Local football fans will have another team to cheer for this summer as the Richmond Hill Tiger Sharks get ready for the inaugural season of the United States Indoor Football arena league.
The four-team league will hold all of its games this summer at the Savannah Civic Center.
“You can watch some pretty good fast-paced football in the air conditioning during the dead heat of the summer with no gnats to worry about,” laughed Roger Ritchie, head coach of the Tiger Sharks. “It will be a very family-friendly atmosphere and a lot of fun for everyone.”
The other teams in the league are the Savannah Coastal Outlaws, Myrtle Beach Masters and Hinesville Hurricanes.
“We already have another Georgia team and a North Carolina team that have expressed interest in joining next year,” Ritchie said.
The league opens up play on July 1 with Richmond Hill against Hinesville at 1 p.m. and the Coastal Outlaws against the Myrtle Beach Masters at 7 p.m. Admission is $15 for both games.
“Each week, the first game will end around 4 p.m. and in between we’ll have youth teams playing, high school marching bands performing and other entertainment,” Ritchie said.
The Bryan County News, Savannah Penny Saver and the Coastal Courier located in Hinesville — all part of Morris Multimedia Inc. — have signed on as sponsors of the league.
“This season is going to be about waking people up to how arena ball can be done right,” Ritchie said.
Games continue on July 8 and July 29. Aug. 12 will be the playoffs, with the second and third place teams facing off at 1 p.m. and first versus fourth at 7 p.m. The consolation and championship games will be played Aug. 24.
Those familiar with arena football know that the game is played on a field that is 50 yards long by 28 yards wide.
“It’s about big hits and big scores,” Ritchie said. “Our goal is to score at will, and if you can stop the other team from scoring on three possessions, you should win the game.”
Each team will have eight players on the field at a time, including three linemen. Additional players on offense will be the quarterback, running back and three wide receivers, while defense will feature two linebackers and three defensive backs.
Rules allow for two players to move in motion toward the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped to create more offensive excitement. On defense, on linebacker is prohibited from going more than six yards back from the line of scrimmage.
“That player can only move six yards back but can go the entire width of the field,” Ritchie said. “With those restrictions, that position is known as the ‘jack-in-the-box’ but a quick player can cover half the field.”
Beginning April 16, the Tiger Sharks will practice from 4 to 6 p.m. Sundays and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays on the large field behind First Baptist Church on Ford Avenue.
“The church was really nice about letting us use the field,” Ritchie said. “All they asked in return is that we mow it.”
Ritchie is hoping to have 30 players on the roster, with 20 dressing for each game.
“Some players play both ways, but it’s nice to have a full squad to give guys a breather,” he said.
Those interested in playing must be 18 or older and have no high school eligibility remaining. Contact Ritchie at (304) 894-1030 for details.
For more information about the league or to purchase tickets, visit www.usifpro.com.