With opening day of the United States Indoor Football arena league just days away, Roger Ritchie said he has been trying to find things to occupy his time.
“I’ve been pacing around like an expectant father,” said Ritchie, head coach of the Richmond Hill Tiger Sharks. “I can’t wait.”
The league kicks off Saturday at the Savannah Civic Center with Richmond Hill against the Hinesville Hurricanes at 1 p.m. and the Coastal Outlaws against the Myrtle Beach Masters at 7 p.m. Admission is $15 for the day.
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. You can register to win free tickets at http://coastalcourier.secondstreetapp.com/ARENA-FOOTBALL-TICKET-SWEEPSTAKES/
“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. “It’ll be a great way to be in the air conditioning on hot days and enjoy a family outing.”
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.
The Tiger Sharks roster includes: A.J. Christopher, Dante Smith, Jonny Smith, Jonathon Hughes, Zach Grant, Quin Coleman, Courtney Reese, Jay Cannon, Brandon Best, Michael Rose, William Hoskins, Devante Taylor, Rudolph Campbell, Dexter Moody, Curtis Young, Branden Williams, Kadeem Smallwood, Doniel St. Ange, Lee Fell, Vearner Washington, Justin Odom, Jarius Price, Dez Williams, Simeo Smith, Jonas Flannery, Shaquan Hicks, Elijah Glisson, William Wright Jr. and Eric Boyles.
Local fans may recognize the likes of Moody, from Emanuel County, who played for Albany State and had a tryout with the Baltimore Ravens, or Hicks, who played his college ball at Savannah State.
“We’ve got some great talent on this team, but not all of them played in college,” Ritchie said. “We’ve got five guys on our roster who earned their way on and they were better than some of the guys who tried out who did play college ball.”
Ritchie said he has already fielded inquiries from higher-level arena teams about a few players, and thinks he has a handful who he said could be “impact players” right now in the Canadian Football League.
“One advantage we have is that most of the other arena leagues are finishing up their seasons and we’re just starting,” he said. “They’re just sitting back and waiting for our game film.”
Ritchie said one goal of the league is to help players get to whatever level they hope to accomplish.
“Obviously, some guys want a crack at the NFL,” he said. “For some, they just want to play here and that’s OK, too. “We just want to help them get as far as they realistically want to go.”
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.”
For more information, please see www.usifpro.com.