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The Chattanooga Generals are five and a half days away from their first game, facing the Chattahoochee Valley Vipers at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Camp Jordan Arena.
The Vipers are an outdoor team playing a handful of indoor road games this spring. After visiting the Generals, who are affiliate members of American Indoor Football, the Vipers will play three United Indoor Football League teams.
After the Generals' practice outdoors Saturday at Camp Jordan Park, coach Rick Butler said he was happy with his team's talent level. But it's been a quick construction project for him and fellow assistant general manager and co-personnel director Clint Spencer, who's an assistant coach.
"Clint and I and the owner [Andre White of Atlanta] have put together in three weeks a team we believe can be competitive athleticially," Butler said. "We're going to hit people; we're going to run people down and make plays. But we're three weeks to a month behind everybody [in the AIF], so the execution offensively is going to be an issue -- everything from formations to snap count."
"We've had 10 practices. It's going to take time for us to mesh and mold," Butler added. "At all levels of football it would take time for a brand new group to mesh their execution, and we've got some first-time arena players."
Some of the players have professional experience, though -- some even on Arena 1 rosters, he said.
The roster includes Derek Watson, a former South Carolina and Canadian Football League running back. He's now over 30, but one of the Generals' linemen is Hawaii native Eddie Williams, a UCLA stalwart in 2009 and 2010.
One of those with no pro background is quarterback Gary Orr from Soddy-Daisy, who started collegiately for Austin Peay.
"He's a great kid. He's a good competitor and he's smart," Butler said.
Orr said the Generals have made great progress in a short time.
"We've come a long way. We're coming together as a team, and we're hanging out as a team," he said. "And we have enough good athletes that for the most part we can two-platoon. Our goal is to go 7-0 and make the playoffs."
Butler has confirmed that the AIF has extended that "carrot" as a possibility for the Generals, who in the original plan were an exhibition team for this year with a full schedule to come in 2013.
Teams can have 22 players, but the active roster is 18 with eight in a game at a time. More liberalized indoor rules do allow freer substitution than in the past, but some receivers still may double up as defensive backs and vice versa, and linemen and fullbacks or linebackers might have to play both ways at times as well.
Ray Cheatham, 25, is a defensive back who played for Kansas State. A KSU teammate connected him to Spencer a few years ago, he said, and that led to this opportunity -- his first shot at arena play.
"I feel like everybody is coming together and everybody's got a positive attitude," Cheatham said.
Former area all-state high school players Lee Hilt from McCallie at receiver and Montez Davis from Cleveland at defensive back also were active in the skill-position players' part of practice Saturday morning. Another receiver was C.J. Dial from Central, a Tennessee Crush standout in recent years.
Hilt, for one, has been a pleasant surprise, Butler noted.
"He has been making great strides. He's a sharp route runner with sure hands," the coach said.
Chattanooga Generals dominant in arena football debut
EAST RIDGE - The Chattanooga Generals and Chattahoochee Valley Vipers took to the turf at Camp Jordan Arena Saturday night both sporting very similar uniform color combinations of blue, black, and white.
Then the whistle blew to start the game, and that's where the similarities ended.
The Generals left no doubt as to who was the better team, pummeling the Auburn, Ala.-area Vipers, 62-0, in the inaugural game for Chattanooga's new arena football team.
Chattanooga put up seven offensive touchdowns and 324 total yards on the 50-yard field, but it was the defense that came up big early and often on the night.
The Generals' defense recorded seven sacks, picked off three passes, and returned a fumble for a touchdown in the game's opening minutes while holding the Vipers to a total of minus-3 yards of offense.
Chattanooga's defense set the tone on the very first series, breaking up a pass, recording a sack, and forcing a fumble that led to a 2-yard touchdown return and the first six points in Generals' history.
The offense then scored its first touchdown of the game on the final play of the first quarter as former Soddy-Daisy High School and Austin Peay University quarterback Gary Orr hit Marc Caldwell for a 47-yard scoring strike, the first of three TD catches for the former Arkansas Tech receiver.
Ex-Eastern Illinois University Panther Charles Owens scored on an 18-yard run later in the second quarter and Caldwell's 41-yard TD grab with 30 seconds left in the half gave the Generals a commanding 26-0 lead at intermission.
Owens turned in his second rushing TD of the night, this one from 30 yards out, on the first play of the third quarter, and he capped his night with a 21-yard TD reception from Orr later in the quarter to extend the lead to 40-0.
Former Duke University standout and Ringgold native Marcus Jones got the call under center in the fourth quarter, hitting Caldwell on a 16-yard scoring strike, and finding former UTC Moc Montez Davis on a 37-yard scoring play.
Former Carson-Newman Eagle Chris Shiverdecker accounted for the final touchdown of the night on a 15-yard scamper with just over a minute to play.
Orr was 8-of-12 for 153 yards and three touchdowns while Jones completed two of his three passes for 53 yards and two scores. Caldwell had five catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns while Owens and former South Carolina Gamecock Duccas Turman each rushed three times for 43 yards.
Marcus Williams (Fort Valley State) had two interceptions for Chattanooga while Ray Cheatham (Kansas State) had one.
Vipers' quarterback Owen Searcy completed just 8-of-22 passes for 47 yards, but the Vipers were bottled up to the tune of minus-50 yards on the ground.