By Luke Weir
The High Country Grizzlies revamped the team and switched arena football leagues in preparation for its second season, kicking off in Holmes Convocation Center March 17.
Sponsors of the Grizzlies met with players and staff Thursday night during a business after-hours event hosted at Harvest House by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.
William Thompson, General Manager and director of football operations, opened the event with a blessing and remarks, followed by words from part-owner Bryan Bouboulis and newly-appointed head coach Scott Meserve.
With over 25 years of experience as a football coach, Meserve’s message focused on creating a family dynamic within the Grizzlies.
“A Grizzlies game is a family event where a football game breaks out,” Meserve said.
But not a typical American football game. Arena football is an indoor variation of the sport, played on a pint-sized 50-yards long by 85-foot wide field. Eight players take the field per team, compared to 11 in an outdoor football game on a 100-yard field.
Most rules in the game of football translate to the arena variant—there are four 15-minute quarters, teams get three timeouts per half, and a touchdown is worth six points. Special teams are a bit different on the smaller arena turf—punting is illegal, kickers can net four points for drop-kicking field goals, and kickoffs are from the goal line with players touching the back wall.
The Grizzlies played in the National Arena League last season. This year, the Grizzlies will play in the American Arena League’s inaugural season. The AAL is a merger between the Arena Pro Football and the Can-Am Indoor Football Leagues.
Former Appalachian State receiver Mo Gore, who stepped up as defensive coordinator for the Grizzlies after acting as defensive line coach last season, is confident in the team’s switch in leagues.
“Moving to the AAL is great for us,” Gore said. “With the competition level and the guys we’re bringing in, we’re going to have more success, and under the leadership we’ve established with this new coaching staff, it’s looking like we’re going to be a force this year.”
Gore said travel times to away games will be shorter than last season. He also said AAL league rules allow for larger rosters than the NAL.
“You never really know what you got until you’ve got everybody in one spot,” Gore said. “It’s a quick process – two weeks of practice and then we make cuts.”
The Grizzlies signed 41 players to the team this offseason and will make final cuts in training camp starting late February. Among the team’s rookies are former Catawba College running back David Burgess and former Avery County High School quarterback James Stanley.
“We got some good receivers coming in, our defensive line looks incredible,” Stanley said. “Coach is going to have us disciplined in no time at all—I’m excited for camp.”
Both Burgess and Stanley said recruitment during the offseason will create a successful team dynamic for the Grizzlies’ 2018 season.
“Overall, with the discipline coach is going to put in us, I know we can win big time,” Burgess said. “It’s really going to test my abilities, and I love that.”
The High Country Grizzlies kick off their season against the Richmond Roughriders in the Holmes Convocation Center Saturday, March 17 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available online via highcountrygrizzlies.com.
High Country Grizzlies 2018 Schedule:
Week 1 vs Richmond Roughriders, March 17 at 7 p.m.
Week 2 vs Florida Tarpons, March 24 at 7 p.m.
Week 3 at Cape Fear, March 31 at 7 p.m.*
Week 4 BYE
Week 5 at Carolina Energy, April 14 at 7 p.m.*
Week 6 vs Triangle Torch, April 22 at 3 p.m.
Week 7 BYE
Week 8 vs Atlanta Havoc, May 5 at 7 p.m.
Week 9 BYE
Week 10 vs Vermont Bucks, May 19 at 7 p.m.
Week 11 vs Georgia Doom, May 26 at 7 p.m.
Week 12 at Richmond Roughriders, June 2 at 7 p.m.*
Week 13 at Upstate Dragons, June 9 at 7 p.m.*
* denotes away game