It was the kind of start the Sioux City Bandits were looking for.
Through two games, both at the Tyson Events Center, the Bandits have put up 140 points and given up just 81 to race to a 2-0 record in the Champions Indoor football league. That production is what head coach Erv Strohbeen wanted for a team looking to win its fourth title in the past seven seasons.
“There are always things we can work on technique-wise and what not, but definitely these first two games the offense is getting out there and scoring some points,” he said. “Defense seems to be setting us up well to score those points and then we are scoring on special teams as well, so that is huge.”
It comes a season after the Bandits struggled on offense and bowed out of the playoffs in the first round.
Sioux City has had early success even with several new faces playing key roles including quarterback Taylor Genuser, running back Dominique Carson, wide receiver Anthony Eboreime, defensive linemen Devon Bridges and Devin Groenhagen and defensive back Dewayne Autrey II.
It is something that has happened by design with the philosophy the team takes to building its roster.
“We knew when we brought these guys in that they were good athletes and moreso we try to recruit good character guys that we thought would fit with the other guys,” Strohbeen said. “A lot of these guys we signed early so they started talking among each other and getting to know each other.
“(Linebacker) Marlon Lobban does a great job of that because once he sees a guy’s contract hit the wire he is getting these guys involved right away. Reaching out to them even in the offseason so when they come to camp it isn’t new, they have talked several times.”
Lobban has become one of the faces of the organization both for his play on the field – he was the CIF Defensive Player of the Year last season – and his contributions off it.
“There is a reason he won the Mr. Bandit award last year as the guy that probably means the most to the organization,” Strohbeen said. “That is play on the field, the off-the-field stuff, helping us recruit players and being a model citizen. That is probably more important than any player of the year award he has won.”
These Bandits have proven to have playmakers early in the season with running back Frederick Bruno already accounting for six rushing touchdowns and Carson and Jeffrey Mack both having three. Carson has returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns and Bruno is averaging 23 yards a return.
“People didn’t want to kick it to (Bruno) last year, they would always kick it to the other guy we had deep,” Strohbeen said. “This year it is Dominique Carson, so who do you kick it to? It is one of those things that you have so many weapons it is a pick-your-poison thing.”
Genuser is completing 66 percent of his passes and has thrown just one interception in two games.
“He has so many weapons around him that he is managing the ball game well,” Strohbeen said. “He realizes that he doesn’t have to go win a ball game on his shoulders and just go distribute the ball where he sees fit.”
Autrey and Williams lead the Bandits defense in tackles through two games with 14 apiece. Bridges has proven to be a pass-rushing dynamo with 4.5 sacks, nose tackle Groenhagen has 2.5 and so does the other defensive end, Westly Johnson.
“Devon with four and a half sacks through two games, that is huge and hopefully he can keep that going,” Strohbeen said. “Devin Groenhagen is playing great and is probably the hardest worker on the field. He is always busting his rear end to get in the mix. Westly is elusive, fast and he has great moves and I think that kind of gives fits with big offensive linemen.”
The Bandits also appear to have a solid kicker in Greg Conry.
Strohbeen likes what he has seen from his team, but he also knows the season is long with six games remaining on the road and four at home in the regular season.