Category Archives: New Orleans VooDoo

AFL Outsiders by AFL FanZone Power Rankings Week 03

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Week three was a mixed bag with two close games and two blow outs. Arizona was 33 point favorites going into their home opener and won by 33, Philly made sure Portland didn’t have a similar performance this week that they had against Orlando. Overall it was a typical week in the Arena Football League which was nice to see. Here are your AFL Fan Zone Week 3 Power Rankings:

  1. Arizona Rattlers (3-0) (Last Week 1, Change –)

The Rattlers remain far and away the best team in the AFL. Nick Davila continues to play some of the best ball of his career while no one seems to be able to stop Rod Windsor. Windsor hauled in four touchdowns for the third week in a row. When a team like Arizona just walks through its competition seemingly untested, almost like a glorified skeleton drill, you start to wonder if there are any weaknesses or flaws on this team. On the field it’s very tough to find any, but if you look at point differential in the first three week’s you start to notice a trend. Arizona won by 52 Week 1, 41 Week 2, and now 33 in Week 3. I’m not saying Arizona is destined to lose, but I am saying that teams may have been able to find something on film to exploit to slow down the Rattlers (as microscopic as it seems on the scoreboard). We will find out this week when the Rattlers travel out East to take on the 1-2 Jacksonville Sharks and their high octane offense.

  1. Orlando Predators (3-0) (Last Week 3, Change +1)

If there was a team in the league that frustrates you the most, it’s the Orlando Predators. After laying an egg in Week 2 against Portland by allowing the Steel to travel cross country to the Amway Center and nearly steal a game in the 4th, Orlando turns right around and takes it to Jacksonville on Monday night at Sea Best Field. The Predators even found themselves in a little bit of adversity going down 34-21 late in the 2nd Quarter. After scoring in the final seconds of the 1st half, Orlando took that momentum into the locker room and came out firing in the second half on their way to a last second victory. At 3-0, Orlando looks to be the most able to deal with adversity and possibly the only team to challenge Arizona. Coach Keefe’s main goal in practice this week is to preach consistency and intensity. They can’t continue to play to their competition. If they can play more consistent we won’t be seeing them in these tight 2nd half ballgames. Week 4 at home against Los Angeles will be our focus as Game of the Week.

  1. Los Angeles KISS (2-1) (Last Week 4, Change +1)

Los Angeles found out where they were among the elite Week 2 when Arizona came to town and dominated the second half in route to a 69-28 pounding. Week 3 saw the KISS go to Cleveland for their first away game of the season. Even though they needed an interception by Fred Obi late in the 4th quarter, I thought LA proved Week 2 was an anomaly. For the second time this season, LA forced the opposing QB into mistakes in the 2nd half. After throwing an early pick six, Cleveland QB Dennis Havrilla settled into the game and was playing well up until the 4th quarter. Midway through the final quarter, Havrilla clearly fumbled on a QB scramble, but Cleveland was sent a gift by the football gods in the tune of an inadvertent whistle. Then when the game was on the line with Cleveland only down five, Havrilla stared down his receiver which gave Obi the chance for the interception to seal the game late. Los Angeles is clearly a better team than they were the last couple years, but they are going to need their best effort of the season if they want to come out of Orlando with a victory in Week 4.

  1. Philadelphia Soul (2-1) (Last Week 5, Change +1)

In the preseason, I had Philadelphia as my Arena Bowl 29 champions over the Arizona Rattlers. I think Arizona has proven that outside of an injury or fluke game, they will be hosting the title game this year. On the other side of that prediction, the Soul are too up and down to really predict. They go into Cleveland Wk1 and smack around the Gladiators only to return home and get embarrassed by the Jacksonville Sharks in a game that even Luke Collis took some snaps it was so ugly. Then you look at Week 3 and you have a team in Portland who took Orlando to the brink in Week 2 and the game was over by halftime. QB Dan Raudabaugh finally looked comfortable for the first time this season over the course of an entire game and this game might have been the one that will get Philly back to their winning ways. On Saturday they welcome Cleveland to town and if the Soul can show some kind of consistency, look for a repeat performance of Week 1 when Philadelphia confused QB Chris Dieker on their way to a blowout victory.

