By RJ Ciancio
With Orlando coming to the National Arena League (NAL) for the 2019 campaign, Arena Football Talk thought now would be a good time to go over the team’s long and illustrious history to this point.
The Orlando Predators first season in the Arena Football League (AFL) was in 1991 with Perry Moss as the team’s first head coach. The team went 3-7, missing the playoffs. In 1992 the Predators went 9-1 making it all the way to the ArenaBowl where they fell to the Detroit Drive. This was this first year where any players from the Predators earned first All-Arena team states with Barry Wagner, Jorge Cimadevilla and Durwood Roquemore earring the honor. In 1993 the team was again near the top of the AFL mountain. After going 10-1 and beating the Miami Hooters in the first round of the playoffs they fell to the in-state rival Tampa Bay Storm in the AFL Semi-Finals. In 1994 the Predators continued to fall just short of being crowned champions as they fell to the Arizona Rattles in the ArenaBowl after an 11-1 campaign. Orlando had a down year in the regular season going 7-5. They thrived in the playoffs but fell tor the Storm and future National Football League (NFL) coach Jay Gruden in the ArenaBowl. Things got worse for Orlando in 1996 after going 9-5 as they fell to the Rattlers in the quarterfinals. The Predators had a rebound year, making it to the semifinals where they fell to future NFL Hall of Fame Kurt Warner after putting up a 10-4 record.
In 1998 the “War on I-4” reached its peak as former Storm quarterback Jay Gruden switched sides as he became the Predators head coach leading them to a 9-5 record and a franchise-first ArenaBowl win as they defeated the Storm 62-31. In 1999 the Predators fell to a 7-7 record and lost to the Iowa Barnstormers in the semifinals. Orlando returned to prime form as they went 11-3 beating the Storm in the quarterfinals, the Rattlers in the semifinals and the Nashville Kats in the ArenaBowl 41-38 as they won their second championship. Orlando once again fell on hard times as they went 8-6 falling to the Chicago Rush in the wild card round. The 2002 season was winding to the Predators as they were able to win the Southern Division with a 7-7 record as they beat the Buffalo Destroyers in the wild card round and took down the New Jersey Red Dogs in the quarterfinals before falling to the San Jose Sabercats in the semifinals. In 2003 Orlando went 12-4 before falling to the in-state rival Storm 60-50. The Predators took a small hit in the 2004 campaign as they fell to 10-6 as they lost to the Chicago Rush in the quarterfinals. The Predators came in second place in the Southern Division with a 10-6 record but were able to make it to the conference finals where they fell to the Georgia Force. Orlando had a rebound season as they made it all the way to the ArenaBowl where they fell to the Rush 61-69. The Predators fell hard in 2007 as they went 8-8 and were eliminated in the wild card playoffs to the Philadelphia Soul 41-26. Things didn't get much better for Orlando in 2008 as they went 9-7 before being eliminated by the Cleveland Gladiators in the wild card playoffs.
After skipping the 2009 campaign with the rest of the AFL the Predators were once again knocked down a peg as they went 8-8 and lost to the Jacksonville Sharks in the 2010 conference semifinals. In 2011 the Predators had a rebound year improving to 11-7 before repeating the same fate as the previous season, losing to the Sharks in the conference semifinals. The Predators fell very far as they we only able to post a 4-14 record, the second worst in team history. In 2013 the Predator had somewhat of a bounce back year as they went 7-11, making the playoffs when they would get knocked out by the Philadelphia Soul in the conference semifinals. Orlando was able to win the South Division in the 2014 season going 11-7. However, the Gladiators once again played spoiler, knocking them out in the conference championship. In 2015 the Predators repeated as South Division champions as they went 12-6 but fell to the Sharks on the conference semifinals. Sadly for Orlando, the 2016 season ended in disappointment as after going 12-4 they were eliminated in the conference semifinals. In the offseason the team folded.
With Orlando getting a team for the 2019 National Arena League season the new team has a lot to live up to.
Divisional changes, expansion franchises and more highlight an all-new episode of AFT Buzz, sponsored by Arena Football Talk.
After discussing the National Arena League's newest franchise in New York, host Brice Burge sits down with Jeff Swartz of Western Michigan University's Cooley Law School. Swartz is a former prosecutor, attorney and Miami-Dade county judge. He explains the ongoing embezzlement allegations and US Department of Labor investigation into the Arena Football League's Players Union and what to expect in the future about this issue.
The American Arena League is expanding into two divisions based on geography. CEO of the AAL Tony Zefiretto joins the show to talk about that break up, how the West Virginia Roughriders came back to the AAL and what's in the future for the league. Steve Smith, General Manager of the Carolina Havoc, also talks the new format and some of the other moves taken by the franchise.
AFT Buzz presented by Arena Football Talk airs Fridays at 7 p.m. Eastern, 4 p.m. local time on the 920 WON: The Apple out of Brooklyn, New York City. Fans can listen around the world live at www.live365.com/station/a09178 or through the Live365 app. Shows are available after release at https://www.mixcloud.com/AFTBuzz/.
By Derek Harper
Founder & President
Recently a new league popped up in the Northwestern United States called the American West Football Conference (AWFC). It was launched by Platinum Events & Security LLC who own the Idaho Horsemen. Originally the Horsemen were looking to join Champions Indoor Football (CIF) or the Indoor Football League (IFL). However, with all of the movement between those two leagues as well as teams folding and a few expansion teams they decided to start their own league with teams closer geographically.
