ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — By most barometers, it was a rough inaugural season for the Indoor Football League’s New Mexico Stars at the Santa Ana Star Center.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a fun ride.
The squad, which seemed to cycle through a collection of new players on a weekly basis, finished on a nine-game losing streak and in last place in the eight-team Intense Conference with a 2-12 mark — tied for worst in the 16-team league. It didn’t help that at midseason New Mexico’s leading scorer (RB Darius Marshall) and leading tackler (Tray Hardaway) were kicked off the team and suspended by the league for their participation in an after-game altercation in Wyoming on April 20.
On the surface, all that news rated a huge “Ugh!”
But there also were highlights in 2012 that will have the Stars’ management team, coaches and players optimistic for 2013. Not to mention the fans.
For starters, the average attendance was a little more than 3,000, which put the Stars in the middle of the pack for the league.
Not only did fans show up in numbers, but made for a party atmosphere, especially early in the season when the home team played one nail-biter after another — even winning two of them.
Probably the highlight of the season was the visit paid by Terrell Owens and his Allen Wranglers on a Sunday afternoon in mid-March. With a near-capacity crowd of 5,900 in full throat, the visitors won 45-28, but the fans seemed to love having a future NFL Hall of Famer in the house — and giving him grief.
Afterward, many youngsters even got the eccentric wide receiver to sign autographs.
It was also a treat to see former Lobo running back DonTrell Moore showing off the stellar form he had during the heyday of the Rocky Long years at the University of New Mexico. In fact, the ex-Lobo scored three touchdowns for the Stars in the season finale. And ever-popular with the fans, his red jersey was auctioned for $275 after the team’s home finale June 9.
And what’s extra good news for Rio Rancho and the metro area is that the team says it’s committed to turning into a winner and thriving here in the near future.
Sure, hockey’s Scorpions, basketball’s Thunderbirds and the previous indoor football team, the Wildcats, were saying much the same, but they didn’t have nearly the strong fan backing this year’s club did.
Next season the Stars should catch a break from the evil schedule-maker, who gave the team three byes in a four-week stretch the first month of the season. It was almost as if the team had to have training camp to get back in form again.
Anyway, here’s a tip of the cap to the Stars for, if nothing else, a good-time first season.
And here’s yet an even more emphatic tip of that cap for their promise to get rid of those hideous jerseys that made identifying players from a distance a chore. Can’t wait to see the cleaner uniform design planned for 2013.
— This article appeared on page 6 of the West Side Journal