The lesson from this the Force’s inaugural indoor football season is to never be the quarterback.
Starter Rocky Hinds, who led the now-defunct Wild to league championships the last two seasons, suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Force’s Week 1 loss to Salina.
In the Force’s most recent game, a loss to Texas on April 11, backup Joe Kassanavoid, normally a wide receiver, hurt his knee and will miss the rest of the season. Kyle Jech, whom Wichita signed following Hinds’ injury, injured his shoulder in an off-the-field incident and will be out two weeks.
Wichita plays at Salina on Saturday night and at Sioux City next weekend.
“It’s been a pretty rough two weeks,” Force coach Paco Martinez said. “You don’t ever have a plan for trying to find a fourth and fifth quarterback, so it’s just kind of a shock. You just try to find guys who are hanging around somewhere.”
Those guys are Michael Stewart, who has about a decade of indoor football experience, and Jonathan Wright, who played receiver at Hutchinson Community College. Martinez plans to split their time until Jech returns.
The Force have started 4-2 with inconsistent production from their quarterbacks. Hinds, Kassanavoid and Jech have combined to throw 12 interceptions in 150 attempts with a 51.3 completion percentage and 17 touchdowns.
A group of receivers that includes former Ottawa University and Southeast star Clarence Anderson, along with Dontel Watkins, a former Tennessee Titans training camp participant, have minimized the need for a dominating quarterback.
Wichita is also often boosted by its running game and its defense, which has surrendered 42 or fewer points in each of the Force’s wins.
“Every quarterback’s ability is different,” Martinez said. “… I kind of molded our game plan each week to what their strengths were, but we didn’t really change our game plan. It’s still the same plays, it’s just I like different plays for different quarterbacks.”
The Force has topped 45 points once since an opening-week 64-61 loss to Salina, so Martinez needs Stewart and Wright to be quick studies to keep the offense from a slip that Wichita’s defense can’t cover. Wichita has scored 33 points in its last five quarters.
The only bright-side aspect of the recent injuries is that the Force has dealt with similar circumstances before and won four games in a row following Hinds’ injury.
“I wouldn’t say easier. Getting to the fourth and fifth quarterback, nothing is easy,” Martinez said. “But it’s something where we’ve faced a lot of adversity in the first half of the season – first game losing the quarterback and then just a bunch of stuff with player personnel things.
“Just a bunch of stuff going against us that we were able to handle. To come out of those first six games 4-2, that’s pretty (darn) good. Now our guys know how to handle adversity.”