By Chris Mabry
Since 2009, the IFL’s top two teams played in the United Bowl, the league's version of the Super Bowl. Now as we enter the new era of the league the IFL, the league is changing the game once again. This year, the IFL championship game as it’s called now will be held at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada (home of the Vegas Knight Hawks) on August 13th. The now defunct Arena Football League (AFL) was the first league to hold a neutral site championship game when they hosted the ArenaBowl at the Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV campus. Ever since the first championship game in the IFL, the location of the game has been located at the home of the highest seed. Now, it will be at a natural site. More information will be revealed tonight at 8 p.m. CST on the Indoor Football League's YouTube channel.
Up North in the plains of North Dakota, a small city called Bismarck, offers a unique entertainment experience every Spring and Summer. The city of roughly 75,000 occasionally comes together on the weekends to watch some gorgeous and glorious football--as their beloved Bismarck Bucks battle opposing teams in the Indoor Football League.
A fairly dedicated fanbase shows up and makes noise to help the home team win a few games, donning antler headbands, hunter orange, and even blowing annoying horns to distract or rile the opposing teams. The "Horny Bucks" fan group will get close to the visitors bench and noisily try to get in their heads. It's quite magical, really. The entertainment value that the Bismarck Bucks provides for a small ticket price is quite extraordinary. The intimacy of football is felt in an arena where fans are only a couple feet from the sidelines; where errant throws can end up in fans hands, and even players might land in their laps. For those who have been to these games, they understand that the entertainment value far exceeds the cheap ticket price.
On the football side of things, however, the Bismarck Bucks have struggled with consistency. Of course, this is no mystery to the players, coaches, and front office. It certainly isn't meant as an insult. The team has made dramatic improvements on the field since their joining the Indoor Football League. When they first played in 2019, the team finished with 2 wins and 14 losses. In 2020, they hosted one game prior to a Covid shutdown in which they lost. In 2021, they made the playoffs, finishing with a 7-8 regular-season record, losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Massachusetts Pirates, 44-19. The Pirates went on to win the United Bowl. Now we come to the current season, where the Bismarck Bucks are currently 3-4 and play again tonight against the Green Bay Blizzard. While a 10-13 record the last two years doesn't sound bad for Bismarck, it doesn't help when we mention that 6 of their 10 wins have come against the Green Bay Blizzard, who are currently 7-14 the last two years. On the flip side, they'd be 7-8 if it wasn't for the solid play of the Bismarck Bucks.
So where does my "bewilderment" come from? What's confusing about the Bismarck Bucks? To be frank, it's their lack of consistency. It's carried over from last year into this year. It seems as though they've established a pattern: "One step forward, two steps backward." Case in point: last year they win the Blizzard on the road, then come home and only put up 18 points against the Pirates. A 36-18 loss. Later in the year, they'd have an outstanding, gritty one-point victory over the 5-1 Frisco Fighters, 43-42. The next game, they'd go play the struggling Tucson Sugar Skulls, down 34-27, in the red-zone with a chance to tie the game. One play left, and the QB rolls his ankle and falls to the turf without throwing the ball. Then, they'd repent and beat the Blizzard again 41-30, then head to Iowa, force overtime in dramatic fashion, and with a chance to tie the game again, a line-drive kickoff hits a Bucks player and Iowa recovers. Game over. They wouldn't win again the rest of the season.
