SIOUX CITY – Erv Strohbeen is far from panic mode.
The Bandits are the lone unbeaten team remaining in the Champions Indoor Football North Conference at 2-0 with wins over Quad Cities (45-35) and a road victory over Omaha (33-30). The defense has allowed the second fewest points in the league through two games while the offense has scored just 78 points, fewest in the league.
It is a change for an offense where last season the Bandits finished third in the league averaging 59.4 points.
“You have to keep in mind we do have a lot of new guys on that side of the ball,” Strohbeen said. “We have a new running back, a couple new receivers, a new quarterback. We have been really spoiled as a coaching staff and as an organization and probably as a fan base, too to have the same guys come back year after year and hit the ground running.
“We are still installing things in the playbook. Once we get on the same page with everybody I think we will be good.”
One area that has been very strong for the Bandits early on is the kicking of Greg Conry. Conry, who was voted the CIF Special Teams Player of the Week, was 4-for-4 on field goals against Omaha last week, including a tone-setting 54-yarder in the first quarter.
“The offense was struggling to kind of punch some points on the board and Greg saved us,” Strohbeen said. “I honestly don’t know how Greg Conry wasn’t the special teams MVP of the league last year with the year he had.
“He is money. He goes out there and just wins ball games. When he hit that 54-yard field goal at the beginning … you could feel (Omaha’s) shoulders sink still giving up points on the drive.”
The Bandit defense could still be without lineman Devon Bridges for a second straight week when Sioux City travels to Bismarck, North Dakota, for Saturday’s game. Bandits went 4-1 against the Bucks last season, including an 82-43 win in the playoffs.
“We had a good feeling our defense was going to be strong coming into this year and so far they haven’t disappointed,” Strohbeen said. “We just have to find a way to play 60 minutes of football and we haven’t done that yet. I am super happy the defense is holding up their end of the bargain.”
Bridges isn’t the only significant injury for the Bandits as wide receiver T.J. Oates will miss some action with a separated shoulder suffered against the Beef.
Frederick Bruno continues to be a weapon the Bandits can deploy in a multitude of areas as he ranks fifth in the league in all-purpose yards at 101.5 per game. Quarterback Liam Nadler is among the league leaders averaging 133 yards passing.
Bismarck is 2-1 on the season having beaten Kansas City (67-30) and Quad Cities (44-42) while falling to Salina (50-32).
Bismarck quarterback Tyler Johnson is averaging 133.7 yards passing per game. Running back Zavier Steward is second in the CIF in rushing average at 54.3 yards per game.
“They have a good core group of guys that came back and they hired Paco Martinez the former Wichita head coach to be the offensive coordinator,” Strohbeen. “They are a strong ball club and it will be a tough place to squeak out a victory.”
The Bandits have made it routine to start strong in recent seasons, beginning 6-0 last season and 7-2 two years ago.
“If we can get out of there with a victory up there that is going to put us a game or two ahead of everybody,” Strohbeen said. “Our goal is to win a championship every year, but our first goal is to be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. It is not just the goal to make the playoffs, we want to be the No. 1 seed. Playing on the road in these leagues is tough … you can’t come from behind.”