As the (somewhat) cooler temperatures of fall slowly creep into view, football is always a hot issue in Statesboro.
Georgia Southern and the usual prep suspects will once again be in action, but Statesboro will also play home to a professional squad beginning in 2017.
The Georgia Spartans – formerly the Statesboro Spartans – have been hard at work over the last few months and will begin play next year in the newly-formed United States Indoor Football League.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this league,” Spartans coach Terrance Andrews said. “We’re going to have a lot of local guys from the area – guys from Statesboro and Tattnall County and Swainsboro. We’re also going to have some guys from Atlanta who are coming down here because they know this is a good opportunity.”
The USIFL will be unique in that all games are scheduled to be played in Savannah. Teams will be located in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, but all of them will descend on Savannah for a day’s worth of games.
In addition to cutting down on extended road trips with a central playing location, the league hopes to build a fan base by exposing game attendees to the entire league each week and showing off all of the league’s top teams and players.
A quirky playing schedule is nothing compared to the overall change for the Statesboro franchise.
The Spartans still have some player and coaching holdovers from its previous team, but will be making a drastic leap from traditional rules to the unique play of indoor football.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Andrews said. “There are a ton of things that have to be done different. Luckily, I think that one of our biggest strengths is that we have players with a high football I.Q. They know the game and will be able to adjust to play however they need to.”
Perhaps a bigger challenge than the physical differences between the two distinct types of football is the tactical difference required for drawing up a winning game plan.
“There’s a lot of change,” Andrews said. “We’re still learning. But we’ll get there. We’ve got a very experienced coaching staff. We’re going to adjust and have our team ready to play.”
As with many indoor and semi-pro football leagues around the country, the USIF – and, in turn, the Spartans – showcase players that have run the gauntlet of previous football experience. Some players are older, but still chasing the dream. Others are looking for the next level of competition after college careers. Still others are former high school stars who have bounced back from issues that prevented their advancement to the collegiate ranks and are looking for another shot at showcasing their talent.
No matter the case, the Spartans welcome them all, so long as they’re focused on contributing to a winning team.
“Everyone is hungry and excited about this opportunity,” Andrews said. “We’re going to work hard and play well not only for ourselves, but for the great city of Statesboro.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.