The 12 Months of Football – October
Football highlights from the month of October
The month began with the start of the Arena Football League free agent signing period on October 1. The date was originally supposed to be September 14 but was moved back in order to give teams more time to prepare after Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area.
On October 2 the NFL played its first ever regular season game outside the United States. The San Francisco 49ers were the home team in a Sunday night game against the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City. The NFL has played many preseason games in Mexico as well as in Japan, Canada and Europe, but they had never played one outside the U.S. during the regular season. The Cardinals won the game 31-14.
Earlier that same day, the New Orleans Saints played their first game of the season at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The Saints defeated the Buffalo Bills 19-7.
San Antonio is no stranger to pro football. The city has been home to five pro football teams over the years in five different professional football leagues. In 1975, there was the San Antonio Wings of the World Football League and from 1984-85, the United States Football League fielded the San Antonio Gunslingers. In 1991-92, the San Antonio Riders played in the World League of American Football. (The WLAF evolved into what is today known as NFL Europe) Also in 1992, the Arena Football League had a team there called the San Antonio Force. In 1995, the Canadian Football League had the San Antonio Texans as part of their trial expansion into the United States.
On October 4, the Arena Football League announced that an expansion team has been awarded to Kansas City for the 2006 season. Originally, the Kansas City team was not supposed to enter the league until 2007, but in the wake of the announcement on September 28 that the New Orleans VooDoo would not field a team next year, adding KC now will insure that the league will still have 18 teams in place for the 2006 season. The VooDoo’s home arena was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The fifteen players currently under contract to New Orleans will now be assigned to play for Kansas City.
The next day, October 5, the new Great Lakes Indoor Football League announced its sixth team for its 2006 season. The New York/New Jersey Revolution will be a traveling team and play all their games on the road. The team hopes to have an agreement for a home arena reached in time for the 2007 season.
At a one day owners meeting in Detroit on October 6, the NFL awarded the 2010 Super Bowl to the city of Miami. Miami had previously been selected to host the 2007 game a few years ago and the 2009 game will be played in Tampa. The game in 2010 will mark the 15th time that the Super Bowl will have been held in the state of Florida. In March of this year, the NFL awarded the 2010 game to New York on the condition that a proposed domed stadium in Manhattan gets approved and built. However, the New York Public Authorities Control Board voted down the stadium plan in June. The owners also extended operation of the NFL Europe league for another five years.
On October 8, the Northwestern Eagles, a Division III team in St. Paul, Minnesota, played two football games in one day. In the first game they beat Trinity Bible College 59-0 at home, and then the team traveled six and a half miles down the road by bus and beat the Macalester Scots 47-14. It is the first time in modern history that a college team has played two football games in a single day.
The Arena Football League announced on October 18 that Arena Bowl XX would again be played at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on June 11. It will be the second year in a row that the game will be played in Las Vegas.
On October 21, the af2 announced that they are resurrecting the Tennessee Valley Vipers in Huntsville, Alabama. The Vipers played in the af2 from 2000-2004, but last season they switched leagues and played in United Indoor Football as the Tennessee Valley Raptors. That team has since been moved to Rockford, Illinois and become the Rock River Raptors.
The Arena Football League released its 2006 schedule on October 25. The league’s 20th regular season begins on January 27 and ends on May 13.
As part of a halftime promotion in Toronto on October 27, a CFL fan kicks a 50-yard field goal during halftime of a game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He won $1 million!
On October 28, the af2 San Diego Riptide announced on their website that they would not field a team during the 2006 season. Instead, they will spend the next year reorganizing their business operations and plan to return to the field in 2007.
October Games Attended
For the second month in a row, I attended six games during the month, one NFL, two college and three high school games, bringing the total number of games attended in 2005 to 28.
The first game I attended this month was a Friday night high school game on October 7th. It was Homecoming for the Galesburg-Augusta Rams as they took on the Kalamazoo Christian Comets. The game was preceded, of course, by a Homecoming parade through the street of Galesburg. The parade had all the traditional Homecoming Parade participants. There were fire trucks, people on horseback, Miss Galesburg and the members of the G-A Royal Homecoming Court riding in Corvettes and, of course, class floats. This year’s theme was, "The Wide, Wide World of Obscure Sports." The floats depicted sumo wrestling, extreme dodge ball, table tennis and Frisbee golf.
With a record of 3-3 going into the game against the Comets, and three games left in the regular season, G-A needed a win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. In Michigan, high school teams play nine regular season games and must have six wins to automatically qualify for one of the 32-playoff spots in each of eight divisions. If there are not enough teams with six wins in each division at the end of the season, the Michigan High School Athletic Association will allow some teams with 5-4 records to fill out the remainder of the 256 statewide playoff spots. Divisions are based on enrollment size with Division 1 schools having the largest enrollments and Division 8 schools having the smallest enrollments.
Kalamazoo Christian took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but G-A answered with a touchdown of their own early in the second quarter. After a missed PAT, G-A still trailed 7-6. At halftime G-A trailed 21-6 and lost the game by the final score of 34-12.
The next day, October 9, my oldest son and I made our second trip of the year to Ford Field for another Detroit Lions game. This time the Lions took on the Baltimore Ravens. In 1980, I saw the Baltimore Colts play the Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome, but this was the first time I had ever seen the Ravens. I have now seen all but four of the current 32 NFL teams in person since attending my first NFL game in 1975. Those teams are the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos.
The Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead and won the game 35-17. Baltimore committed 21 penalties (one shy of an NFL record) for 147 yards. They also had two players ejected in the second half. I should have known it was going to be a wild game when my son and I got beer spilled on us in the first quarter by someone sitting behind us. Also, a large contingent of Ravens fans was sitting several rows behind us and was quite boisterous in the first half. They were noticeably quiet in the second half, though, and they even left early for some unknown reason!
On Friday night, October 14, I made the short drive from my home in Kalamazoo to the Annan Sports Complex at Mayor’s Riverfront Park to see another high school football game as the Hackett Catholic Central Fighting Irish hosted Galesburg-Augusta. Named after former Kalamazoo Mayor Ed Annon, the complex includes a football/soccer field and a baseball stadium. Soisson-Rapicz-Clason Field has hosted a couple of semi-pro football teams over the years as well as a women’s professional football team. The Kalamazoo Kingdom soccer team, which is part of the United Soccer Leagues, also play of the same field. Homer Stryker Field, which is located right next door to the football field, is home to the Kalamazoo Kings minor league baseball team. The Kings won the 2005 Frontier League championship this past summer.
Hackett led the game 13-6 late in the second quarter, but G-A drove down the field and had the ball at the 1-yard line with one second left on the clock. The team lined up and tried to spike the ball to stop the clock, but the referee said time had expired and the half was over. Hackett won the game by the final score of 35-6.
The high school football regular season in Michigan came to an end on October 21. That Friday night, I was at Galesburg-Augusta one last time to see the Rams host the Parchment Panthers. On their opening drive of the game, G-A executed one of my favorite plays in all of football, the fake punt. They completed a pass that was followed by a long run to get the ball deep into Parchment territory. G-A scored on the drive and took a 7-0 lead. G-A pulled off another fake punt in the third quarter to keep a drive going, but that drive ended with an interception in the end zone. Trailing 27-14 in the fourth quarter, G-A came back and scored two touchdowns win the game 28-27. The final G-A touchdown came with just 36 second left to play. The only thing that kept the game from going into overtime turned out to be a missed extra point by Parchment in the fourth quarter.
It was also Parents Night that Friday night at G-A, so before the game, the senior football players and cheerleaders were introduced along with their parents. At halftime, a special ceremony was held to honor G-A’s 75-year-old public address announcer who was calling his last game. He had been announcing G-A varsity, JV and freshman football games for the past 30 years and was a 1948 graduate of Galesburg. His grandson was a senior on the varsity football team this year.
Of the nine varsity football games G-A played this season, I was there for seven of them, all five home games and two away games. They finished the season with a record of 4-5. Not good enough to make the playoffs, but coming from behind in the fourth quarter and winning the game by one point was a great way to end the season for the team, and for the fans.
The next day, October 22, I was at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan for a game and Band Day. My oldest son plays drums in the Galesburg-Augusta High School Marching Band and they were invited to participate in Band Day at EMU along with 21 other high school bands. I went along as a chaperone and rode the bus with the band. The bands performed along with the EMU band at halftime of a Mid-American Conference game between the Eastern Michigan Eagles and the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks. Eastern Michigan lost the game 24-23 when they missed an extra point with 13 seconds left to play that would have sent the game into overtime. The attendance at the game was 5,785. This was the second time I had seen EMU play this year. In September I saw them play at the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor. The attendance at that game was 109,511 and EMU lost the game 55-0.
Rynearson Stadium at Eastern Michigan University was also the home field of the Detroit Wheels of the World Football League in 1974. In fact, as part of their lease agreement to play at EMU, the Wheels are the ones who had the stadium lights installed. Unfortunately, the Wheels folded due to financial problems after 14 games of the 20 game regular season with a record of 1-13. They played only five games in Ypsilanti during the league’s inaugural season and lost them all. The Wheels only win was on the road against the Florida Blazers.
On October 29, my oldest son and I made a short drive to Olivet, Michigan to see our first ever Division III college football game. The Kalamazoo College Hornets played the Olivet College Comets at the Cutler Athletic Complex in Olivet. Both teams are part of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Olivet scored first to take a 7-0 lead. Kalamazoo got on the scoreboard with 4.4 seconds left in the first half and trailed 17-7 at halftime. Olivet added a field goal in the third quarter and went on to win the game 20-14. Attendance at the game was 950.
In September, current Olivet College assistant head coach Bob Kubiak was also named the head coach of the Battle Creek Crunch of the new Great Lakes Indoor Football League. Kubiak graduated from Olivet College in 1982 where he played quarterback and was an All-MIAA selection during his senior year.
As 2005 winds down there is still a lot of football left to be experienced. In Michigan, the high school playoffs will continue through November and eight new division champions will be crowned the weekend after Thanksgiving at Ford Field in Detroit. The Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup championship game will also take place on November 27 at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. December will feature many college bowl games around the country and the NFL regular season will also be winding down.
And now that the 2006 Arena Football League schedule is out, fans are already beginning to drool over which teams are coming to their town next season. AFL training camps will open at the start of the New Year, the 2006 Arena season kicks off in late January and is capped off by Arena Bowl XX in June.
An off-season in football? I think not.
Randy Snow covered the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League for ArenaFan from 2003-2008. He also covered the Fort Wayne Fusion of arenafootball2 in 2007. From 2004-2008 and in 2010, he was a member of the Arena Football League Writer’s Association and, since 2011, has been a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association. Randy lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan but will travel just about anywhere for a football game or a great football story. He runs the web site www.theworldoffootball.com and hosts a podcast with his son, Adam, called “This Week in The World of Football.”