Roach finds a football home|Playing with Thunder in AFL2

Published 6:15 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sports Editor

Brad Roach has been searching for a place to play football ever since his All-American days came to an end at Catawba College.
The former Williamston High School and Catawba star is now a quarterback with the Mahoning Valley Thunder, which competes in the Arena Football League2.
“It feels good to know somebody wants me,” Roach said. “It feels good to be playing after one-and-a-half years.”
Roach, who completed 608-of-1,099 passes (55.3 percent) for 7,874 yards and 62 touchdown passes in his college career, has been looking for a team ever since leaving Catawba. He was with the Baltimore Ravens briefly before being released in training camp, and was released by the Montreal Alouettes earlier this year. Roach was one of eight quarterbacks vying for a spot with the Alouettes, but the team kept five veterans on the squad and released the rookie.
“I was released on a Friday and my agent said not to worry because he already had something lined up,” Roach said. “By Sunday, I was in Ohio.”
It helped that Roach knew Thunder head coach, Chris MacKeown.
The Mahoning Valley coach is high on Roach.
“Brad has a really strong arm and the ability to make all the throws in the indoor game,” MacKeown said in a statement. “He’s a big guy who looks more like a defensive end; guys like that give defensive lineman fits because if you can get to him, he’s tough to bring down.
“Obviously, being a rookie he is going to need some time to learn the game. But we feel like he has all the tools to make a quick transition and be a successful quarterback sooner rather than later.”
The Thunder, which plays in the American Conference East division of the AFL2, is based in Boardman, Ohio.
“I want to get some good film on me, and help the team as much as I can,” Roach said about his goals. “I want to use this as a way to, hopefully, help me move up a level.”
The 6-6, 250-pound quarterback is off to a pretty solid start in the AFL2. The rookie has completed 42-of-85 passes (49.4 percent) for 596 yards. Roach has thrown 13 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
By the time Roach joined the Thunder, the team had already played nine games. Roach was thrown into the fire in a hurry. Not only did he have to shake off the rust, but he also had to adapt to new rules and a new environment.
Instead of playing outdoors on a 100-yard field, Roach is now competing indoors on a 50-yard field with a padded surface along the walls.
“Entering about halfway into the year was tough,” Roach said. “They brought in a lot of guys that were in the same boat as me, all new to arena football. We had to act like it was our tenth game instead of our first.
“The biggest change is getting used to the speed of the game. I have all the rules pretty much down. You can return a ball that hits the net, and players are trying to crush other players into the wall. That wall is like an extra defender.”
In his most recent game, Roach competed 21-of-41 passes for 309 yards. He fired five touchdown passes and was intercepted twice in a 62-47 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers.
Roach threw six touchdown passes and four interceptions in a 59-53 loss to the Manchester Wolves a game earlier. He completed 16-of-32 passes for 221 yards.
In his first Arena League game, Roach went 5-of-12 for 66 yards, tossing a pair of touchdown passes and three picks in a 62-28 loss to the Albany Firebirds.
“I think I’ve gotten better each week,” Roach said. “In arena, the big thing is winning the turnover battle. I’m turning the ball over less each week and that’s key.
“I’m not totally comfortable with (arena-style football) yet, but I’m getting better. You have to make lots of different throws and be conscious of the wall.”
After winning its opener, the Thunder has dropped 12 straight and sit at 1-12 overall. Mahoning Valley plays at Peoria on July 11, at Manchester on July 17 and end the regular season at home July 25 against Green Bay.
Roach is happy he’s been given the chance to play.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “I look at it as an entertaining game for the fans.
“It’s another good opportunity to showcase my ability.”