The Force isn’t trying to avenge the feelings that came with last season’s Champions Indoor Football postseason defeat as much as they’re trying to avoid them.
Wichita lost 39-27 to Texas in the first round of the playoffs last year in a game that was tied with 12 minutes to go. The what-if scenarios don’t come from those 12 minutes, but about the Force’s mental approach to the game and the emotional aftermath.
The Force plays Bloomington in the CIF semifinals on Saturday night at Intrust Bank Arena.
“We honestly picked the worst time to play one of our worst games,” Force receiver and returner Clarence Anderson said. “It was kind of embarrassing. I felt embarrassed more than anything. As a team I felt like there was so much more we could have left out there on the field. It’s kind of like an empty feeling, I guess you could say.”
That loss was the culmination of a difficult inaugural season for the Force and a roster that included several players who won two league championships with Wichita’s previous franchise, the Wild.
The Force used eight quarterbacks last year, some who played out of position, and didn’t have much time to adjust or settle into any of them. Making the playoffs was an achievement because of that upheaval.
Similar uncertainty was barely avoided this year. Quarterback Stephen Panasuk was signed to the Arena Football League after seven games and the Force called upon rookie David Olson, a former little-used backup for Stanford and Clemson.
Spurred mostly by the defense, the Force has nonetheless won all five of Olson’s starts as part of a current six-game winning streak, and Olson has passed for 10 touchdowns and run for seven.
“We faced a lot of adversity last year, a lot of injuries at the quarterback position,” Force defensive back Evan Ray said. “To be in that position through everything we faced, you could say we had a pretty good season. But having the type of organization we have, we expect to be in this position every single year.”
The Force won two regular-season games against Bloomington by eight points combined. That could make the roles of players such as Anderson and Ray more important – Anderson for his game-breaking return abilities and Ray for his coverage against Bloomington’s prolific passing attack.
“We had two tight games against them and I’m 100 percent sure they’re going to give it their best game,” Anderson said. “They’re not taking us lightly any more than we’re taking them lightly. This is the most important game of the season. Nothing in the past, nothing in the future matters right now.”
- When: 7 p.m. Saturday
- What: CIF semifinals
- Where: Intrust Bank Arena
- Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM