Saturday, March 10, 2012


Florida Tarpons Open Arena Season

The Florida Tarpons opened their inaugural season in the Ultimate Indoor Football League last Friday night with a resounding 58-35 win over the Mississippi Hound Dogs. The UIFL is an arena football league, with teams from the southern States, with a couple of exceptions.

The league is the brain child of Andrew Haines and Michael Taylor, also co-owners of the Tarpons. In a nutshell, the league gives football players an opportunity to play the game at a high level, hoping to catch on with an outdoor professional league. There have been many arena football league players who have found a niche in the NFL, or the Canadian Football League, for that matter. The most recent example of a notable player now toiling in the arena ranks is Terrell Owens. It would be nice to see him strutting his stuff; however, he plays in a different arena football league. Kurt Warner moved from the arena ranks and won a SuperBowl with the Rams.

Both Haines and Taylor had busy evenings. Haines was responsible for the entire product, while Taylor spent his evening on the football field. He is the head coach of the Tarpons, and coaches are permitted to stay on the playing surface throughout the game. Players use the hockey benches, but are not allowed to change on the fly!

Many of you have caught a game or two on television, or perhaps in upper New York State. There are significant differences from outdoor football, although there are some nice touches borrowed from the Canadian game. There are eight players on the field for each team. The field is fifty yards long, with eight yard end zones. Understandably, a quarterback needs to get the job done quickly, with several three hundred pound linemen charging on every play.

The Hound Dogs’ quarterback, Jamie Boland, was under pressure throughout the game. He is listed on the roster sheet at 5’ 11”, and at 170 pounds. Both of those approximations are generous. To his credit, he took a pounding all night long, and played well. He is a deceptive runner, and the Tarpons had their hands full when he tucked the ball away, failing to find a receiver.

That sums up the biggest problem facing the Dogs. They did not have a deep threat, and had to be content with completing short passes over the centre and at the sidelines. It did not appear to be much fun for receivers who caught passes in the end zone, or on short out patterns. They were immediately sandwiched into the boards, more correctly the padding over the boards.

Carlos Singleton had a wonderful evening for the Tarpons. He was announced at 6’ 8”, and towered over the Dogs’ defensive backs, He ran fine patterns, snagged nine catches, one for a major. “I played previously for the Jacksonville Sharks,” he told me after the game. He was surrounded by young admirers, as fans are permitted on the field once the game ends. “I am really enjoying Fort Myers. We have had a chance to go into the schools to meet kids, to speak about the game. It has been a most positive experience”.

Tarpons quarterback Brian Harris threw six touchdown passes in the game. He has two arena seasons under his belt, critical experience in a game such as this. Harris was most impressed with his receivers: “This is probably the most talented receiver corps I’ve played with in arena football”, he told the Fort Myers News-Press after the game.

Billy Dobbs is a wide receiver for the Dogs. “I have really enjoyed myself tonight,” he told me. “I like this game. It is different. I love football, and appreciate the opportunity to play the game.” He is an Ole Miss graduate who played in Tupelo last year.

Mike Richey is a die-hard Indianapolis Colts fans attending his first arena game. “I am truly impressed with the speed of this game.” Don Cole, a Vermont resident now enjoying the spoils of his Giants’ SuperBowl victory, suggested that the Tarpons invest in a long snapper. Several convert attempts went awry due to ugly snaps.

The Tarpons take on the Lakeland Raiders on Sunday, March 25th at 7:30pm, at the Germain Arena. Hope to see you there.
James Hurst

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