Ready for some football? Kent Predators play first home game Friday night at ShoWare

Fans will find out just what the professional Indoor Football League is all about when the Kent Predators make their debut Friday, March 12 at the ShoWare Center.

Kent Predators’ quarterback Charles McCullum tries to scramble by a teammate during a March 4 practice at Kent Memorial Park.

Kent Predators’ quarterback Charles McCullum tries to scramble by a teammate during a March 4 practice at Kent Memorial Park.

Fans will find out just what the professional Indoor Football League is all about when the Kent Predators make their debut Friday, March 12 at the ShoWare Center.

“If you come to the game, you'll come to the rest of the games because you'll love it so much,” said Kent running back Carlo Heard during a March 2 promotional appearance in front of the Kent City Council. “It's like hockey on a football field.”

The Predators, an expansion team in the second year of the IFL, play the Fairbanks Grizzlies at 7:30 p.m. in a Pacific North Division game. The Predators are 0-2 to start the season. Fairbanks is 2-0.

The Billings (Mont.) Outlaws beat visiting Kent 56-40 in the season opener Feb. 28. The Alaska Wild beat the Predators 48-39 on Monday.

This marks the third year of indoor football for Kent coach William McCarthy, an assistant coach last year at El Paso, Texas. He said fans quickly fall in love with the fast-paced, high-scoring game played on a 50-yard field surrounded with 4-foot high dasher boards that mark the sidelines.

“I've yet to meet anybody who comes to a game that didn't like it,” McCarthy said to the Council. “It's not the same when you come to a game as watching it on TV. You can feel the excitement of the game and the crowd.”

That comment brought a fast response from Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke.

“You can't get a player in your lap on TV like you can at a game,” Cooke said.

Players do tend to flip over the dasher boards into the stands.

“There were three or four guys who went over the wall to catch balls,” McCarthy said about the season opener at Billings.

The game features eight-on-eight players. The end zones are 8-yards long. The field is 28 yards wide. No punting is allowed. The four quarters are 15 minutes each with a running clock.

The offense features three offensive linemen, three wide receivers, a running back and a quarterback. Four players line up on the line of scrimmage and two other players can be in forward motion at the same time before the center snaps the ball.

Charles McCullum plays quarterback for the Predators. He threw for 224 yards and four touchdowns in the opener at Billings. He also rushed for 65 yards and another score on nine carries. He threw five touchdown passes against Alaska.

“I'm No. 1 in your program and No. 1 in your hearts,” McCullum said to the City Council.

McCullum played quarterback at Stillman College in Alabama. He is typical of a indoor football quarterback who must excel at throwing and running the ball.

With so much scoring, a kick returner becomes a key player for teams. Kickoffs are from the goal line, so kick returns are common. Teams also can return missed field goals.

The Predators feature one of the top kick returners in the league in Jarvious Dunn, who wears jersey No. 2. The IFL named Dunn the Special Teams Player of the Week the first week of the season after he had four kick returns for 121 yards against Billings. He returned one of the kicks 45 yards, just missing a touchdown.

Several teams put two players back to return kicks. McCarthy prefers to place just one player deep. That means plenty of action for Dunn, who helped the Tri-Cities Fever win the National Indoor Football League title in 2005.

“It (the ball) just goes to him,” McCarthy said about Dunn, who is 5-feet-8 and 185 pounds.

Other players to watch include wide receivers Andre Jordan, Eric Taylor and Travis Poole. With so much passing in the game, the receivers see the ball a lot. Jordan, a former Federal Way High School star, had a team-high seven receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Billings. Jordan also had two touchdown catches against Alaska.

On defense, the Predators were led in their opener by linebackers K.J. McCrae and Walner Leandre with five tackles apiece. McCrae is a former Portland State University linebacker while Leandre played safety at the University of Arkansas. Defensive back Kevin Jones is a former Kentwood High School star.

Players are paid $225 per game and a $25 bonus if they win.

Fans also can check out the Predators dance team at the opener. The dancers include several former Kentwood High dance team members.

For more information, go to www.kentpredators.com or www.goifl.com.

If you go

What: Fairbanks Grizzlies at Kent Predators, indoor football

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 12

Where: ShoWare Center

Cost: $14.50 to $42

Tickets: www.showarecenter.com or 253-856-6999


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