  1. Jacksonville sharks (1-2) (Last Week 2, Change -3)

No team has moved up and down this list as much as Jacksonville has. For the amount of talent they possess on both sides of the ball, there is no reason they should struggle late in games they way they have in their two losses. Just like in Week 1, a late first half touchdown by the other team seemed to deflate the team at halftime. Of course, there is plenty of time for the Sharks to right the ship. If you look back to last year, remember it took until Week 5 for the Sharks to find the win column. They just need to settle down, stop out thinking themselves, and work on some time management strategy. Les Moss is one heck of a coach, so don’t worry Sharks fans, Jacksonville will be there at the end when the playoffs roll around. I’d be very surprised if they knocked off Arizona this weekend, but I expect them to at least compete and give the Rattlers their toughest test to date. They have the offense to get the job done, they just don’t have the mental toughness to withstand adversity right now.

  1. Cleveland Gladiators (1-2) (Last Week 6, Change –)

The good news for Cleveland is they seem to have found a quarterback they can trust this season. I know it has only been two games, but Havrilla is still young and has plenty of room to develop. They have the WR core and the talent on defense to compete, the Gladiators just haven’t been able to put it all together for an entire game yet. They got Joe Phinisee back last week, but then had to face All Arena WR Donovan Morgan without rising superstar Joe Powell. Of all the teams in the lower group, Cleveland looks to be the most poised to break through. Outside of one half vs Philly, Cleveland has gone toe to toe with two top four teams. The Gladiators pack their bags and hit the road for the first time in 2016 as they head East in a rematch with the Soul in Week 4.

  1. Portland Steel (0-3) (Last Week 7, Change –)

If the league hopes to market Portland to the owner of the Trailblazers, then they can’t be happy with the effort they saw in Week 3. After going down to Orlando and pushing an undefeated team to the edge, they laid an absolute stinker of a game against the Soul. A game in which Coach James saw his team down 42-6 at halftime. Danny Southwick isn’t the answer for the Steel, but even a great QB like Davila would struggle behind Portland’s offensive line. Southwick was punished yet again this week which now seems to be a weekly occurrence, the main reason they see themselves at 0-3. Losing how they did in Orlando seemed to still be in the back of the heads of the players, but they need to head into the bye week this week and erase the first three weeks. They come back to action Week 5 against Arizona and if they hope to compete, they are going to need to forget this loss and move on.

  1. Tampa Bay Storm (0-3) (Last Week 8, Change –)

I tend to see football a lot differently than most people do. I say this because I saw an article posted this weekend that mentioned Tampa Bay looking lifeless, almost as if they didn’t want to be in Arizona. I must have been watching a different game. Did Tampa Bay get run off the field, sure, but let’s be honest here, the level of talent on both rosters isn’t even comparable. Tampa Bay’s best WR is on Injured Reserve, TT Toliver is clearly showing his age, and Philip Barnett and V’Keon Lacey are both good receivers, but neither is a number one Jason Boltus returned three days before kickoff and was thrown right into the mix because the team would rather that than throw out Jonathan Bane again. But what I saw, was a team who clearly looked out-matched that continued to fight and push Arizona to their lowest margin of victory of the season. With Boltus back at the helm, I think Tampa Bay is going to climb out of the cellar at some point in the season. Are they going to be contenders at the end of the season, not a chance, but they will get better than this. They weren’t given any favors from the schedule makers either as they welcome Jacksonville to the Amalie Arena when they return from the bye week in Week 5.

 

Biggest Jump – Predators, KISS, Soul  – +3

Farthest Drop – Jacksonville Sharks – -3

Week 1 Power Rankings

Week 2 Power Rankings

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Q & A with New Orleans VooDoo General Manager, Brandon Rizzuto

Q & A with New Orleans VooDoo General Manager, Brandon Rizzuto

by Bobby Autin

2015 is the beginning of a new era for the New Orleans VooDoo. Ever since the VooDoo returned to the AFL in 2011, to say they have struggled, is somewhat of an understatement.

The overall record the last four seasons is an abysmal 19-53, or a winning percentage of .264. Something had to change, and change fast.

