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Panthers coach: Our receivers the best in SIFL

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

ALBANY -- Welcome to arena football, where you live and die with the pass.

Life is good for the Albany Panthers (2-0), who have a group of receivers who understand that message loud and clear.

Just ask Panthers coach Lucious Davis, who was a standout receiver himself at New Mexico State University from 1992-1996.

"I believe honestly (without a doubt in my mind) that we have the best receiving corps in the league -- easily," Davis said. "(From) receivers one, two, and three, no one is better than them."

The trio that Davis speaks so highly of consists of ex-Westover and Oklahoma star Antwone Savage, Antwon Cutts, and John "Ochocinco" Harris. And the numbers back it up: In two games this season, they have combined for nearly half of the team's points (42-out-of-88).

"We take the steps (each week) in practice. There is nothing else that we really can do but get better," said Savage, who in his first full season with the team is off to a hot start and has three touchdowns receptions through two games. He joined the team in midseason last year and suffered a foot injury that hampered him for the rest of the season.

Savage has made it clear he is back at full speed, and he didn't waste any time making his point. He caught rookie A.J. McKenna's first touchdown pass on the opening drive in the season opener two weeks ago against Louisiana.

Savage, who has been impressing Davis since the first day of training camp, may have a point about the upside for him and his fellow receivers

Against Louisiana, Savage, Cutts, and Harris had only three touchdowns between them, before lighting up Carolina last week for five combined touchdowns.

"We just have to stay focused and make plays when they come to us," said Cutts, who is also off to a fast start this season with three TD receptions. He had a solid season last year, improving from week to week, and finished third on the team with receiving 12 touchdowns. "We play (hard) every night (and) it's working for us so far."

Moreover, no receiving group can be truly complete without the "flashy guy" -- and Harris fits that description perfectly.

Harris was dubbed with the nickname "Ochocinco" early last season before eventually finishing with a team-high 18 receiving touchdowns. He has two touchdowns in two games.

"It's the receiver's game and it's set up for us to win it," Harris said. "We make the offense go. It starts with offensive line but, at the end of the play, we are the ones running the routes and catching the touchdowns."

Needless to say any team that is game planning to face the Panthers offensive attack better take a long hard look at each one of these electrifying receivers -- not only individually but as also collective group on the field because, according to quarterback Cecil Lester, his receivers feed off each other and that makes them better.

"John, Cutts, and Savage are out there for a reason and they are dynamic (together)," Lester said. "I know any time they are open if I get them the ball and they will catch it for me."

So In a sense, a defense planning for Panthers just may have to pick its own poison when it comes to what they need to do when the quarterback drops back to pass.

"(One thing) I like about all three of them is I can play them in every position and they know what to do," Davis said. "If teams play us man to man then I feel like we should win at least 90 percent of those battles. If they play us in zone then I tell the quarterback, 'you know you have three of the best receivers...Let them make a play.' ''