It’s showtime for the Duke City Gladiators at Tingley Coliseum.
The hastily assembled first-year member of the Champions Indoor Football league is set to play its home opener tonight in an exhibition against an all-star team from Mexico City. Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m.
The Gladiators (0-1) went down to the wire in readying the venue, which arena officials believe will be the first time football has been played there.
The new carpet wasn’t rolled out until Tuesday. On Friday, yard lines were painted and the goal posts hung.
Whereas the exhibition won’t count in the CIF standings, the game will provide coach Dominic Bramante’s club an opportunity to smooth out rough edges from last week’s season-opening 56-16 road loss to the Texas Revolution. Or more accurately, a chance to shave down jagged edges.
“We had legitimately every excuse to use for the performance we had,” Bramanate said during a rugged midweek practice. “The first time we ever scrimmaged live was in the game Friday. It was (the Texas Revolution’s) fourth game. At least now we know where ground zero is.”
For that matter, it was the first time Duke City was even in full gear and playing on a lined field.
“All that being said, the one thing I was immensely disappointed in was our competitive spirit. I did not have my team ready to play. So we had a meeting Monday night and I said that’s never going to happen again. We have to develop a swagger. I put them through the wringer this week.”
Bramante said even the trip to Allen, Texas, for the game was one to forget. The team’s bus broke down near Wichita Falls and a replacement sent.
“We were stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in pitch black and it rained for five hours,” Bramante said half smiling, half grimacing. “We didn’t check in to our hotel till 3 a.m.”
At least the team had a hotel. Last year, when Bramante coached the Rio Rancho-based New Mexico Stars, who shut down operations last month, the team traveled to venues on the day of the game.
Offensive coordinator Roger Linn was busy this week addressing many of the issues that bothered Bramante. Linn specifically bemoaned the leaky pass protection. He said part of the problem was that the Gladiators were affected by the racket coming from the PA system as the team was calling signals.
“We couldn’t change the snap count because we couldn’t hear, and they were teeing off on us and that caused us to have numerous false starts,” Linn said. “If you can’t protect, you can’t play ball.”
UPCOMING: Tonight’s game kicks off a five-game homestand for the Gladiators.
Over the next three Saturday nights, the team will have league games against the San Angelo Bandits (April 4), the Dodge City Law (April 11) and the Amarillo Venom (April 18). The weekend after that, the Gladiators will play an exhibition on a Sunday, April 26, against a metro-area all-star team from the police and fire departments.