After facing Roanoke earlier this season, Carl Lyles can see a difference.
A former wide receiver/defensive back for Louisville, Lyles caught two touchdown passes in the Fire's 61-41 loss to the Steam on April 27. Now with the Augusta Stallions, Lyles said Roanoke looks like a different team.
"Just by looking on the film, I can see they're more aggressive and more physical than when I played 'em," said Lyles, who joined the team two weeks ago.
Lyles' Augusta teammates (10-1) will get their first look at Roanoke (6-6) up close tonight when the Stallions take on the Steam at 7:30 at the Roanoke Civic Center.
Augusta's road trip to Roanoke is its longest of the season. When the Stallions return home, they will have three home games and a two-hour trip to Charleston left in the regular season.
"It helps knowing that three of your last four are at home," Augusta quarterback Glen Gauntt said. "From that standpoint, we feel good. At the same time, we've got to play other teams. As long as we keep playing like we're playing, we're going to have a big target on our chest. People are going to be gunning for us."
Roanoke shot down Carolina last week with a last-second 45-43 comeback win. The Steam has won two of its last three games and is three games back in the chase for the final playoff spot in the American Atlantic division with four games remaining.
"Coach (Steven) Jerry has 'em ready to play each week," Stallions coach Mike Hold said. "They're technically not out of the playoff race yet. They've still got a fighting chance. And I'm sure that's going to be a motivating factor."
Roanoke has not scored more than 45 points in a game in the past eight weeks and is 29th in the league in scoring, averaging 37.2 points a game. The Steam are also 23rd in pass offense (198.8 yards a game), 25th in total offense (223.9) and 25th in pass rating (79.0).
At 55 points a contest, Augusta is scoring 18 more points a game than Roanoke. Augusta's pass offense (241.6) is sixth in the league and the team has allowed just 16 sacks.
But despite the disparity in the teams' offenses, Augusta lineman Clarence Williams said the Stallions can't overlook any team.
"We have to take every game seriously, no matter what," he said. "Everybody's aiming for us. We've got that big target on our chest. We have to go out and play like we've been playing."
Augusta quarterback Glen Gauntt needs 287 passing yards to reach the 3,000-yard plateau. Gauntt, who's third in the league with a pass rating of 111.1, has thrown 60 touchdown passes in 11 games.
Who: Augusta Stallions (10-1) at Roanoke Steam (6-6)
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Roanoke Civic Center (8,674)
Radio: WKSP-FM (96.3)
Next week: Florida at Augusta, July 5
Notes: Augusta defensive specialist LaVar Rainey has intercepted at least one pass in six consecutive games. ... Glen Gauntt has thrown 60 touchdown passes through 11 games and needs 27 more touchdowns to set an arenafootball2 record for most touchdowns in a season (86). ... Stallions wide receiver Chris Johnson has caught at least one touchdown pass in every game except the Jacksonville game.