Photo: Offensive Coordinator Rod Windsor and quarterback Kaleb Barker have shared in much success this season
IFL National Championship Game
Quad City Steamwheelers vs. Northern Arizona Wranglers
Dollar Loan Center (5567 capacity) Henderson, Nevada
Saturday, August 13, 5:05 pm Pacific Time TV: KAZT-TV, IFL YouTube Channel
Making history comes to mind when you take a good hard look at the Northern Arizona Wranglers. No other team in professional sports has gone from the worst in their league to winning the championship in just one year. A Wrangler win would achieve just that.
It started when owner Trey Medlock and Fred DePalma did not like, nor enjoy the results on the field last season. So much so that they let everyone go from last years team, except for kicker Brandon Fischer and assistant coach Dave Moran. The team was basically built from the ground up, with a top notch coaching staff forming a solid foundation, the pieces of the puzzle were brought in to form the 2022 version of the Wranglers.
IFL commissioner Todd Tyron recognized and commended both teams on the journey to this championship game. “You have Quad City who needed help in the final week to even make the playoffs and Northern Arizona who won just one game last year. Both of these teams were not supposed to be here, but they are. It is going to be a great game and we are all looking forward to it.”
Coach Moss described his team as hard working, and with the results on the field makes that perfectly clear. Moss said about his Coach of the a Year award, “I consider this a team award. We have a great coaching staff that have worked very hard. The players have also worked very hard, and if it weren’t for the entire team, we would not even be here.” Thoughts on the game, “We are in really good shape. We had two weeks to get some people back at full strength and with the good practices. This is the 19th game for these guys. As for the preparation, we’re just getting ready to play a game, like we always do.”
Kaleb Barker said, “I just try to find other things to think about so thinking about the game does not get overwhelming. We have had perhaps our best practices of the year, and now it is just a matter of putting it all together on the field.”
Ulric Jones said, “We are ready. Good practices this past couple weeks. Everyone on this team knows what they have to do and if we do what we know we are capable of, the trophy is ours.”
The players of the year spoke about receiving their awards. JaQuan Artis in his rookie year winning the Defensive Player of the Year award said, “Thankful to be here. Thankful to God and my teammates and I am looking forward to playing this game.”
E.J. Hilliard, Offensive Player of the Year said, “Thankful to God, my coaches and my teammates for all that they have done to help. This has been an opportunity to be a leader and when you have guys coming to asking you can you pray for me, have lunch with me, or just go hang out, maybe need advice, knowing that people trust you with their life. It is a blessing, and that carries over into the field.”
Keyvan Rudd was actually with the Wranglers last season, but before that he was a Quad City Steamwheeler, said ”I have a lot of respect for those guys. I was with them last year and it was not fun, so to see what they have achieved is quite amazing.”
James “Kimo” Naeho is the 47 year old place kicker for the Steamwheelers and said, “Most of these guys could be my sons, so it is interesting still playing at this age. Asked about another year, “Well that all depends on my body. If everything works, then you probably will see me back out here.”
Coach Cory Ross described his team as a family, “It does not matter what one of us is going through. We work hard and we just don’t leave it on the field, it goes into our personal lives. We have a great group that cares about each other and it shows on the field each and every game. Our team has had good practices and the game plan in place ready to go.”
The players, the coaches, even us media folk are ready. A brand new turf is down for the game and the Dollar Loan Center is more than ready for the championship game. So get your snacks and grub ready for a very entertaining evening of arena football.