Newark Star-Ledger

August 14, 1974

By Mike Weber

Stars host to hapless Storm Tonight

NEW YORK - Portland is just about out of wide receivers and New York is the best rushing team in the WFL, so don't be surprised if tonight's game at Downing Stadium kicks up a lot of dust. Most of the battle figures to be waged along the ground as the Stars (3-2) seek their fourth straight victory.

 Portland has lost a receiver per week, enduring the most severe blow two weeks ago when leading pass catcher Greg Specht broke his hand. Thus, you have a team whose top receiver is a running back, Rufus Ferguson.

 Add that to the fact that the quarterback, Ken Johnson is a rollout artist by trade and you have a pretty good indication that Portland will succeed or fail by the run. Thus far this season, the Storm has failed at almost every turn. 

Portland brings an 0-4-1 record into tonight's game, the tie coming last week against Houston. To be sure, it has improved, week by week due primarily to Johnson. 

He was groomed to be the starter before pre-season drills began but broke his hand a week prior to the opener. 

Hence, Greg Barton played four games but failed to produce anything positive. 

Johnson got the OK from the doctors last week and ran 11 times for 56 yards. It was a performance which has Stars coach Babe Parilli a bit concerned. 

"I don't know what makes the kid tick," said Parilli, "so I don't know how we'll play with only one game behind him. But he had to pick up confidence last week. He's the type of kid who was a running quarterback in college and he prefers running to passing. 

"He can hurt you if you don't get to him early and show him you mean business." 

That job will fall on among others, defensive linemen Gerry Philbin, John Elliott and Jerry Ellison, who will play at right end now that Steve Setzler has been de-activated with ligament damage in his right knee. 

Marv Kendricks, a three year veteran of Canadian football, is the Storm's leading rusher with 81 carries for 261 yards, followed by Clem Turner (31 for 161) and Ferguson (35 for 141). Ferguson has caught 10 passes, tops among the active players, while wide receiver Sam Dickerson has six for 1198 yards. 

Portland has had a lot of trouble on defense, especially in the secondary. Coach Dick Coury has frantically sought the right combination, a slow sometimes painful process. None of the first-game starters is with the team any longer. 

The latest group seems the best, accounting for two interceptions in each of the past two games. Ray Jones was outstanding at left cornerback last week despite only two days in camp. He's joined by right cornerback Frank Andruski, free safety Tom Oberg, a six-year Canadian vet, and strong safety John Hughes, obtained on waivers. 

"They are no longer making the mistakes they did early in the season," said Parilli. 

Portland's line will face a stronger test than the secondary as the Stars present a ground game which has gained 938 yards in 225 attempts. Bob Gladieux (73 carries for 283 yards) and Andy Huff (36 for 163) will start tonight. 

Parilli concentrated on fumble prevention in practice this week after a near-fatal seven bobbles last week against Southern California. Jim Ford, who fumbled four times in the past two weeks, has found his mistakes costly - he's been placed on waivers, being replaced by Dave Richards. 

Parilli said he's hoping to make a trade for Ford, who gained 114 yards on 21 carries. Despite the fact that Ford is a talented runner, he became more of a liability than a plus. 

"He has that fumbling thing," said Parilli. "It got so I was nervous to put him in a game." 

All his runners made Parilli nervous last week as the Stars won, 11-8. 

"It was just a lack of concentration," he said. "You have to stress it, over and over again. I believe you can teach concentration and that's what you need to prevent fumbles." 

Despite that problem, the Stars figure as a solid choice solid that Parilli said he has "preached" the dangers of overconfidence. 

"Portland is getting better," he said. "Now that they have Johnson at quarterback, they're much improved. They could cause us a lot of problems." 

They could. But they shouldn't.