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Indoor football: Gladiators hard at work as season nears

Duke City Gladiators head football coach Dominic Bramante says there’s nothing better than pain to help build a bond between teammates.

He’s talking about the pain that comes through hard work and fighting through exhaustion.

If that’s true, by the time the recently created expansion team in the Champions Indoor Football league opens its season March 20 against the Texas Revolution in Allen, the members of the 25-man roster should be a solid group.

The players reported for preseason drills Friday and took part in two rigorous workouts Saturday and three more Sunday in shorts and T-shirts on a field just west of Hope Christian High School. Two-a-days are to continue through Friday. Bramante said the team will don pads Wednesday.

He said he was expecting to have 30 players on hand, but several were still snow-bound back East.

“Taking the eyeball test, the guys look good – they’re good workers,” said Bramante, who coached the Rio Rancho-based New Mexico Stars before resigning last month. “We’ve got good team players. And that’s because we try to recruit guys who fit that mold.”

The Gladiators, who weren’t made official members of the CIF until Tuesday, have a lot of catching up to do considering the league opened play more than a week ago. The staff and most of the players will have to adapt to unfamiliar rules that include permitting two receivers to be in motion toward the line of scrimmage at the snap.

“We’re concentrating on ‘the install,’ ” Bramante said. “That’s important since we don’t have a whole lot of time. With the two men in motion, the game is a lot faster.”

But that could play into the Gladiators’ hands.

“Last year our team was built on heart,” Bramante said of the Stars. “This team is built on speed, and speed kills. If we can combine the two, we can be competitive.”

And, speaking of speed, the Gladiators have a strength and speed coach, Jessica Gentry, on staff. She’s the owner of a gym, Athlete Factory, on the West Side. She conducted one workout Saturday and another Sunday, and she plans to work with the team on a regular basis.

“Running fundamentals is a big thing we work on along with injury prevention,” she said. “Once we get their running fundamentals down and get them on the balls of their feet and get their shoulders moving correctly, it increases speed.

“And we’re working on conditioning and getting these guys used to the elevation. There’s thinner air up here, and the guys need a little bit of time acclimating. So we’re working their bodies to use oxygen a little bit better. So I’m not trying to kill these guys right off the bat. I want to make sure that we’re healthy, so we’re taking a progressive approach to their training.”

One player who welcomed Gentry’s arrival was 6-foot-3, 320-pound Trae Tiller, a Southern (La.) University alum who’s from Columbus, Ohio.

“There are times when it does have effect,” he said of the thin air. “But there are other times it doesn’t. But I’m ready to get in shape and get going.”

He said he’s in Albuquerque because of Bramante.

“It’s all about Coach ‘B,'” Tiller said. “He and my agent were talking at first, and then Coach and I built a relationship.”

A cheer went up when Gentry arrived at practice Saturday afternoon, but she’s not expecting that rousing welcome to continue. “I don’t think these guys are going to be super happy to see me beginning next week, because we’re going to kick up the intensity a bit,” she said.

TINGLEY: The Gladiators will be playing their home games at Tingley Coliseum this season, beginning with the home opener March 28 against a Mexican All-Star team. Bramante said they’ll be practicing there, too, once the new turf they purchased has been installed.

Co-owner/general manager Matt Caward had said the team considered buying used turf from a defunct team, but decided otherwise.

“The Gladiators go first class,” Bramante said.

NEW COORDINATOR: Roger Linn, a former assistant coach with the Stars, has taken over as offensive coordinator for the Gladiators after newly hired Carl Madison had to resign because of eye trouble that requires surgery.

March 20

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