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Vena continues to blossom

QB has Pioneers playing at a high level entering Saturday’s home game vs. Cincinnati.

Roy Ingold isn’t the type of father to hand out accolades to his son very often.

But even he couldn’t help but gush over the job his son’s team did against the top-ranked Florida Firecats on Saturday.

“He called me and said there’s times we looked like a machine,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers head coach Rich Ingold said. “It was total domination.

“Believe me, he doesn’t throw around compliments. He always wants me to fix things.”

The only thing Ingold has to fix at the moment is the passing yardage awarded to quarterback Ryan Vena after a 58-36 road rout of the previously unbeaten Firecats. Vena was credited with 199 yards on 21-of-29 passing, tossed five touchdowns and ran for three more. Ingold, however, said the total was closer to 399 yards.

“Somebody messed up. I’m going to have to call the league,” Ingold said.

It doesn’t matter much to Vena, who is now the top-rated passer in the league (126.3 rating). He has completed 69-of-102 passes for 692 yards, 17 touchdowns and no interceptions. He was named the af2 Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Florida.

“Anytime you play a good team like Florida you want to rise to the occasion, them being the No. 1 team and all the hoopla about them,” Vena said. “All season long we’ve been feeling good with the players we’ve got.”

Vena continues to take what opposing defenses give him. Florida’s soft man coverage allowed Vena to check down for shorter completions, which later opened the door for some deep balls.

“Ryan Vena is Ryan Vena. He gets respect right off the bat,” Ingold said. “The guy’s a proven commodity and he raises the level of his teammates.”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s defense has been just as impressive. The Pioneers (3-0) stopped Florida on downs five times, including twice in the third quarter, and forced two turnovers. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton led by as much as 55-20 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

“Any time you get that many stops, it’s amazing,” Vena said. “Even if you get three or four, you should be winning.”

The Pioneers boast the league’s top defense inside the red zone, allowing only nine touchdowns in their opponents’ 16 trips inside the 10.

The defensive backfield trio of rookie Chris Royal and veterans Pete McBride and Tutu Ferguson has played with a swagger that allows them to make plays. Royal led the way with 10 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and two pass break-ups.

Ingold would only like to see them get lined up and recognize the offensive formation more quickly.

“I have a hard time believing there’s a better secondary in af2,” Ingold said. “The guys are making plays.”

Notes: Kicker David Davis’ 50-yard field goal late in the game was the longest in the league thus far this season. …

FB/LB Mikey Novack won’t be with the team for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. home game against the expansion Cincinnati Jungle Kats because of a family matter. He’ll be replaced by Demetrius Austrum, who was with the Pioneers for part of last season. Also, lineman Keith Glover is going on the injured reserve list for the mandated four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair an injured finger on Tuesday. Lineman Zack Love, who sprained his ankle in a win over Albany two weeks ago, will return to the lineup on Saturday. …

Former Pioneers defensive specialist Jamie Hattley, a second-team all-af2 selection in 2005, was named the Defensive Player of the Week after making a season-high 13 tackles in Tri-Cities’ first win of the season, 49-42 over Central Valley. Two other former Pioneers, receivers J.R. Thomas (five catches, 98 yards, three TDs) and LeRoy McFadden (eight catches, 109 yards, two TDs) also played large roles in the win.

Up next

Cincinnati Jungle Kats

at Pioneers

7:30 p.m. Saturday

Wachovia Arena

Radio: WARM (590-AM)

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