The Wild meets Allen for the fifth time this season tonight, but their playoff game in Texas won’t completely be a gathering of old friends.
Personnel for both teams has changed, most significantly at quarterback for the Wranglers. They used former Kansas City Chiefs backup Casey Printers for the first nine games with mixed results, and the switch to David Knighton for the last three games sent Allen to the postseason as one of the Indoor Football League’s hottest teams.
The Wranglers have won all three games Knighton has started, scoring nearly 71 points per game during that stretch. Their recent output has vaulted them to second in the IFL in scoring, a better than 60-point average.
Wichita also isn’t the same team that Allen faced during much of the regular season, though most of the Wild’s most noticeable changes happened before their meeting on May 26, a 59-41 Wild win.
"This isn’t the same team that played Week 1, Week 3, Week 6 and we finished up Week 16," Wild coach Morris Lolar said. "It’s a different team. They’re coaching staff has changed a little bit, so we’re looking a totally new team from what we played the last time. They solidified their quarterback position and they’re rolling now."
The Wild needed a late hot streak to reach the postseason, too, but Wichita isn’t surging quite like Allen. In its most recent game, Wichita lost 72-41 to Green Bay in a game that could have helped the Wild earn a home playoff game.
That was nine days ago, though, and it was forgotten by the Wild well before the bus trip to Allen. Wichita had won its previous six games with three wins against playoff teams _ including two over Allen.
"Like I told the guys, we finished the (regular) season last week," Lolar said. "We pass that off. Nobody cares what you did in the regular season now. It’s what you do from this point on. It’s a new season, and that’s just the way the playoffs go."
Lolar said neither team has an advantage because of their mutual familiarity. Allen’s recent changes, including among those who call plays, could help the Wranglers catch the Wild off guard early, though.
Wichita has the option of trying to similarly catch Allen by lining up in different formations, calling trick plays, or changing defenses. Lolar is declining that option, choosing to stick with what got the Wild to the playoffs in the first place, namely an effective offensive line and an aggressive front line on defense.
"We are who we are," Lolar said. "We’re going to do what we do best and I’m sure they’re going to do what they do best. We’re not going to change much. We are who we are."