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Off to strong start, Wild indoor football makes home debut

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 22, 2013, at 12:46 p.m.

Koyotes at Wild

When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hartman Arena, Park City

Records: Kansas 0-1, Wichita 2-0

Radio: KGSO, 1410-AM

A look at the Wild

Offense

Coach Morris Lolar made finding a quarterback a priority during the offseason, as that position has been mostly unstable for the Wild in recent seasons. He found one of the best, signing Rocky Hinds after Hinds’ impressive season in the Indoor Football League with Bloomington.

A dual threat, Hinds has been most effective passing so far with Wichita, throwing for six touchdowns over the first two games, both victories. Hinds hasn’t needed to run much because Wichita has Tywon Hubbard for that.

Hubbard, who helps Wichita in many areas as the IFL’s 2012 leader in all-purpose yardage, has averaged better than 100 yards this season. Hinds’ passing abilities are enhanced by his receivers. Tim Simmons led the IFL in receptions two seasons ago and was solid last year, his first with the Wild. Joe Kassanavoid gives Wichita a deep threat, and former University of Washington receiver Chris Hemphill and Brian Murph, who played at Kansas, both have impressive collegiate pedigrees.

Defense

Few indoor teams can match the athleticism of Wichita’s defensive line. The Wild’s first priority defensively is to rush the quarterback, and positive results usually follow.

Wichita has produced nine sacks in two games, and pressure on the quarterback is leading to rushed decisions that have helped force three interceptions, all of which were returned at least 19 yards. Pressure on the quarterback also hasn’t helped the opponents’ running attack, as Wichita is allowing 21 rushing yards per game.

Kendrick Harper and Dan Kontz are the leaders of a versatile defensive backfield, while Callahan Bright, Darius Parish, James McCartney, Matt Moss and Anthony Smith do damage up front.

Special teams

Hubbard is dangerous as a kick returner. Wichita hasn’t received many kickoff returns so far, but Hubbard has averaged 24 yards on six of them and leads the Wild with 390 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns. Simmons and Harper also contribute to the return game.

Kicker Alex Fambrough has struggled, missing 3 of 5 field goals, including two inside 40 yards.

Wild schedule

March 9at OklahomaW,70-26
March 16at SalinaW,60-34
SaturdayKansas7:05
March 30Bloomington7:05
April 6at Kansas City7:05
April 12at Bloomington7:05
April 20Omaha7:05
April 27at Mid-Missouri7:05
May 4Oklahoma7:05
May 11Salina7:05
May 25at Sioux City7:05
June 8Mid-Missouri7:05

The Wild’s offense has been so efficient during its first two games that quarterback Rocky Hinds can sometimes predict which play will produce a touchdown.

Wichita’s first season in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League has been a smashing success, with the Wild outscoring its first two opponents 130-60 on the road. Every aspect of Wichita’s game has produced impressive statistics.

That especially goes for the offense, which has reached at least 60 points in the first two games, something the Wild did once in the Indoor Football League last season. Coach Morris Lolar said Wichita’s fast-paced attack has occasionally played too fast.

It’s a difficult proposition to attempt to tinker a unit that has produced one big play after another, but the rein-pulling may begin Saturday night at Hartman Arena when the Wild hosts the Kansas Koyotes, from Topeka.

"Our tempo in practice is so fast that when we get into the game we’re not even using the clock," Lolar said. "Ten seconds run off the clock and we’re already running the next play. That puts our defense in a bind because they’re out on the field a lot.

"Rocky has been great, he’s been him. He’s been what we expected. The offense has been clicking, and I always see them getting better."

Part of Hinds’ effectiveness has been the fact that he’s not solely responsible for carrying the offense. He produced a dynamic debut, throwing for six touchdowns in a 70-26 win over Oklahoma two weeks ago.

The following week, Hinds passed for 49 yards on 10 attempts as Wichita relied more heavily upon running back Tywon Hubbard. Last year’s IFL leader in all-purpose yardage ran for 125 yards and four touchdowns as Wichita scored 60 at Salina.

"(We’re) sprinkling in Tywon and letting Tywon doing his magic," Lolar said.

Wichita hasn’t made life as easy for opposing quarterbacks as it has been for Hinds so far. In an indoor environment in which pressuring the quarterback can be difficult because of lack of space and the dual-threat abilities of most quarterbacks, the Wild has become somewhat revolutionary.

Lolar discovered last season the advantage a dominant defensive line could create, and he set about building a line that could produce sacks. The Wild led the IFL in that category last season and is on its way to a repeat in a new league, with nine sacks so far. Six Wichita players have at least one.

"Once that quarterback steps up into the pocket, if you don’t have a good rush up the middle, which Callahan Bright gives us, and Darius Parish has gotten better at it, he can take off running," Lolar said. "If you don’t have an athletic linebacker there, he can run for days."

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