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Returning-champ Wild returns with several familiar faces

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, at 11:04 a.m.

Photos

Wild schedule

Friday, at Lincoln 7 p.m.

March 16, at Oklahoma 3 p.m.

March 22, Dodge City 7 p.m.

April 5, at Sioux City 7 p.m.

April 12, Lincoln 7 p.m.

April 19, at Omaha 7 p.m.

April 26, Oklahoma 7 p.m.

May 3, at Salina 7 p.m.

May 17, Kansas 7 p.m.

May 24, at Dodge City 7 p.m.

May 31, Sioux City 7 p.m.

June 7, Salina 7 p.m.

There will be time for Paco Martinez to make many of his own distinctive touches on the Wild’s on-field philosophies, but that time isn’t now.

Martinez, Wichita’s former offensive coordinator hired as coach after Morris Lolar resigned following the Wild’s championship in its debut season in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League, is going with what worked last year.

That means bringing back many of the same contributors – though Martinez sees potential in several newcomers – and playing a style that features a balanced offense and the league’s deepest and most effective pass rush.

The Wild opens its season Friday night in Lincoln; its home opener is March 22 against Dodge City, and Martinez is confident because additions he made that fit into the Wild’s tried-and-true structure.

“It was a delicate balance,” Martinez said. “I wanted to keep what we had in place because we had great leadership, we had great chemistry, which was a huge part of our run last year. But I also approached it as, if we’re the same team we were last year, we’re not going to win the championship again.”

Rocky Hinds returns to quarterback the team that led the league in scoring and was second in total offense. Hinds was the backbone of an offense that highlighted several playmakers, including returning receivers Joe Kassanavoid and Brian Murph, along with running back Tywon Hubbard.

Wichita’s balance allowed it to play a pass-heavy game or use a power running attack depending on defensive schemes, and adding running back Junior Allen, who played at Bethany, to the mix provides additional speed to the backfield.

“He’s just a little guy (5-foot-7, 190 pounds) that gets lost in the mix (among defenders) and has really good quickness and really good speed, Martinez said.

“…If they try to take away the run, we’re just going to throw the ball over the place. If they play way back, we’re just going to run it down their throat.”

Defensively, many components of a dominant defensive line return, including Matt Moss and James McCartney, who combined for 30 sacks. Wichita has added support for that group in linebacker Jason Catchings, a 6-3, 235-pounder with versatility who Martinez doesn’t expect to hold onto.

“He runs like the wind,” Martinez said. “I think he’s a legitimate NFL prospect and I think he’s one of the first guys to go from our team, either to the CFL or to the NFL.”

Catchings and his defensive teammates will experience more freedom this season, which could lead to even better statistics.

“From the snap of the ball to the whistle, you have my full 100-percent loyalty to do what you have to do,” Martinez said. “As long as it’s legal, you do what you have to do. Go as hard as you have to. I want to see people flying around and throwing their bodies around. If the opposing team gets five yards, they better pay for those five yards.”

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