That’s exactly what happened this off season, when the VooDoo cleaned house, and started from scratch.

I recently had a chance to discuss these changes, with new General Manager, Brandon Rizzuto. If you have followed the VooDoo in the past, then Brandon’s name may sound familiar. Rizzuto was Vice President of the VooDoo from 2011-2012. His time between leaving the VooDoo, Rizzuto has served as, Assistant Athletic Director of Communications at University of New Orleans (UNO).

In this interview, Rizzuto discusses why he returned and his future plans with the VooDoo.

I know you were in the college realm, working as an Assistant Athletic Director. What made you decide to come back to the VooDoo?

When our ownership group called, I was excited about the opportunity.  After over a week of back-and-forth and talking short-term and long-term goals and plans, I thought it would be best to come back to The Graveyard.  I experienced the highs and the lows in my two seasons; 2011 was a disappointment, and 2012 was possibly the most fun I’ve had in my career.  When I thought about coming back, I thought about building on 2012, re-capturing that feeling of having a competitive football team and a lively fan base behind us.

How would you rate the off season for the VooDoo, and why?

Honestly, B-minus.  I believe that hiring Dean Cokinos as head coach will turn the fortunes of the franchise on the football field.  Dean and I talked extensively before I agreed to comeback, and we agreed that we were going to do this together; we agreed that if him and I were united that we could change the culture here – not just on the field, but off the field as well.  Hiring Dean, along with some key staff members in our front office will only help us as we move forward.  Though sometimes I am impatient, I do realize that Rome wasn’t built overnight – or in five months since I took the job.  However we are getting there, and I know that the VooDoo Nation will be behind us as we build this thing.  I don’t think it would be healthy for us to give ourselves anything over a B-minus at this point; we’ve had a good offseason with some fresh air and new blood pumped into the organization as whole, but we have to keep improving in all phases.

With teams like Jacksonville, who have added a lot of depth (and more recognizable names). How do you feel we will match up with them?

There are a lot of great teams in the AFL, and Jacksonville will most definitely be a title contender this season.  They will have an advantage with their veteran-laden team.  There are so many big names in Jacksonville and they should be favored to win it all this season.  We will be the opposite; we will have a lot of rookies and younger guys on our roster, which is to our advantage as we will be the wildcard coming into the season – just like in 2012. Jacksonville at home to start the season will be a great gauge in our progression as a football team.  As the saying goes, if you want to beat the best, you have to play the best, and we are looking forward to playing the best on March 28th.

What have you learned in your time in the college realm, that will benefit you and the franchise moving forward?

Well, one of the things I have taken from my college stops is that you can stretch the dollar and press the penny as long as you have a hard-working mindset, a good staff, and live out your job every day.  My time at Nicholls State was exactly that; we didn’t have the biggest budget; we didn’t have all of the fancy equipment, facilities, etc., but we prided ourselves in that, and when we did have success against universities and colleges that did have everything and anything at their disposal, it made that success that much better knowing that.  It was like we were always playing the role of David going up against Goliath; in sports, David loses to Goliath the majority of the time, but when David has his day, it’s a great day!  All the personnel that we have added to our staff – coaching and front office – and the players to the roster all have some “David” in them – including me.  All of us have something to prove, and we all know failure is not an option.  I can only speak personally for myself, but being only 30 (the new 20, by the way) I am aware that there are skeptics out there, and that is fine.  I have something to prove because of that and I like that; I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Not to be to cliché, but when you walk into a burning building, you find out quickly who is with you and who is not; I have a solid staff, a lot of diehard fans, family and great group of friends that are following me into the fire and are determined to help me put it out.  That means something to me and I can’t thank them enough.

How do you feel about the team moving from the South Division, over to the East?

To be honest, Coach Cokinos and I talked about this a lot as it was happening, and we are just happy and looking forward to strapping up and playing football.  The division we play in is important as far as the postseason is concerned and we understand that, but Coach Cokinos and I are excited to put on the pads and tackle someone other than ourselves for a change – whether it’s a Jacksonville or Cleveland, we are just as eager as you are to get between the walls and start 2015.

