Raptors play a bit sloppy in home debut, but game exciting
After a quick three-and-out, the Everett Raptors, playing their first home game in the Indoor Football League, faced fourth-and-10 from their own 12-yard line.
So naturally, the Raptors sent out their field-goal unit.
At first, I thought for sure I was hallucinating, what with all the exhaust floating around Comcast Arena after pregame festivities that included nine motorcycles revving their engines, but, no, teams do indeed attempt field goals from pretty much everywhere in indoor football, which is played on a 50-yard field.
The kick was unsuccessful, as was most of the home opener for the Raptors, Everett's first professional indoor team since the Everett Hawks folded in 2007. For starters, the team, and the offense in particular, struggled to get much done for most of the night in what ended up a 48-27 loss to the Allen Wranglers. Starting quarterback Charles McCullum is out for perhaps the season with an ankle injury that required surgery Thursday, and his backup, Ryan Ratekin, struggled throughout the night.
Perhaps more discouraging, the Raptors played their home opener in front of a crowd that was listed as 1,733 and looked considerably smaller than that. By the end of the game, with the score getting out of hand, the Raptors experienced their first boo birds in their first home game.
But enough with the negativity. No, the end result wasn't what the home team hoped for, nor was the turnout, but the actual on-field product, though sloppy at times, certainly provides plenty of excitement even if this game was low scoring by IFL standards.
For starters, the eight-on-eight format and crazy pre-snap receiver motion is conducive to big plays -- though on this night the Wranglers made most of the plays -- and for fans, particularly those seated close to the action, indoor football does provide a unique experience.
Take for example, the evening of Riley Reinecke, an 18-year-old from Stanwood who was seated in the first row near the goal line. When Allen running back Darius Fudge attempted to dive into the end zone on a first-quarter run, he was instead driven out of bounds by two Everett defenders and directly into Reinecke.
"I wanted to get out of the way," Reinecke said. "But I just couldn't move. It was so cool."
Reinecke said the helmet to the chest wasn't too painful since he plays football at Lakewood High School, and having attended Kent Predators games in the past, he knew the risks of sitting in the front row.
"I've been to the Kent games before and I never got hit there, but I knew it might happen eventually," Reinecke said.
And even for the fans who don't end up with a player in their lap, the up-close-and-personal nature of the game allows fans and players to interact in ways you'd never see in an outdoor game, including high-fives and handshakes between plays. Fans also are allowed to keep balls that go out of play, and occasionally they even try to get their hands on balls that don't make it out of bounds. At one point in the second quarter, a fan reaching over the boards for a ball broke up a pass intended for Allen's Maurice Avery, who pled his case to officials, to no avail. And, hey, the fans-keep-the-ball policy helped put a positive spin on a rough game for QB Ratekin -- one man's way overthrown pass is another man's souvenir.
Other oddities on display in the IFL include each team having a coach on the field during play, the guys operating the chains stationed -- you guessed it -- on the field, and even a kick bouncing off the scoreboard. When Allen attempted a field goal from its own 5-yard line, it bounced off the scoreboard before being fielded on the bounce by Everett's Cashmin Thomas, who ended up with a pretty good return. Unfortunately for Thomas and the Raptors, the return came back because, by rule, kicks off the scoreboard are placed at the 20. Yes, this sport has a rule for what to do in the event a field-goal attempt clangs off of the scoreboard.
The good news for the Raptors is that there is plenty of time for the team, as well as the crowds, to grow. And for indoor football to work out long term in Everett, both need to improve upon what we saw Thursday night.
"There's a lot of things we need to get better at," Raptors coach Sean Ponder said. "There's not doubt about it."
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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