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.
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