Times Staff Reporter
After a horrific, injury plagued 2008 campaign, an area semi-professional football team is looking to bounce back strong in '09.
After winning a Midwest Football League (MFL) championship in 2005, followed by subsequent playoff trips in 2006 and 2007, Brazil's own West Central Wildcats stumbled through a one-win season last year. Head Coach and General Manager Mike Rindone said his first objective for this season was very clear.
"We are trying to forget last season happened," Rindone said.
One potential way Rindone and his staff have gone about assuring added success has been by more than doubling the roster from last season.
The Wildcats were ravaged by injuries at several key positions, including quarterback, running back and wide receiver. This season, participants are up to 35 after a fairly anemic turn out last season.
Rindone said the recruitment efforts are mostly focused on graduating seniors from local high schools who won't be playing in college, but are still interested in keeping their playing careers alive. The squad, like all other league teams, is also very dependant on word-of-mouth.
The MFL began operation in 2002.
The West Central Wildcat franchise was founded in 2004 by Terry Shrum, Stuart Hood and Jason Moore, and the team began playing games in Greencastle. A year later, they moved to Brazil because Hood, who currently serves as the team's offensive coordinator, said it was closer to home for almost everyone involved with the organization.
Things started on a meager scale, as Hood said most players weren't issued equipment until immediately before the team's first game.
Things quickly expanded however, as West Central was able to bring an MFL title to the city in just their second year of existence. And while things turned sour last season, the increased amount of talent has those within the organization buzzing about a return to glory this year.
"This is absolutely one of the best teams I've ever coached," said defensive coordinator Tim Deacon, who has been on the coaching staff since the team's inception.
To recapture past seasons' successes, the Wildcats are leaning on a mixture of both old and new talent. Returning players expected to make an impact are quarterback Mike Landry, the running back trio of William Simmons, Cory Grigsby and Dan Smith and a solid offensive line. Also impressing the coaching staff are various new talents, such as wide receiver Mark Pate and linebacker Dan Smith.
While the coaching staff is brimming with confidence about the upcoming season, they are also wary of strong competition, which could stand in their way.
Teams that Rindone singled out as his squad's toughest competition were the Madison County Pirates, the Ohio River Bearcats and the defending league champion Adams County Patriots.
The level of competition and his team's bad 2008 season aside, Rindone, who has been with the team in some capacity since 2005, said he saw no reason his team shouldn't be in the mix when the playoffs begin.
"Our goal for every year is a championship," Rindone said. "I fully expect us to make noise in the playoffs. There's too much talent (on this team) not to go all the way, and I will be disappointed with anything else."
The Wildcats kick off the 2009 season with a home game against the East Central Wolverines. The game will be played at the Clay County Youth field in Brazil. The MFL regular season concludes on Sept. 19. The playoffs begin the following week and run through Oct. 10 where the league's two finest squads square off for the league championship.
2009 West Central Wildcat Schedule
|July 11||East Central Wolverines||Home|
|July 18||Madison County Pirates||Away|
|July 25||Ohio Force||Home|
|Aug. 1||Ohio River Bearcats||Away|
|Aug. 8||Indiana Cardinals||Away|
|Aug. 15||East Central Wolverines||Away|
|Aug. 22||Madison County Pirates||Home|
|Aug. 29||Ohio Force||Away|
|Sept. 5||TBD (Labor Day)|
|Sept. 12||Ohio River Bearcats||Home|
|Sept. 19||Indiana Cardinals||Home|
|Oct. 10||MFL Championship game|