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Wild set for playoff opener at Omaha

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, June 14, 2013, at 8:23 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 20, 2013, at 11:17 a.m.

Wild at Omaha

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

What: Champions Professional Indoor League Playoffs, first round

Where: Ralston Arena, Omaha

Radio: KGSO, 1410-AM

The term “scoring offense” doesn’t always apply to the Wild.

Though Wichita leads the Champions Professional Indoor Football League in that category, it doesn’t offer a complete picture of the team’s strengths.

Many of those points have come from a dominating defense that leads the league in total defense, rushing defense, sacks, and is tied for second in interceptions.

No team can match those feats, even well-balanced Omaha, which the Wild meets in the first round of the playoffs Saturday night in Omaha.

“Our offense puts up (52.5) points a game,” Wichita defensive lineman James McCartney. “Those higher-point games, where we’re (scoring) 60, 70, 80, it’s because our defense is making plays and getting touchdowns. That’s going to be a key in this game, I think.”

Omaha features an offense about as dynamic as Wichita’s, as quarterback James McNear gives the Beef a dual-threat quarterback who is seventh in the league in rushing despite missing one game. That game was against Wichita on April 20, and McNear probably could have used the preparation before facing the league’s top defense in the most important game to date.

McNear is fast enough to elude Wichita’s rush, but the Wild’s lineman are aggressive and relentless enough to collectively chase him down.

“I don’t think he’s seen our level of defense,” McCartney said. “Our defense has dominated all year, and I don’t think he’s had that level of competition to go up against.… He’s going to have to think fast — very, very fast — to make plays against us.”

The matchup against McNear is sure to motivate Wild quarterback Rocky Hinds, who is neck-and-neck with McNear in many statistical categories.

Hinds isn’t the runner that McNear is, but he doesn’t have to be. The Wild has two running backs, Tywon Hubbard and Travis Ribbing, among the league’s top ten rushers, and Hinds has enough receiving options to keep him in the pocket most of the time.

“Rocky is a great quarterback, and he’s played against McNear over the years,” Wichita receiver Tim Simmons said. “At the same time, Rocky is also going to come to show his talents.... You’re going to see some of the best athletes to play the indoor game.”

The Wild is in the playoffs for the second straight year after reaching them in the Indoor Football League last season.

Last year, Wichita snuck into the postseason after an 0-4 start, and though it advanced to the conference championship game, it was never considered a championship contender.

That has changed, as the Wild finished 10-2 with nine wins coming by double-digits. The pressure of the postseason has changed, but Wichita welcomes it.

“A lot of the guys that are back from last year are key guys and shared the success of last year,” Simmons said. “A lot of us are feeling like last year we should have won it. This year, it didn’t matter what league we were in, it just felt like we had championship-level key guys.”

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