The 12 Months of Football Ė November
Highlights From the Month in Football
On November 1, arenafootball2 released its 2006 schedule. The leagueís seventh regular season begins on March 30 and ends on July 29. The af2 will field 23 teams next season, up from 20 in 2005, including the resurrected Tennessee Valley Vipers in Huntsville, Alabama and three new teams. Two of the new teams are located in the state of Washington, the expansion Spokane Shock and the Everett Hawks. The Hawks played last season in the National Indoor Football League. Another new team in California, the Stockton Lightning, was also included on the schedule, but they did not officially unveil their team nickname and logo until November 9. Yet another af2 team, the San Diego Riptide, is taking a year off to reorganize its operations and plans to return to the schedule in 2007.
On November 5, my hometown Western Michigan Broncos played their cross-state Mid-American Conference rival, the Eastern Michigan Eagles, in the second annual Collegiate Clash. The game was played at Ford Field in Detroit, home of the Detroit Lions. Western Michigan won the game 44-36. This was the second time this season that Western Michigan had played in an NFL stadium. Back in September, the Broncos defeated the Temple Owls 19-16 at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Last year, during the first Collegiate Clash, Eastern Michigan hosted the Central Michigan Chippewas as part of a college football double-header at Ford Field. Eastern Michigan won the game 61-58 in four overtimes. The first game featured a couple of local Division II schools, the Wayne State Warriors and the Hillsdale Chargers. Hillsdale won that game 37-10. Both Division II teams belong to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
On November 6, I went to see the Grand Rapids Rampage hold an open tryout for prospective players at their practice facility in Kentwood, Michigan. (For details on this event, see a separate ArenaFan article titled, "Rampage Tryout Draws Large Crowd")
Several new teams in various indoor football leagues unveiled nicknames and logos during the month of November. The American Indoor Football League announced that their new team in Troy, Ohio will be called the Miami Valley Silverbacks. United Indoor Football announced that its new expansion team in Bloomington, Illinois will be known as the Bloomington Extreme and a new team in the Intense Football League, located in central Texas, will be called the CenTex Barracudas. Two new franchises in the National Indoor Football League were also unveiled. One in Katy, Texas called the Katy Copperheads and another in Bozeman, Montana called the Big Sky Thunder.
Also in the NIFL, two current teams decided to change their nicknames to the same thing! The Kissimmee Kreatures new owners changed the teamís name to the Osceola Outlaws and the Billings Mavericks purchased the naming rights from the owner of a previous NIFL team in Billings. They will now be known as the Billings Outlaws. It reminds me of a days when the Canadian Football League had the Saskatchewan Roughriders as well as the Ottawa Rough Riders. The Ottawa team folded in 1996 and was replaced with a new team in 2002 called the Ottawa Renegades.
In the Arena Football League, the expansion team in Kansas City unveiled its nickname and team colors on November 21. The team will be known as the Kansas City Brigade and the team colors will be blue, silver and black. The team logo features a B-2 Stealth Bomber with an outline of a football in the background.
On Saturday, November 19, thanks to the technology of the satellite dish, I was able to relax on my couch and channel surf between three of the oldest rivalries in all of college football, Lehigh-Lafayette, Harvard-Yale and Michigan-Ohio State.
The Lafayette Leopards and Lehigh Mountain Hawks football series began in 1884 and it is the longest ongoing series in all of college football. This yearís game was the 141st meeting between the two Division I-AA schools in Pennsylvania. Lafayette won the game 23-19.
Simply know as "The Game," the Division I-AA Harvard Crimson defeated the Yale Bulldogs 30-24 in three overtimes! It was the 122nd meeting between the two Ivy League schools, which began back in 1875. The games was also the first triple overtime game in Ivy League history!
Last but not least was the youngest of the three college games, the one between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes. It was only the 102nd meeting between these two Big 10 rivals, which began in 1897. Ohio State won the game 25-21.
The 2005 ArenaBowl champion Colorado Crush were honored during a Denver Broncos game at Invesco Field in Denver on November 20. Between the first and second quarters of the game against the New York Jets, video highlights of the Crush season were shown to the crowd. Three Crush players were then introduced on the field, QB John Dutton, WR/DB Willis Marshall and OS Damian Harrell. The crowd was also shown a picture of the teamís championship ring.
Thanksgiving at my house means Detroit Lions football on TV. Over the years I have even attended a couple of Lions Thanksgiving games in person. The Lions began the Thanksgiving Day tradition 1934, the teamís first year in Detroit after they moved there from Portsmouth, Ohio. The Dallas Cowboys jumped on the Thanksgiving Day game bandwagon in 1966. The Lions lost this yearís game on November 24 to the Atlanta Falcons, 27-7. Their record dropped to 4-7. The Monday after the game, November 28, Lions head coach Steve Mariucci was fired and replaced for the remainder of the season by defensive coordinator Dick Jauron.
The Michigan high school football championship games were played at Ford Field on November 25 and 26. The Division 2, 4, 6, and 8 games were played on Friday, the 25th and the championship games for Divisions 1, 3, 5 and 7 were played on Saturday the 26th. This was the first year that the Michigan high school football championship games were played at Ford Field in Detroit. In previous years, the games were played at the Lions former home, the Pontiac Silverdome. Seven of the eight games were shown live on Fox Sports Network-Detroit. The other game was tape delayed due to a Detroit Pistons basketball game.
