Quest for Great Lakes Bowl I – Battle Creek Crunch Season Preview

March 28, 2006 - Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL) - Battle Creek Crunch News Release

The timeline is pretty simple. On July 9, 2005, the GLIFL announced an arena exclusivity agreement with Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. On September 7, 2005, the GLIFL announced Mike Powell as the owner of the yet-to-be-named Battle Creek team. Today, the Crunch are 10 days from kicking off at home on April 7 against their in-state rival Port Huron Pirates. This is the first in a series of six team previews; one for each team in the new Great Lakes Indoor Football League.

Powell and the Crunch have already overcome the biggest obstacle in a market with multiple minor league teams. "We're not working against the (IBL Champion) Knights. We're working with the Knights!" said Powell. "They were in the same boat last year as we are right now. That's been a great help to us," added Powell. The Knights and Crunch are planning cross-promotions in the form of ticket discounts for games to both teams, as sometimes they play on consecutive nights. The question in Battle Creek is: Can the Crunch build off the success of the Knights, a team that went 20-0 and won the IBL Championship, all in its first season?

The Crunch are doing everything they can to gain awareness in the community off the field. In addition to the football game itself, they will be providing local bands as entertainment, as well as the "Illegal Motion" Dance Team. The team strives to work with area schools, including work to incorporate local high school bands into their pregame introduction routine. "We're trying to make this as much a production as we can," said Powell.

On the field, Battle Creek will be no slouch. The Crunch bring a roster ripe with experience, including WR/DB Brian Dolph (AFL Indiana Firebirds). A number of other players, including WR/DBs L.J. Parker and Chesaurae Rhodes, also have indoor experience. "It's a great help," said Crunch head coach Bob Kubiak. "It's like having another coach on the field. It's like the players have a mentor to talk to about this game."

The Crunch offense has the experience, and the potential, to light up the scoreboard. The experienced Brian Dolph looks to lead this potent group, which also includes Rhodes, Don Lonsway, Darrel Johnson, Eric Gardner, and L.J. Parker. The mix of size, speed, and experience will form a very strong passing game. Experience playing on a 50-yard field with sideline dasher walls is also key. The first time a player comes in contact with those walls in a game is a long-remembered event. Having players with experience at the receiver position such that they can extend when near the walls will be worth at least a couple of extra completions a game. Rhodes looks to be the big play threat out of Battle Creek, combining his receiving speed with ability as a kick returner to bring a lot of action to Crunch games.

How well can that football be delivered to that receiving corps? Tim and Ken Kubiak both had very good college careers at the quarterback spot, but neither has ever played on the 50-yard game. Whichever Kubiak gets the starting nod will quickly have to show his mettle in the much faster 7-on-7 game. "We must get the QB comfortable in the pocket," added Coach Kubiak. "We can't just roll out, sprint out, make a bunch of time for these guys. We don't have the time or the space to do that. We have two guys who can drop back and deliver the football, which is what you have to have in this game." The FB/LB corps of Carmell Dennis, Joe Johnson, Ted Kluck, Brian Mallory, and Will Warren should also provide significant clout on both sides of the ball, with Mallory as the most experienced indoor player of that group.

The linemen on both sides of the ball appear to be Battle Creek's biggest question mark, but they are developing quickly. Even so, there is work to be done. "We need to get stronger in defensive pass rush, especially," noted Kubiak. "We need to make sure we stay competitive with our line group." Kyle Lacksheide was a top player in his days at Olivet College, and Chris Gillette was a MAC standout at Toledo. "I think quality linemen are the hardest positions to fill at this level," said Crunch player Ted Kluck, who is also writing about his experience with the team for ESPN.com Page 2. "Our staff has done a great job of finding these guys."

The entire defense, though with some experience, might not be developing as quickly as the offense appears to be. "The defensive rules in this game do take some defensive strategy out. But, it also allows us to be more creative on offense," added the coach. Some of those aforementioned offensive players will start on defense, including FB/LB Brian Mallory, who could be Battle Creek's defensive leader. Mallory had 3 sacks and an interception, as well as 3.5 tackles for loss for the UIF's Tennessee Valley Raptors last year, even while only playing in six games.

Chuck Selinger provides valuable Division 1 experience (Central Michigan) to the Crunch kicking game. "With as good a player as Chuck is, we're in field goal range (even with low ceilings and small arenas) with just one first down on any drive, no matter where we start," said Kubiak about his kicker. Rhodes leads a kick return unit that should provide some excitement to the fans, as well.

All in all, Battle Creek looks strong on paper, but that all goes out the window come April 7, when the Port Huron Pirates come to town. "You don't know how you're going to match up, until you actually go out there and match up with someone else," said Kubiak. Even so, excitement reigns supreme in Battle Creek. "Our players are ready to hit someone else."

The Great Lakes Indoor Football League kicks off its inaugural season on April 7 with two games. The Crunch host the Port Huron Pirates, while the NY/NJ Revolution travel to Rochester to face the Raiders. The Lehigh Valley Outlawz close the league's opening weekend with a trip to Marion to face the Mayhem on April 8. For more information about the league, please visit the GLIFL website at www.glifl.com, or contact GLIFL Director of Media Relations Josh Stein at jstein@glifl.com.

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