In Bismarck's defense, they circulated through 5 quarterbacks a season ago. Kelly Bryant showed alot of promise and was promoted to the CFL--cuing another Bucks QB change. Keyante Allen took over toward the end of the season and had flashes of brilliance but consistency was found wanting. Fast-forward to 2022. Through 7 games, Bismarck has managed to only circulate through 2 quarterbacks. Much of their 2021 team returned to the Quad City Steamwheelers, and I give huge credit to Head Coach Rod Miller for finding the right personnel and coaching them to relevance considering almost every single player is different from last year's playoff team. With that said, the "one step forward; two steps backward" pattern continues with Bismarck. How does a team go to San Jose and put up 76 points, then return home to score only 17? After a 76-46 win over the Bay Area Panthers, the Bucks slumped at home against old teammates and coach (Corey Ross), in a dismal 36-17 loss to the Steamwheelers. They'll surely do better next week right? After all, the 1-4 San Diego Strike Force are coming to town. Easy win for the Bucks! Except not. They got down early. First two passes for San Diego? Two touchdowns. A 14-0 deficit early in the game can be hard to overcome. A 38-28 loss leaves Bismarck at 3-4, struggling for a playoff spot in a competitive Eastern Conference. This pattern of blowing a team out, to consecutive losses where the offense struggles, is what plagues the Bismarck Bucks. To score 76 points in a game on the road, and then return home to only score 45 combined points the next two games, is the inconsistency I'm talking about. I could be wrong; often am. But it seems as though, the Bismarck Bucks have a bit of a hangover with each glorious win. Perhaps they can stay humble and keep working every time they have success, so it doesn't appear that they have a victory hangover. Some may call me critical; others, observant. I call myself an honest fan of the Bismarck Bucks. My hope is to see them win a United Bowl championship within the next couple years. They're a great organization, a good football team, and have captured my heart. If anything, I offer this as constructive criticism. They're aware of this, and I will keep cheering them on. Until then, this inconsistency by the team leaves me wary and "Bewildered by the Bismarck Bucks."
Wide Receiver JT Stokes scores a touchdown against the Frisco Fighters in 2021
Written by Chris Mabry
Frisco Fighters 27, Massachusetts Pirates 30
After a slow start in the first quarter, the game picked up steam as points were being scored and both sides were competitive. The Frisco Fighters had two coaches lose sideline privileges and one player being ejected. All three accrued a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Then in the fourth quarter with 4 seconds left in the game it came down to one kick and it was all on Pirates kicker Josh Gabl. If he makes it, Massachusetts wins. If it's missed, we go in overtime. The kick went through the uprights and ended the game with the Pirates winning and starting the 2022 season 1-0. Josh Gabi ended up being the IFL's special teams player of the week.
Bismarck Bucks 26, Green Bay Blizzard 23
Like the Frisco-Massachusetts game, the list few seconds of the Bismarck-Green Bay game came down to one play. The Blizzard had control of the ball and were about to score a touchdown. If they score the touchdown, they could go for two and win the game. They got their touchdown but as they did, time expired ending any hope of coming back. Bismarck quarterback Tahj Tolbert was named the offensive player of the week. He led the Bucks to their first win of the season over the Green Bay Blizzard, 26-23, on Saturday in Green Bay. Tolbert threw 16-27 passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns. Tolbert led the Bucks to a 16-10 first half lead. He also started the second half with a 28 yard score to receiver, Rob Brown, extending their lead to 23-10.
Quad City Steamwheelers 25, Sioux Falls Storm 34
After being the one and only team to win a game in 2020, the Quad City Steamwheelers make their return to the field after sitting out last year. Unfortunately they couldn't keep up with the Sioux Falls Storm as they won by the final of 34-25 a two possession game. Defensive player of the week Marquis Hendrix for the Sioux Falls Storm delivered jarring hits and defended dasher board to dasher board. He finished the night with eleven total tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss.
Written By Chris Mabry
With a few weeks until the 2022 Championships Indoor Football season getting started, the CIF has launched a new app.
The CIF Network app is now be available on Amazon Mobile, Amazon FireTV and a web application. There will be more apps and streaming services coming soon.
Since the league started their first season back in 2015 games were streamed on the CIF YouTube Chanel.
The first game of the 2022 season will kickoff this Sunday between the Arlington Longhorns and the Southwest Kansas Storm. The game starts at 2:00pm central time, 12:00pm pacific time on the CIF Network app for free.
Written by Chris Mabry
As we are weeks away from the start of the 2022 Indoor Football League season, the IFL has announced that they have removed the Spokane Shock from the league due to lack of Payment.
In a press release by the league, the IFL said "Due to multiple issues in the Spokane market, including a dispute with the arena, the IFL board of directors have terminated the Spokane Shock effective immediately.
“This is not an ideal situation to say the least; you never want to see a member going through issues in such a public way. We felt it was necessary to move on from the Spokane market and adjust our schedule accordingly.” said IFL Commissioner Todd Tryon. “We have so many positive things we are experiencing in our league and as unfortunate as this situation is, we will get better as we move forward.”