The 93rd CFL Grey Cup championship game was played on Sunday, November 27, at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. BC Place is a domed stadium similar to the Pontiac Silverdome where the Detroit Lions played from 1975 through the 2001 season. The Montreal Alouettes, winners of the East Division, took on the Edmonton Eskimos, winners of the West Division. The Eskimos won the game 38-35 in double overtime. It was the second overtime game in Grey Cup history, the other occurred back in 1961. Attendance at the game was 59,195.
Only One Game Attended in November
After attending six games each in September and October, things slowed down quite a bit in November.
On November 12, my oldest son and I drove to the other side of Kalamazoo to see the Western Michigan University Broncos take on the Central Michigan University Chippewas at Waldo Stadium.
Western Michigan is celebrating its 100th season of football this year. They wore special patches on their uniforms and have the same logo painted on the field. This was the second time this year that I had been to Waldo Stadium. The first time was back in April when I attended the Black and Gold spring football game.
The pre-game show had a uniquely local flavor. The WMU band played a rendition of the Glenn Miller tune, "Iíve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo." It was also the day after Veteranís Day, so the band honored past and present members of the Armed Forces by playing the theme song from each branch of service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. As each song was played, a color guard from that service paraded their flag onto the field. As a veteran myself, I appreciated this salute to the military, but the best part was yet to come. At the end of the musical tribute, two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the nearby Battle Creek Air National Guard Base made a low pass over the stadium. I served in the Battle Creek unit for 21 years and spent 16 years as an aircraft weapons system mechanic. Six of those years were spent maintaining the internal gun system on the A-10. To me, itís the greatest plane in the entire Air Force.
The game started out badly for Western Michigan as CMU took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. After that, however, WMU scored 31 unanswered points and led 31-14 in the third quarter. However, CMU scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and they had the ball in WMU territory as the game was winding down. On the final play of the game, a CMU pass was batted away in the end zone as time expired. WMU hung on for a 31-24 victory. A crowd of 23,484 fans were on hand for the game.
Later that night, the game was rebroadcast on Comcast SportsNet-Chicago, which is available on my satellite dish, as the MAC Game of the Week.
An added bonus to the game was that the victory also earned WMU the first ever Michigan MAC Football Championship, a new trophy which is sponsored by the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. The trophy is in the shape of the state of Michigan and features the logos of Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Western Michigan. It is awarded to the team with the best record against the other two Mid-American Conference schools in Michigan. WMU had beaten Eastern the previous week at Ford Field. It is a round-robin trophy similar to the Commander-In-Chief Trophy which rotates between the three service academy football teams of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
During the course of the game, the names of former WMU players, who were selected as the schoolís All-Century Top 100 Players, were shown on the stadium video screen. I recognized several names on the list because they went on to play or are currently playing in the Arena Football League. Among them are WR Josh Bush (WMU 1998-2001) who is currently playing for the Grand Rapids Rampage, kicker Brad Selent (WMU 1997-2000) who played for the Detroit Fury in 2002 and QB Tony Kimbrough (WMU 1987-88) who played for the Charlotte Rage, San Jose SaberCats and Buffalo Destroyers during the 1990ís. Kimbrough was an assistant coach in Grand Rapids in 2003 and is currently the offensive coordinator of the New York Dragons.
Also on the list were QB Jay McDonagh (WMU 1993-95) who played for the Las Vegas Gladiators from 2002-2003 and the Columbus Destroyers in 2004 and CB Tristan Moss (WMU 1992-95) who played for Grand Rapids from 2000-01 and the Chicago Rush in 2002.
Other Arena players on the All-Century Top 100 list were DT Dion Powell (WMU 1992-95) who played for the Albany Firebirds in 1997, DB Ron Rogers (WMU 1998-2001) who played for the Colorado Crush in 2004, LB Peter Tuffo (WMU 1990, 92-93) who played for the Nashville Kats from 1997-98 and DE Chris Browning (WMU 1999-2002) who played for the New Orleans VooDoo in 2005, and who has since signed with the Columbus Destroyers, To date, over 20 players from WMU who have gone on to play in the Arena Football League.
Another former WMU player on the All-Century Top 100 list who went on to play professional football is QB Tim Lester (WMU 1996-99). Lester played for the Chicago Enforcers of the XFL in 2001 and also spent time in the Arena league with the Nashville Kats and Carolina Cobras as well as the Memphis Xplorers in the af2. Lester is currently the quarterback coach at WMU.
A couple of others on the Top 100 list went on to play in the NFL. LB John Offerdahl (WMU 1982-85) played for the Miami Dolphins from 1986-93 and went to five straight Pro Bowls (1986-90). DE Jason Babin (WMU 2000-03) was a first round draft pick in 2004 by the Houston Texans and is currently in his second year in the NFL.
At the same time as the WMU/CMU game, another college football game was going on just a short distance away. Across Stadium Drive and across the railroad tracks from Waldo Stadium, the Division III Kalamazoo College Hornets were hosting their last game of the season. A crowd of 1,150 was on hand as K-College blocked an extra point that would have tied the game with 35 seconds to go and held on for a dramatic 41-40 victory over the Tri-State Thunder. Kalamazoo College, members of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, ended the season with an overall record of 4-6.
So, thatís it for November. Only one month remains for me to take in a football game this year and complete my 12 Months of Football journey. What game will it be? Youíll just have to wait and see.
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 Writerís 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 ďThis Week in The World of Football.Ē