and how to throw it, and to me that’s two of the most important things. He was throwing balls before the receivers were breaking, which we hadn’t been doing at all.”

• Next for the Thunder is a road game against the solid Spokane Shock at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Spokane improved to 2-1 last week with a 72-62 victory over the San Jose SaberCats. The Shock lead the AFL in scoring with 62.0 points per game.

“This game is going to give us a good feel for where we’re at defensively, and probably will challenge us the most of any game we’ve played,” Sauk says.