Going forward, the 2022 IFL season will feature 14 teams divided into two conferences (7 in each).
East Conference: Bismarck Bucks, Green Bay Blizzard, Frisco Fighters, Iowa Barnstormers, Massachusetts Pirates, and Quad City Steamwheelers
West Conference: Arizona Rattlers, Bay Area Panthers, Duke City Gladiators, Northern Arizona Wranglers, San Diego Strike Force, Tucson Sugar Skulls, and Vegas Knight Hawks.
The teams will play a 19-week regular season with the top four teams in each conference (eight total) will make the playoffs.
To see the complete revised 2022 schedule Click Here!
The season kicksoff March 12 2022 when the Pirates take on the Fighters.
.As many fans know, the world of arena/indoor football can be an unpredictable carousel of changes. Teams come and go, switching leagues, changing logos, uniforms, venues. Some pop up for a season and fold--while others don't make it through a full season.
With that said, there are some burning questions about a few teams in particular, that I'm dying to learn about.
# 1 - Delaware Bull Sharks
At one time, they had announced on social media that the Delaware Bull Sharks were preparing to play in the AAL for 2021. Covid affected a lot of things, but if their social media is any indication, they have no intention of ever coming back from it. I hope I'm wrong. It would be great to have a professional team out of the colony of Delaware.
# 2 - Music City Fire
This team seemed to be legit after they played the only AAL game of 2020, before everything shut down. The expansion team traveled to Muskegon and shocked the arena world, upsetting the West Michigan Ironmen 47-37! There was excitement in Nashville and abroad for what this team would bring going forward. Then....Covid, then........crickets. They had a few Facebook posts prior to '21 as if they'd play another season in the AAL but didn't play at all. Who knows what became of them?
# 3 - New York Streets
The New York Streets played the 2019 season in the National Arena League. They didn't have ideal conditions, by any means: a shorter field, a crook stealing Carolina Cobra player belongings at halftime. They played in a city where there are too many other options for entertainment, and to say they averaged 500 fans a game would be generous. They managed a 4-12 season, and though owner Corey Galloway intended for the team to be around for a long time, perhaps the expense of operating became a deterrent, and the team vanished.
# 4 - Cedar Rapids River Kings
Cedar Rapids started play in 2012 under the name of "Titans". They had ups-and-downs, and great success at times. In 2018 the team was put up for sale and California-based businessman Roy Choi purchased the team with intentions of keeping them in Cedar Rapids. They rebranded to the River Kings, but lost 14 of their last 15 games. After the covid shutdown killed their momentum and Roy Choi's casinos were closed, his revenue wasn't sufficient to float his 3 teams. It appears that Cedar Rapids was the victim considering his other two teams are California-based like he is. However, no one from the River Kings organization made any kind of an announcement as to what happened.
HOWEVER, the helmets, uniforms, and trademark are out there somewhere. If anyone knows who owns them, please reach out to me. I want to see about buying the assets and trademark and bringing the team back!
# 5 - Fargo Falcons
Throughout 2019 and parts of 2020, there were many social media posts from the Fargo Falcons about possibly joining a league. Their intentions seemed to play an independent schedule to start out in Fargo, building a fan base and brand, and thus have greater value to the leagues. Their last post was November of 2020 when they announced their independent schedule had been cancelled. It had been their second or third schedule they cancelled and perhaps got discouraged with how hard it is to field a team. I await with eager anticipation to hear from them again, but they appear to be dead birds at this point. Y'all tell me it ain't so!!!
# 6 - Jersey Flight
The team appeared to be doing well when they joined the National Arena League for the '21 season. They played well at times, finishing with the same record as Jacksonville Sharks. Well, 2-6 isn't saying much, but were in the playoff hunt in their last game. They had roughly 200 fans a game, if even that. They hadn't agreed to play in NAL for '22 and were soon after announced as a member of the newly-formed Arena Professional Football League (APFL). However, the league threw us fans a screw ball when they released the schedule and the Flight were nowhere to be seen. The Jersey Ballaz were present on the schedule, but after personally calling the Jersey Flight, they've confirmed that the Flight aren't playing and they didn't rebrand. The Ballaz is someone new. But what has become of the Flight and will they ever come back?
