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DESTROYERS PLAY OUT THE STRING TODAY

There are worse places than Las Vegas for a regular-season finale, so the Buffalo Destroyers may be able to take away $omething from this otherwise irrelevant game.

The Destroyers (5-10) were eliminated from playoff contention last week at home and the Las Vegas Gladiators (7-8) are already in, which means plenty of good seats are available for today's 6 p.m. contest in Thomas and Mack Center (Empire, Radio 107.7 FM). For the Destroyers and first-year coach Ron Selesky, it marks the end of a season they would much rather forget.

Nothing has been the same since starting quarterback Jeff Loots went on the injured list (thumb) Feb. 18. Without stability behind center after some pitiful losses in the midseason, the Destroyers will crawl to Las Vegas in such disarray that their 3-1 start is almost forgettable.

"We worked hard to try and fight through everything that has been in front of us and disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs," Selesky said. "The fact that we still had a legitimate chance in Week 15 I think says a lot for everybody's commitment level."

Every game has been a chore for Buffalo. Over the past few weeks, Selesky has drifted through different stages in trying to explain the Destroyers' fall into mediocrity. It boils down to this: No quarterback, no winning.

"When you look at the teams who are in the playoffs, you dig a little bit deeper and see how many teams have had to play different quarterbacks for whatever reason," Selesky said. "You're going to see teams that have struggled. Look at San Jose, Tampa, Dallas, Los Angeles . . . they've got quarterbacks and receivers who have been together now for at least two years."

All told, the Destroyers played six quarterbacks this season: Loots, Chris Sanders, Tim Carey, Bob Bees, Charles Puleri and Kevin Mason. San Jose, the league's defending champion, has one: Mark Grieb. Not only did Loots miss most of the season, but Carey (groin) and Mason (neck) were sidelined for the season shortly after being named starter.

"It's been a challenge for us to get the same core of guys together for two weeks," Selesky said. "Of course, you're always going to have injures and there's nothing you can do about that, but we played six quarterbacks this year. I can't think of a situation during the regular season with any team on any professional level that has had to face that. We've won four games with four different starting quarterbacks and I don't know how many other teams would be able to say that. Is that consolation? No."

A win gives the Destroyers the same amount of victories they had last season, but they played two fewer games in 2002. This marks the second time in three seasons Buffalo has missed the postseason.

"Obviously, we're bitterly disappointed that we're not in the playoffs," Selesky said. "But also because of injuries at other spots, we've been forced to play a lot of first-year and second-year guys, which I think sets us up well for next year."
e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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