The metro area’s new indoor pro football team, the Duke City Gladiators, is scheduled to make its debut today in Allen, Texas, against the Texas Revolution in a Champions Indoor Football game.
It’s been a mega-speedy transformation for the franchise that announced its arrival Feb. 24, didn’t secure a league to play in until a week later and didn’t open drills until March 7.
By that time, other CIF teams were into their second weekend of the season.
So, whereas Texas (1-1) already has had an exhibition outing and two league games, the Gladiators haven’t even scrimmaged. For that matter, it wasn’t until two days ago the team donned helmets and shoulder pads.
“Texas has a huge advantage — an enormous advantage,” Gladiators veteran coach Dominic Bramante said during Wednesday evening’s drizzly practice behind the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center. “They’ve had three games inside the walls and a month’s worth of practices.
“We haven’t even been on a field with lines, not to mention indoors with walls. We haven’t had any contact.”
The reason for not conducting drills indoors, Gladiators GM/co-owner Matt Caward said, is that the new playing surface hasn’t arrived at Tingley Coliseum, the team’s home. He said the turf is scheduled to be delivered Monday, just in time for the team’s scheduled home opener, which will be an exhibition March 28 against an all-star team from Mexico.
But the Revolution won’t exactly have all the advantages Friday, according to Texas assistant GM John Nevarez.
“Obviously, we’ve had more time to get the chemistry down, but we’re going in there blindly,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s not like we can study film. We don’t even know how many practices they’ve been able to have. We have to go off the tendencies of the head coach.”
He also said Texas’ offensive line, on average, is bigger than that of the Dallas Cowboys, albeit it’s not as good.
Duke City will have a veteran presence to help overcome hurdles. Several players were members of the New Mexico Stars, the team that played from 2012-14 in Rio Rancho before ceasing operations last month.
QB Kasey Peters, who was the Lone Star Football League’s co-offensive MVP with the Stars in 2013, is back after a season with the West Texas Wildcatters. One of his key receivers is ex-Lobo Dexter Manley, another indoor vet. He said the lack of contact in practice shouldn’t be a hindrance today.
“We all came out here. We all put in the work and everything, and after that first initial hit, we’ll all be good,” he said.
Bramante said muscle memory in pads will carry his club since all the players have competed since peewee leagues.
“One of the things that we know, though, is that we won’t be bruised up or battered from beating each other up in practice,” Bramante said. “We’ll have fresh legs.”
One of the rookies Bramante is counting on is Francisco Mendez, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive guard/tackle who played at Allan Hancock CC in California last fall.
He admitted he didn’t report in playing shape and struggled to adjust to the altitude. And then came a Marine recon training session last Saturday, a six-hour workout that included “a gazillion pushups,” according to Bramante.
“Oh man, it was one of the most intense workouts I ever had,” Mendez said. “I never expected to do something like that in my life.”
Bramante said that no matter what happens today – “whether we win by 40 or lose by 40” – it’s not going to change his outlook for the team.
“This basically is the just beginning of the journey,” he said. “We want to look to see how well our guys play once we’re under duress.”
EX-LOBO IN TEXAS: Frankie Solomon, who was Academic All-MWC at UNM from 2006-09, is a DB/kick returner for the Revolution.
“He is by far our franchise player,” Nevarez said. “He’s definitely quick, but his No. 1 weapon is his mind.”