# 7 - Louisville Xtreme
Most owners have learned the hard way that you don't make money fielding a professional arena team; you lose it. Those who have grown comfortable with that idea, have found ways to minimize their losses and come back year after year. The Louisville Xtreme came out of nowhere, and were scheduled to play in the AAL in 2020, but Covid. Then, they were going to play in NAL in 2021, but no LOC. They joined the IFL, rented the KFC Yum Center for around 30K a game, and couldn't get enough fans to come make up the difference. As a result, Game 6 on their schedule was postponed before the IFL ended their partnership with them mid-season. Did they lose too much money that they just gave up trying in another league somewhere? Who has heard of them since?
# 8 - Colorado Stampede
Before the start of the 2021 season, a team called the Colorado Stampede started posting on social media that they would play professionally in '22. Some people asked when they'd announce a league and venue. They replied "Keep rounding them up! Announcement coming along with season ticket information!" That was May of 2021. They haven't posted since and those I've talked to are as clueless as I am, as to what their doing.
# 9 - Colorado Team (CIF)
It was announced in '21 that the CIF would have a team from Colorado playing in the league in '22. The team kept fans very involved in letting them vote for the team name. In early September, the Denver Dynamite seemed to have the most votes from what the fans could tell. The team planned to announce the team name at a special event, but the CIF suddenly released their '22 schedule and the Colorado team wasn't listed. One source confirms that the person that was going to fund the team pulled out the funding, making it a pipe dream for them to play. Will this Colorado team ever see the field? One can hope, right!?
# 10 - Ontario Bandits
Scheduled to play in the NAL for 2021, the team was signing players and seemed rich enough to travel to the East Coast for all of their road games. When it came close to the season, things weren't ready to proceed and they went dormant for '21, a week before the season started. The NAL maintained hope that Ontario would get things organized enough to join the league later, but they never made it on the schedule for '22--casting doubt that they ever will. It's puzzling that a team that seems to have the money hasn't made it on the field yet. Whatever happened to them?
While this may seem like a complaint, I mean for it to be a statement of gratitude. Seeing how difficult it is to even field a team, and the subsequent expenses that follow, I'm extremely grateful for the teams that come back year-after-year and give us fans some high-octane smash-mouth Spring football to enjoy. Thank you, especially to the owners that know they'll lose time and money by having their team play for our enjoyment. I only hope they get enjoyment, too!
Written by Ducon Williams
Have you ever rode on a roller coaster? The ups-and-downs, curves, turns, side-to-side, whiplash inducing effects can leave one reeling, frightened, or. . .exhilarated! Being an adult male, I'm not really in tune with my feelings to let you know what I think about it. However, watching this roller-coaster of an offseason in professional arena/indoor football has been nothing short of entertaining. I've laughed; I've cried; was frustrated, angry, elated, joyful, and everything in between. Having this many emotions in such a short amount of time, has made me question if men are capable of having periods. The theatrics and suspense of this frustrating offseason leaves me to say one thing to the fans: "Get yer popcorn ready!"
From the photo above, you'll see 3 champions from a year ago, 3 expansion teams, two that have been removed from a previous league, and a slew of teams that couldn't finish a season a year ago. Here's a quick sum up of some of the offseason moves:
American Arena League sells to Jersey Bearcats owners AJ Roque and Jermaine Sanders. Of the 13 AAL teams that played in 2021, only one is still in the AAL. The Jersey Bearcats. AAL Champion North Texas Bulls joined a new regional league called the Arena Football Association (AFA), which includes another champion in the West Texas Warbirds. Joining the 6-team league are the Amarillo Venom, Texas Jets, Rio Grande Valley Dorados, and Magnolia State Spartans.
Arguably the AAL's best team last year, the Charlotte Thunder started their own league, called the Arena Professional Football League. AAL teams West Michigan Ironmen and Pennsylvania Union have joined them as well as the Carolina Cowboyz, and the previous National Arena League partner, the Jersey Flight.
The Tampa Bay Tornados rebranded to the Cyclones and started the American Indoor Football Alliance. Mississippi Raiders joined along with the Carolina Predators, the Las Vegas Kings, and the St. Charles Bandits (previously St. Louis).
