A loss two weeks ago to Salina made the Wild eager for its next game, but Wichita was just as eager for a week off.
The Wild needed it, anyway. Quarterback Rocky Hinds missed the Salina game due to injury, forcing receiver Joe Kassanavoid into unfamiliar duty. He passed for 64 yards as the Wild scored its fewest points of the season in a 13-11 loss.
Hinds is expected to return Saturday against the Topeka-based Kansas Coyotes, and the added preparation time between games has allowed him to find a rhythm with several new receivers.
“This most recent bye week came at a perfect time,” Wild coach Paco Martinez said. “Our offense is clicking when Rocky is in the lineup. He’s on the same page with me and he’s on time with the receivers.
“This one was welcome for me. Guys needed rest, they needed to get away from football, and you could tell this week in practice, everybody came back positive and upbeat even though we’re coming off a silly loss.”
The Wild’s first loss followed its second bye, after Wichita played two games in four weeks and felt out of synch with a new coach and several new offensive players who needed game repetitions to align with Hinds and other returners, as well as with Martinez’s game plans.
Wichita’s third idle week was, Martinez said, its most productive. Receiver Jarrel Kelly, who saw limited time last season behind more experienced players, has emerged as a primary target for Hinds, and the two used this week to cement their chemistry.
In Hinds’ last game, Kelly caught three touchdowns – he leads Wichita with 21 receptions and is tied with Kassanavoid at a team-best nine touchdowns.
“(Kelly) is a guy who I thought had all the talent in the world last year,” Martinez said. “He just didn’t have the mental makeup and he wasn’t completely physically ready to be that guy last year. This year, getting the timing down with Rocky, he’s really becoming a weapon that we all knew he could be.”
If the Wild’s offense is behind a league-leading defense that has surrendered 28 points per game, Martinez doesn’t expect that to last much longer. Wichita has discovered a special teams weapon in Junior Allen, a continued solid running attack with lead back Tywon Hubbard, and a corps of receivers that has begun to blossom.
The Wild has four games remaining – three against playoff hopefuls and three at home.
“We control our own destiny,” Martinez said. “It doesn’t matter what (else) happens, as long as we win out we’re going to be hosting playoff games. Really, we decide who’s in the playoffs with us. If we beat these teams and they suffer another loss, then they’re looking at being out of the playoffs and someone else sneaking in.”