Jarrell Kelley has played for the last three Wichita indoor football champions and didn’t play for the team eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. He believes (wink, wink) that there must be a correlation.
“Jokingly, yes. Seriously, no,” said Kelley, a wide receiver. “But I like to think that, though.”
The real key to the Force’s Champions Indoor Football championship, which it secured with a 48-45 win over Amarillo on Monday night at Intrust Bank Arena, was the same as for most football teams – a group of talented players who forged a bond in the face of potential difficulties.
The Force never let those difficulties become major obstacles, though. Wichita survived the departure of quarterback Stephen Panasuk to the Arena Football League after seven games and injuries to important defensive backs Chris Hemphill and Kiaree Daniels. Wichita won seven straight games to finish the season.
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Kelley and other Force players won championships with the Wild in 2013 and 2014 before that franchise folded. The Force won in the franchise’s second season.
“We just had to stay a family,” Kelley said. “A lot of teams bicker and get into it, but we stood with each other. We stood through the thick and the thin and we came out victorious. We never broke down as brothers.”
Kelley scored two receiving touchdowns in Monday’s win. The rest of the victory was spurred by the Force’s defense and a running game that produced 137 yards and several big plays after Amarillo cut Wichita’s lead to three points several times in the second half.
Amarillo never caught the Force after Wichita took an early 17-3 lead. Force defensive backs were the catalyst in the early advantage, playing with an effectiveness that matched their emotion. They kept Amarillo quarterback Nate Davis, a former NFL draft pick, from becoming a factor until Amarillo scored 28 points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s been like that for us all year,” Force defensive back Elbert Mack said. “We come out in the first half and be on fire, (or) we come out in the first half and be lackadaisical. It’s just a team effort. I can’t speak enough of the coaches, the fans, all the players, the hard work they put it. We stayed together, we stayed as one and we kept pushing together.”
Mack, a North High and Butler Community College product, played seven seasons in the NFL. A CIF championship may not be as prestigious on paper, but winning a title for his hometown team and playing the sport he loves are equally rewarding.
“It’s professional football, man,” Mack said. “Either way, you’ve got to come out here and you’ve got to bring it. At the beginning of the year, everybody in the league has the same goal, to win a championship. We’re the last man standing.”