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Stars Home Debut A Success From A Fan's Point of View

April 5, 2006 - National Indoor Football League (NIFL) - Arkansas Stars News Release

One thing is certain: the nearly 4,000 fans who attended the Arkansas Stars NIFL home opener Saturday night at the Randal Tyson Track Center had a great time. Two would-be quarterback's tried their luck at winning free food for a year from Garfield's by throwing a football through a hole in a banner. Many saw a side of pro football they had probably never witnessed when they were treated to the pre-game production of the field crew putting down the artificial turf and hanging the goal posts for the Stars game against the visiting Charleston Sandsharks.And from start to finish, the crowd was sooooo into the game!!

The brand of indoor football being offered up for the first time this year in Fayetteville is new to almost everyone who attended the game on Saturday night. But Arkansas Stars owners Ron and Katona Hargrave say if what they witnessed this past weekend is any indication of what's to follow in 2006, the National Indoor Football League has found a permanent home in this football mad city.

"I spent the better part of the night walking through the crowd," says Katona Hargrave, who with her husband Ron parlayed a successful balloon riding company into a venture into the world of professional sports, "and simply asked if people were enjoying the game, if they were having a good time. Everyone was really excited to be there and to a person commented on the fast paced action on the field. It's football up close and personal, and I guess the key question I asked was ‘will you come back?' It made me feel good about what Ron and I brought to the city of Fayetteville, when more often than not the answer I heard was ‘yes.'

Despite the fans reaction, the evening was not without it's glitches, both on and off the field. Due to some software problems on the video board, there was no time clock employed and no electronic score keeping, problems that Stars CEO Ron Hargrave says "were unforeseen and thus unavoidable. That problem will be corrected when the team returns home after several games on the road, but we were faced with a choice, and I feel that we made the right one."

That choice was allowing the video board software to display the game, and according to Hargrave, "honor our sponsors commercial mentions and thus serve notice that we take our responsibility to our sponsors very seriously. I think the fans would and did understand that a new team, a first night, coupled with a new venue will sometimes add up to a pothole or two." Hargrave took note of the St. Louis Cardinals using two minor league teams this week to "iron out all the unforeseen problems at the new Busch Stadium with an minor league game before the Cards come calling on Tuesday. It's a great idea if it can happen, but we didn't have that luxury. But I can promise our fans that we'll have it all up and running by the next game."

And Stars head coach Ray House has some work in store, too. Trailing by just 28-19 at the half, the Stars held tight on defense in the last two quarters, allowing only 20 points. Problem was, they could only muster up 8 themselves, and fell for the second straight game, 48-27. That lack of offense has the coach concerned. "We need to get our running game going and the timing between quarterback and receivers has got to improve. This is an offensive league, and we need to get up to it in a hurry."

There were some bright sports, however, as House gave credit to his defense for "hanging tight in the second half and basically shutting down the passing game. But Charleston took advantage of that by allowing Bennett to take off again and again." The Sandsharks quarterback rushed 13 times for 138 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 30, 5, and 8 yards, accounting for most of the Charleston offense. "We were out rushed 195 yards to 33, and that's unacceptable, especially with the firepower we have in the backfield. They got 8 first downs rushing, so while our defense kept points off the board, their time of possession allowed them to control the football and kept our offense off the field. You can't score points in this league from the bench."

An offensive bright spot for the Stars was wide receiver Charles James, who had 6 catches for 66 yards. But, House says, "there were no touchdowns in that mix, and we've got to find ways to convert those numbers into scores. But, hey, this is a team that is learning this indoor game week by week, and these are all quality football players, exceptional athletes. If that were not the case, they wouldn't be wearing a uniform in the NIFL. We'll give our fans their money's worth before it's all over."

But for fans who took in the Arkansas Stars 2006 home debut this past Saturday's already a family fun-filled bargain. One down...six more to go!!

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National Indoor Football League Stories from April 5, 2006

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