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Utah Blaze staying positive despite 0-3 start

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Even though the Utah Blaze are off to their worst start in franchise history, Danny White remains positive about his team's prospects.

"We've got to remain optimistic, and we've got to guard against getting discouraged," said White, the head coach and general manager of the Blaze. "We are probably the best 0-3 team in the history of football, and we've got to believe that."

While Utah is winless this season, all three games have gone right down to the wire and could have gone the other way. The past two games have been on the road after difficult trips across the country to Cleveland and Orlando.

"I hate to use the travel as an excuse because I feel that when we finally got to both places we were well-rested and ready," said White. "But it was a couple of pretty brutal travel weeks with long flights and long bus rides and a short time between games."

Now the Blaze will be home for back-to-back outings trying to right the ship. Their next chance to earn a win will be Friday night in a game against another winless team, the Columbus Destroyers. Columbus' slow start may be even more surprising than Utah's. After all, the Destroyers made it to the ArenaBowl last season.

"That's a pretty darn good 0-3 team, too," said White.

One thing the Blaze know from experience is that a three-game losing streak, especially this early in the season, won't cost them a playoff spot. After all, they lost four in a row during one stretch in the 2006 season and five straight last year and still ended up in the postseason both times anyway. Still, there is a sense of urgency about the upcoming two games.

"We know our backs are against the wall and we've got to get a win," said Blaze receiver Aaron Boone. "We've got to get this thing rolling, and it's a good scenario for us because we've got our next two games at home."

TRADING PLACES: Moments after the Orlando Predators had beaten the Blaze last Friday night, the successful, veteran coaches of both teams talked about their respective defensive woes.

Orlando coach Jay Gruden told his Utah counterpart that the Predators needed a better pass rush. White, meanwhile, told Gruden that he was looking for more experience in his secondary.

Both teams look like they got exactly what they wanted in a trade that was finalized Monday night. Utah landed veteran defensive back Damon Mason from Orlando for young defensive lineman Rob Schroeder.

"This came up at the end of the game the other night when Jay (Gruden) said he wasn't happy with his defense and asked if we had any pass rushers," said White.

Schroeder made the AFL's all-rookie team in 2007 with the Austin Wranglers, but he had started just one of the first three games for the Blaze this year because he was behind veterans E.J. Burt, Dwayne Missouri and Chris Janek on the depth chart. Still, it wasn't an easy decision for the Blaze to trade Schroeder.

"We gave up a good, young player," said White. "I hated to see Rob go, but we needed to do something right now in order to get better, and Damon Mason is one of the elite defensive backs in this league. The fact that they were willing to trade him at all was fortunate for us."

Mason, who arrived in Salt Lake City on Tuesday after his new team's workout had been completed, will now have just two practices with the Blaze before Friday night's home game against Columbus. Still, White expects Mason, an 11-year AFL veteran, will be able to help the team quickly.

"We needed some leadership on defense and more experience in the secondary," said White. "The single biggest problem we had was lack of experience in the secondary. ... Mason gives us another experienced DB."

Columbus Destroyers (0-3) at Utah Blaze (0-3)

Friday, 7 p.m.

EnergySolutions Arena


Radio: 1320 AM

E-mail: lojo@desnews.com