Quad City Steamwheelers @ Cedar Rapids River Kings
March 7, 2020, @ 7:05 PM
U.S. Cellular Center
What do you get when a historic franchise travels a mere 85 miles to take on a revamped, hungry team that dons the IFL’s best looking uniforms?
Short answer: A colorful blast!
Long answer: To quote a former AFL ad: a lightning fast; up and down, side-to-side, whiplash inducing roller-coaster! You’re guaranteed to enjoy the ride!
To kickoff the Indoor Football League's best season to date, it’s a battle for the Mississippi River!
Cedar Rapids prides themselves as “River Kings”, but that won’t stop the Quad Squad from seeking to Steamwheel last years’ punching bag! Cedar Rapids was shut out twice going down the stretch last year--leading to speculation that they wouldn’t be back for another year. But they are! Despite their 1-13 season a year ago, expectations are high. The signing of Head Coach Victor Mann and Defensive Coordinator Trae Ivory has River Kings fans hyped! What’s more, is the offense is expected to shine with Derrick Bernard coming over from the Omaha Beef, looking to sling the ball to the likes of the great Michael Dyer (Auburn) at running back, Tamarick Vanover and Bones Bagaunte, who tore it up for the Columbus Lions a year ago!
The defenses for both teams have improved on paper, but how that translates to the field will be revealed this Saturday night! Quad City just missed the playoffs last year, but boasted the leagues best offense, led by E.J. Hilliard. He’s back! He still has Quintin Pedroza and Keyvan Rudd to throw to, but the Steamwheelers added Speedy Noil to the squad, so this offense looks to soar again! The defense has been improved with the additions of Kafara Valentine and former Washington Redskin Ondre Pipkins to that D-line. Malik Duncan and Antonio Marshall have the secondary covered.
Match-up to watch: The battle between the River Kings receivers and Steamwheelers defensive backs is most intriguing here. Bones Baguante vs. Malik Duncan! Tamarick Vanover vs. Antonio Marshall! Wow!
Prediction: Michael Dyer could be the X-factor in this match-up, however Quad City’s offense is a superpower in this league, and Cedar Rapids defense doesn’t appear to be enough of a match. E.J. Hilliard is a football magician whose tricks dazzle the viewer leaving them to say, "How'd he do that!?" The Mississippi River trophy belongs in Moline for now.
By Ducon Williams
Written by Chris Mabry
By: Anthony Miller
Frisco has had many arena football teams come in and out of the city over the years. This time around, fans hope to see their team stick around for good in the Indoor Football League when it was announced last month that the new team would be called the Fighters.
The major addition to this team was bringing in one of the most successful coaches in arena football right now with Clint Dolezel. Dolezel has a proven track record of winning as he has never recorded a losing record as head coach. So far in his head coaching career, he has compliled a 102-43 record including winning two Arena Bowls with the Philadelphia Soul in 2016 and 2017. Not only that, but twice he has taken teams (San Angelo Stampede Express and Dallas Vigilantes) from losing records to winning records and playoff appearances.
This will be a new challenge for the ball coach as he and President/General Manager Stephen Evans are responsible for building a franchise from scratch. The first thing they did was build out the coaching staff and brought in names that should be familiar to arena football fans. They made additions to their staff by announcing that former AFL quarterback Dan Raudabaugh who will be offensive coordinator, former AFL Defensive back James Romain who will coach Defensive Backs and Special Teams, and coach Dave Ewart joining Dolezel in Frisco.
Raudabaugh had a successful career as quarterback as he was with Dolezel as his quarterback in Dallas and Philadelphia putting up huge numbers passing for 35,872 yards, 788 touchdowns, and 117 interceptions in 10 seasons. This will be his first coaching job which should present a new challenge with him, but since he has a great understanding of what Dolezel wants out of his team, he should be able to adapt easily.
Romain spent five seasons with Dolezel in Philadelphia as he recorded 28 interceptions and had three special team returns for touchdowns. Ewart will also help out with the coaching staff as he has coached both offense and defense in his career. He was a head coach for nine seasons with three different arena teams producing a 46-65 record in that time.
So far, there have been a few players on Twitter that have confirmed that they will be joining the team this season:
De'Vante Kincade, QB
Caleb Stennis, RB
Sean Jones, LB/DB
Herbert Moore, DL
Mark Munson, WR (Invite Only)
Kincade was the first player to announce his signing with the Fighters as he has plenty of success on the field. He played at Ole Miss to start his college career before transferring to Grambling State where he threw for 5,904 yards, 54 touchdowns and eight interceptions in two seasons. He found a home with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL a couple of times before hitting free agency. He should be the favorite for the starting job as he has proven to have protected the football and has a great arm.
Moore announced his signing a few days after Kincade did on Twitter as he also played at Ole Miss in his college career. Last year, he played for the New York Streets and was invited to the XFL Showcase in the summer. His experience as a defensive lineman in arena football should help his chances on making the team and starting in the process.
Last weekend, the team held their first tryouts to find new talent to be brought onto the team for their first game of the franchise's existence on March 12th. The full roster has not been announced, but we should be hearing from them in the upcoming weeks.
By Chris Mabry