Out West, in the American West Football Conference, the Yakima Canines were removed from the schedule and replaced by the travel team, the Washington Elite. Champion Tri-City Rush returns and will hold matchups versus the Idaho Horsemen, Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks, Oregon High Desert Storm, and the expansion SoCal Red Tails, in addition to the Elite.
Two leagues with 6 teams, and two leagues with 5 teams. One has to wonder what will become of the Wichita Force, since they've been removed from the Champions Indoor Football (CIF) league. My speculation? They join the AFA, who has two other CIF escapees. Relatability has a curious power.
Early predictions? Stay tuned. First game out of the gate will have the Arlington Longhorns visiting the SouthWest Kansas Storm on February 27, 2022!
by Ducon Williams
Written by Chris Mabry
After falling one game short of the United Bowl in their official first year in the IFL, the Frisco Fighters are making changes to their ownership group.
Today, on the Frisco Fighters social media pages, the team announced that they have partnered with the Dallas Stars to become the new owners.
The 2022 season officially begins March 12, 2022 when the Fighters take on the Pirates.
Disgruntled fans and internet trolls have united in a breathtaking grumble fest. When it comes to my favorite sport, the glory, glamour, and glitz of it all is quickly overshadowed by the incessant groans and nearly constant bellowing of would be fans yelling, "Why are there so many arena leagues!?"
In fairness, they're not wrong. Whether some want to play arena rules, and some want to play indoor rules becomes a moot point when the leagues are too small to garner national television attention. Owners scramble to make enough money to justify continuing to play, in hopes of not folding. Some owners commit shady fraud: not paying players, leaving them stranded with lodging bills, etc. . ., perhaps because some of these owners thought they had enough money, only to find out their expenses transcended their wisdom.
So why are there so many leagues? Why can't league commissioners and owners get along enough to merge into a giant arena league, that captures the attention of national television studios--and fills in the gap of springless football? It wouldn't be fair of a naive, clueless fan like myself, to speculate why commissioners and owners do what they do. Until I know, I'll assume they do the best they can. Still, from the standpoint of the fan, I can't help but think all the owners of these teams would benefit financially from a national television deal. It would mean profit and sustainability for them. It would mean more money for players, coaches, staff, and perhaps a lot more hype! From many fans, there may be a resounding call to "put your differences aside." However, the fact is there are many leagues playing in 2022.
If Arena Football united in a single league with 32 teams, like the NFL, they wouldn't compete with the juggernaut league that is 102 years old, but they would achieve a relevance that would not be overshadowed by the attempts of the XFL and USFL--to give the masses some smash-mouth spring football. The image above shows what the league would look like if the Indoor Football League (16 teams), Champions Indoor Football (9 teams), and the National Arena League (7 teams) merged. With that much national attention and competition, it's hard to imagine arenas NOT being sold out weekly.
But alas, the fact is we're not there yet. In addition to the above leagues, we have the AAL, AIFA, PAFL, the AWFC, and a Texas only league that does professional arena football. Trying to keep up with all of these is akin to enduring a whiplash inducing roller-coaster. Some fans, if they could speak to the owners and commissioners of these various leagues, might be saying, "whatever your differences are, please set them aside for the betterment and progress of the game itself." Chances are, their bottom lines could all increase. But then again, I'm naive and clueless. The game still rocks my socks off!
by Ducon Williams
Written by Chris Mabry
Today, the Indoor Football League (IFL) released their schedule for the 2022 season. In the press release it revealed that a total of 15 teams will compete a 16 game regular season in 19 weeks. That means each will have three bye weeks. Also, the teams will be divided in to two conferences. In each conference, the top four teams (8 total) will advance to the playoffs.
Among the team that the IFL will feature this season are the teams that played in 2021 plus new additions in the Las Vegas Knight Hawks, Quad City Steamwheelers, San Diego Strike Force, and the Bay Area Panthers.
The 2022 season will begin on Saturday, March 12 when the Frisco Fighters travel to Massachusetts to take on the Pirates. The Fighters and Pirates meet in the league semi-finals. Frisco came up short and the Pirates advanced and won against the Arizona Rattlers.
To see the complete IFL schedule click here.
What are you most excited about in 2022?