The Force roster, released last week with 24 players, deserves a once-over just to make sure that the 2015 roster wasn’t accidentally re-released.
Wichita’s entire defense returns, with longtime stalwarts James McCartney and Matt Moss on the defensive line and Kendrick Harper fortifying the backfield. Those three players date to the days of the Wild, which won indoor football championships in 2013 and ’14 before disbanding.
The identity of indoor football in Wichita has become continuity. Even though the Force has undergone somewhat of an overhaul on offense, 17 players return from an inaugural season that ended in the first round of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League playoffs.
The Force begins its season Saturday at Salina.
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“It’s invaluable,” Force coach Paco Martinez said. “We know that it’s a ticking clock. Players get older and the window closes, and their body can only hold up for so much longer. But we took the approach this year that defense is going to lead us to a championship, so we wanted as many returners as we can.”
The Force’s consistency – and that of the Wild – is a two-way street. Martinez, who coached the Wild in 2014, is big on loyalty as long as long-running players can contribute to winning.
McCartney, Moss and Harper have embodied that philosophy and Martinez has found players such as former NFL defensive back Elbert Mack, a North High product, and linebacker Jason Catchings who could also become stalwarts.
“That’s just something that we provide up front to the guys, we don’t ask for anything in return,” Martinez said. “We just say that as long as you’re performing, you’re going to have a spot on this team.”
On offense, the Wild doesn’t have quite the same familiarity. But Emmanuel Taylor, who played five games at quarterback last year, returns along with receivers Brett Soft, Clarence Anderson, Rashad Daniels and Benji Love. Daniels’ and Love’s seasons were cut short by injury.
The Force redid its offensive line and has a new running back, Quentin Benning, who played at Friends. Those differences present a rare deviation from Martinez’s typical practices.
“If you look at other teams in this league and even other leagues, they make a lot of roster moves,” Martinez said. “They change towns. They see a guy and think he’s better than what they have, and they cut somebody. We’ve never done that. We’ve always brought in guys and we’ve been loyal to them, and they’ve been loyal to us.”