With the size of the league currently, is there anything you would like to see changed with the schedule?

I only speak for the New Orleans VooDoo, but I believe that the scheduling is fine as is.  We are happy where we are at and look forward to battling through the American Conference.  The National Conference will have an equal amount of competition and the way the schedule is set up, playoffs will be that much more intense and the best teams from each side will be in ArenaBowl.  I believe that; I believe that the schedule is setup for a great season, postseason and championship.

Is there anything different, people can expect in The Graveyard this season? (Such as in-game entertainment, giveaways)

We are working towards building a more fan-friendly game experience, while keeping some of the elements of previous years that we have had positive feedback from.  Obviously not having Jason Coffel with us on game days and running the show is a huge loss for us, and his shoes won’t be easy to fill. However we are working hard every day to have a great show for our fans.  There are some things that we are working to accomplish and build tradition in The Graveyard.  Stay tuned!

The team announced a new online merchandise store. What are some of the more interesting items available for fans to purchase, that you may not see, all the time?

The online merchandise store was one of three initiatives I suggested to our ownership group that was desperately needed, along with a makeover on our website that was mobile friendly and apps for smart phones.  So far, two of the three have launched and we are excited to complete the trifecta with the apps later this month.  As far as the store, it is the only store of its kind in the AFL with over 1,000 items to choose from, including customizable replica jerseys, hats, flags, teddy bears, home and office gear, and all of the t-shirts that you can buy.  The same items that you see on the site will be available for purchase at our games, so if there is someone out there wanting to physically see the merchandise before buying, we will have them at our games.

If they were to make a movie about the VooDoo franchise, who would play the role of Brandon Rizzuto?

That is a tough question.  As you can imagine, I don’t watch much movies these days as VooDoo and the VooDoo Nation is my top priority.  I don’t think one of those “pretty boy Floyd” types like Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling would do my character justice, and if I had to pick someone I would say Jonah Hill would be a good fit.  My management style holds everyone accountable – even myself – in the stressful environment of working in sports.  With that said, I believe that you have to love your job and one of the ways to love your job is to have fun each and every day while working.  Whether that is having an intern poker night in the office or taking a few minutes to go outside and just throw the football around to take a break; you have to somehow balance the stressful conditions with comedic relief and I think that Jonah Hill could capture that.

Tell the fans, something interesting, they may not know about you.

I enjoy talking long walks on the beach and getting caught in the rain!  Just kidding…sort of; I would say that I am just a normal guy trying to make a career out of a dream, and my dream has always been to work in sports.  To be here today and have the opportunity to be the General Manager of the New Orleans VooDoo is me living out that dream, and I have made it here by working extremely hard, sacrificing more than anyone will ever know, and with the help of many great people along the way.  I am sure many can identify with that, and identify with me chasing a dream.  I don’t take it lightly; I know in the last five months we have overcome some obstacles since I started back and I know there are many more that lie ahead.  It’s not going to be easy; I knew that coming in, and that challenge excites me.  It’s easy to sit back and complain, whine and pout about what could be or could have been; it’s hard to roll up your sleeves, take a risk, be positive and work hard to fix what’s broken.  I choose the hard way as it is the most rewarding.  After all, my parents always told me I was hard-headed, so why stop now at 30!

Outside of being super-serious with this interview, I would add that I love music; like, I really love music.  I go through different phases daily and weekly.  One day it might by Lil Wayne or the original Hot Boyz, the next it will be Bob Seger and Alicia Keys, and then the next will be Andrea Bocelli…then the next it will be Bone Thugs-N-Harmony with a side of Dierks Bentley and Dave Matthews Band.  It’s unpredictable, and you would be hard pressed to find a song that I don’t know.  Seriously; I am addicted to music! When I hear someone say that they don’t like or that they don’t listen to music, I don’t understand how they live.

As you have read, many new and exciting things are going on throughout the VooDoo organization. Season tickets are available to purchase, for as low as $99, by calling 1-888-277-5526. I am not sure how the win/loss record will look, but the organization is on the up and up. There is an excitement for the first time, in quite some time, for this team.  So there’s only one question that remains, Do You VooDoo? I do!