By Eric N. Moore, Managing Editor
Since its beginnings in the late 1980s, arena (indoor) football has provided opportunities for HBCU players to extend their careers beyond college. This weekend, two of the three existing leagues will be playing championship games and personnel from HBCUs will be making significant contributions.
The festivities begin on Saturday, July 8 when the The Sioux Falls Storm (15-2) host the Arizona Rattlers (13-4) in a clash of Indoor Football League (IFL) Division Champions called the United Bowl. Kickoff is set for 6:05 pm ET at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD.
This game will be a match-up of two storied franchises. The Storm has punched their ticket to the United Bowl for the eighth consecutive season winning six of the last seven titles. The Arizona Rattlers entered the IFL at the beginning of the 2017 season after spending 24 years in the Arena Football League (AFL); the Rattlers have won five Arena Bowl Championships in 1994, 1997, and then went back-to-back-to-back between 2012-2014.
Rosters for both teams include players from HBCUs. Arizona has four players; Edward Mosley (#49 DL - Alabama State), Glen Haisley Jr. (#50 OL - Prairie View A&M), Damian Love (#58 OL - Alabama State) and Jordan Mosley (#99 OL - Johnson C. Smith). Sioux Falls has three HBCU products on its roster; Tyler Knight (#3 LB - Mississippi Valley State), Brandon Peguese (#34 DL – Hampton) and Myniya Smith (#75 OL – Southern).
The game will be streamed on YouTube with the option of listening to Rattlers radio or Storm radio.
Two days after the United Bowl, the National Arena League will conduct its championship game. The Jacksonville Sharks (11-1) will host the Columbus Lions (8-3) Monday, July 10 at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. Kickoff is slated for 7:30pm ET.
In addition to a strong Florida A&M representation, both teams have quarterbacks who played at HBCUS.
Alabama State product Darren Daniel (#1) led Columbus in total offense during the regular season and may get the starting nod at qb for the championship game. He will be joined by FAMU’s Kendrick Washington (#7 DE) and Fort Valley State products LeRon Furr (#10 LB) and Lindsey Wolfe (#14 K).
The Sharks are HBCU strong with six black college products on their 25-man roster led by quarterback Damien Fleming (#17). The FAMU alum is getting hot at the right time. In the Sharks’ playoff win over Monterrey, he went 21-28 for 268 yards and 4 touchdowns. Joining Fleming on the roster are Thyron Lewis (#6 WR – Howard), Devin Wilson (#10 WR - Tennessee State), Nick Belcher (#12 K - South Carolina State), Cornelius Lewis (#72 OL - Tennessee State) and Joe Hills (#81 WR - Tennessee State).
The public address announcer for the game will be Rattler Football Network play-by-play announcer Joshua Jackson, another FAMU grad.