The AWFC is currently comprised of five teams in Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and California. Those five teams are the Idaho Horsemen, Reno Express, Sacramento Spartans, Tri-Cities Fire, and Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks. Each of these markets have had teams in the past as recently as 2016. The league is also exploring other regional markets that have hosted teams in the past.
The Idaho Horsemen will play at the Ford Center in Nampa, Idaho. Idaho has previously played host to the Idaho Stallions of the now defunct Indoor Professional Football League (IPFL) from 1999-2000 before they renamed to the Boise Stallions for the 2001 season. The team folded after the 2001 season leaving Idaho without indoor/arena football until 2007 when the Boise Burn of the now defunct Arena Football 2 (AF2) kicked off. The Burn would play in the AF2 until folding after the 2009 season.
Reno previously hosted the Reno Barons of the American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) in 2011, as that league tried getting a western division together. The team played more as an independent team when the AIFA Western Division didn't totally come to fruition.
Sacramento, California played host in 1992 to the Sacramento Attack of the Arena Football League (AFL) before they relocated to Miami, Florida for the 1993 season where they rebranded as the Miami Hooters. They would later move to Sunrise, Florida and rebrand as the Florida Bobcats.
Kennewick, Washington hosted the Tri-Cities Fever from 2005 through the 2016 season. The franchise started out in the now defunct National Indoor Football League (NIFL) for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. They then joined AF2 for three seasons from 2007 through 2009. When the AF2 shutdown, the Fever were going to be a charter member of Arena Football 1 (AF1), but that league didn't play their inaugural season due to a lack of teams. In order to be able to play that year the team joined the Indoor Football League (IFL). They competed as a member of the IFL through the 2016 season before going dormant, but remaining in good standing with the IFL.
Wenatchee previously hosted the Wenatchee Valley Venom for two seasons in 2010 and 2011. The Venom competed in the AIFA for the 2010 season before leaving for the IFL for a single season in 2011.
There are many other Northwest markets the AWFC has been rumored to be looking into or that could be worth a shot. Kent, Washington played host to the Predators for the 2010 IFL season before being sold and rebranded as the Seattle Timberwolves in time for the 2011 season. For the 2012 season the team relocated to Everett, Washington where they played as the Everett Raptors before folding after one season.
Spokane, Washington is market with a rich history of arena football. Spokane hosted the Shock from 2006 through 2015. The team played in AF2 from 2006 through 2009 before joining the AFL in time for the 2010 season and competed as an AFL franchise through the 2015 season. The team then left for the IFL and was forced to rebrand as the Empire after losing the rights to the Shock trademark to the AFL. The Empire competed as an IFL franchise for the 2016 and 2017 seasons before shuttering operations.
Yakima, Washington is another market that has played host a couple of teams in 2001 and 2010. In 2001 the city had the Yakima Shockwave in the NIFL and in 2010 the city played host to the Yakima Valley Warriors of the AIFA.
Portland, Oregon is another city with indoor/arena football history. The Portland Forest Dragons were born in time for the 1997 season after moving from Memphis, Tennessee. The Forest Dragons competed in the AFL for three seasons from 1997-1999 before relocating to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in time for the 2000 season. However, for one season in 2000 the Portland Prowlers called the city home as they competed in the IPFL. After the Prowlers ceased operations Portland wouldn't see indoor/arena football until the 2014 AFL season when the league expanded to the Rose City with the addition of the Thunder. The Thunder played two successful seasons before the AFL swooped in and took control of the team catching everyone including the owner off-guard. The AFL was forced to rebrand the team as the previous owner had purchased the rights to the Thunder trademark outright. The AFL rebranded the franchise to the Portland Steel, where under that moniker they played one season before the league shuttered franchise operations.
One Northwest city that might fly under the radar for the majority of indoor/arena football fans that played host to a team is the Southern Oregon city of Central Point. Central Point played host to the Southern Oregon Heat of the NIFL for the 2001 season.
There are plenty of other markets in the western part of the nation that have played host to teams and could potentially again in the future. Those places are states like Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado but the focus of this article was solely on Pacific Northwest markets with the exception of the Reno Express in Nevada and the Sacramento Spartans in California.
According to Massachusetts Pirates management, Ameer Ismail will not be returning as head coach in 2019. In an exclusive AFT interview, team owner Jawad Yatim said Ismail received an offer from the Indoor Football League (IFL) expansion team San Diego Strike Force. It is unknown whether the offer was accepted but Pirate management is actively making plans for Ismail’s replacement. Yatim was unable to confirm , but hinted the replacement is likely to come from within the Pirate organization.
Coach Ameer Ismail who is well known in the National Arena League (NAL) for his animated board-side coaching style, received the Coach Of The Year award after leading the Mass Pirates to the number one spot in 2018. No reply to AFT request for comment from Coach Ismail.
“We wish Ameer the best of luck. He’s a great coach for us and a really good friend,” Yatim said about his former team leader.
In the off season, Pirate owner Jawad Yatim has been busy building his roster. In fact, just hours before our interview, Yatim re-signed wide receiver Mardy Gilyard who racked up 747 total yards and 19 touchdowns in 2018. With the recent loss of Bones Bagaunte to the Columbus Lions, Gilyard will again share the receiving work load with Devonn Brown and giving MVP quarterback Sean Brackett another much needed target.
Rumor has it the National Arena League, who has been surprisingly quiet in the off season, will be releasing the 2019 schedule next month. Arena Football Talk will have additional information as it becomes available.
Federal investigation incidentally confirmed after surreal statement from AFLPU
By Brice Burge