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In 1st CFL season, Shreveport quick to change direction


Terrence Jones endured the Spartan accommodations of the Shreveport Pirates' first training camp. He was there for the firing of the team's first coach. And he suffered as much as anyone through the team's first loss.

All this for a Canadian Football League team just five months old.

"In the CFL," the Pirates quarterback was saying this week, "you learn to expect unexpected things."

The next chapter in the Shreveport saga unfolds tonight at Memorial Stadium when the winless Pirates (0-2) play the Baltimore CFLs (1-1). A crowd of 30,000 is anticipated for the meeting of two Eastern Division expansion rivals who got their start one day apart last February.

It's not hard to discern which team got off to a better start. The Pirates are 17-point underdogs.

"What these kids have gone through and endured says a lot about their ability to adjust," said Shreveport coach Forrest Gregg, a Hall of Fame tackle with the Green Bay Packers who assumed the position June 17. "And because of that, they've been able to endure me."

Shreveport's test of endurance started under the coaching reign of John Huard, who favored a Marine-type atmosphere and a tight-end offense. Neither worked, and he was fired a week before his first preseason game.

Gregg's first move as coach was to get his new players out of their barracks at the state fairgrounds and into a dormitory atmosphere at Centenary College. His next move was to revamp the offense and defense. He also brought in three new coaches.

The changes continued as late as Thursday of this week, when Gregg put eight new players on the active roster. He cut one starter (halfback Charles Franks) and a former NFL player (running back Gill Fenerty). He also put four players on the injured list, including starting defensive tackle Brett Williams.

"I'm sure they're searching for a combination that will win for them," said Baltimore coach Don Matthews. "That's a tough way to do it."

Jones, a five-year CFL veteran, knows about tough. In a 40-10, season-opening loss at Ottawa, he completed one of 20 passes for nine yards, a CFL record for futility. The next week, the Pirates signed another CFL veteran, Tom Muecke, as the backup quarterback. It was not an easy week for Jones.

"He was challenged," Gregg said. "The question all of us had was, is Terrence Jones a quarterback? I think he answered that question. There was tremendous pressure on him, not only from the next opponent, but from within."

Jones rebounded by completing 15 of 31 for 251 yards and one touchdown in a 35-34 loss to the Toronto Argonauts last week.

"My attitude is, it comes with the job," Jones said of the pressure. I put pressure on myself since I've been playing sports. I laid it on myself."

Jones, 6 feet 1 and 210 pounds, also represents a Tracy Ham-like running threat at quarterback. Baltimore's Ham is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher.

"Jones is a big, strong runner," said Baltimore linebacker Earnest Fields. "He's not as quick as Tracy, but he's a stronger runner."

In two games, Jones has rushed eight times for 86 yards, just 20 behind the team leader, Reggie Barnes (12 for 106).

Given Jones' improved play, the Pirates had a lead of 34-17 early in the third quarter against Toronto in last week's home opener. Their 27 first-half points were two fewer than they scored in their previous three games combined.

Even if they were not able to hold that lead, the improvement was not lost on Baltimore free safety Michael Brooks.

"I look at Shreveport as a scary team," Brooks said. "Each week they've been improving greatly. The fact they haven't won is going to make them that much more hungry."

Jones endorsed the hunger concept.

"We had a lot to prove last week," he said. "We knew we had a good football team, but we weren't playing up to par. We're still not playing up to par yet. But we had a sense of urgency to produce on the field. We have the right work ethic.

"For us, it's important to come in this week with the same attitude, that urgency to win the football game. Against Toronto, we played smart, produced more points and were mentally in the game. Hopefully the W's will start rolling in for us."

Shreveport vs. Baltimore

Site: Memorial Stadium

Time: 7:30 p.m

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

Tickets: 29,000 remain

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