The absences continue for Skip Holtz and his Birmingham Stallions. This week’s injury report includes the top kick returner in the USFL and, once again, the heart and soul of the Stallions defense.

The Stallions will be without Deon Cain and Scooby Wright III when they play host to the Houston Gamblers on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Protective Stadium. Cain is out with an illness, and Wright’s calf problems will keep him out.

Holtz had hoped that safety JoJo Tillery and defensive end Joe Jackson, who have been out for three games with ankle injuries, would return. However, neither is ready to go, and the Stallions will also be without linebacker Rashad Smith.

Needless to say, injuries have been a big storyline in the 2023 season.

The other big storyline? The Stallions have still found a way to win three of the first four games despite being without several key pieces of the original roster put together by Holtz and general manager Zach Potter. Holtz calls it finding a way to win.

“I think last week was the ultimate team win,” Holtz said of the 24-20 win over Pittsburgh in Canton, Ohio. “It wasn’t perfect on offense, it wasn’t perfect on defense but they found a way to win the football game. To me, as a coach, it’s pretty rewarding to win a game like that. Yeah, the games where everything clicks, that’s great. But when you find a way to win a close game like that, it’s a confidence boost.”

The Stallions are facing a Houston Gamblers team that is coming off back-to-back wins. The Gamblers, who started 0-2, seemed to have figured it out.

“I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Holtz said. “These  last two wins have gone a long way for them.”  

However, a key injury will hurt the Gamblers in Saturday’s game. Quarterback Kenji Bahar has been moved to the inactive list because of an ankle injury. Bahar was outstanding the past two weeks, completing 37 passes in 57 attempts with four touchdowns and an interception. Terry Wilson moves into the starting role, and Montell Cozart joins the active roster. Wilson was 2-for-3 for 21 yards and had nine rushes for 49 yards in last week’s 41-16 win over the Philadelphia Stars.

Houston needs to get the running game working on Saturday. Mark Thompson rushed 34 times for 215 yards with five touchdowns the past two weeks. TJ Pledger also returns to the lineup after missing the past two weeks with an ankle injury. Pledger had 36 carries for 135 yards with three touchdowns in the first two weeks.

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