As the curtain rises on their inaugural campaign, the Utah Catzz have two objectives: Win games and win over fans.
After playing four exhibition contests, the Catzz open the regular season tonight at 7 against the Minnesota Monsters at Utah Valley State College's McKay Center.The Catzz, of the new Professional Indoor Football League, are promoting their brand of entertainment as "Fast, Ferocious, Affordable, Fun!" But will it fly? "Those who have come to our games so far have totally bought into us and the PIFL," said Catzz owner Michael Curran. "But we need more fans, especially from Utah County, to support us."
In the first home exhibition game in December, the Catzz drew about 4,800 spectators and about 2,000 showed up for another home game in March. Curran hopes to average 5,000-6,000 fans a game.
Season ticket sales have been sluggish thus far. Still, Curran is confident that in time, fans will jump on the Catzz bandwagon. He's counting on familiar names, offensive-minded games and success to fill the seats. "I guess we have to win a championship," he said. "Everybody loves a winner."
While all eight PIFL teams will be in action tonight, the Utah-Minnesota game pits two teams that figure to contend for the league title. The Colorado Wildcats, Green Bay Bombers, Honolulu Hurricanes, Louisiana Bayou Beast, Madison Mad Dogs and Texas Bullets comprise the rest of the PIFL. Each team plays a 14-game schedule over 17 weeks, including seven home games and seven on the road. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs, and the league championship game will be held Aug. 15.
The Monsters have several players who competed for Minnesota's defunct Arena Football League franchise, the Minnesota Fighting Pike, which went under after two years of play. Catzz receiver Tyler Anderson played a year for that team.
Made up primarily of former local players, the Catzz roster has been overhauled since Utah's first pair of exhibition games in December. "We're 70 percent better than we were then," said Curran.
Coach Gordon Hudson, a former BYU and NFL tight end with extensive Arena League coaching experience, has added a number of new faces, including quarterback Paul Shoemaker and defensive lineman Henry Bloomfield from BYU. They are two players whom Curran hopes will attract fans to the McKay Center this spring and summer. Shoemaker is the Catzz' starting quarterback while Bloomfield has also been used in goal line situations in the preseason, a la Refrigerator Perry. Bloomfield scored a pair of first-half touchdowns in a 42-40 victory over Louisiana last weekend.
Another newcomer is backup quarterback Joe Borich, a Bingham High product who went on to play at Snow College and Memphis University. He had an impressive outing in Louisiana, throwing for three third-quarter TDs.
While off-the-field concerns linger, Curran is excited about his team's on-the-field potential. "I feel like we're going to win the championship," he said.
The Catzz averaged 47 points in their four exhibition games and posted a 3-1 mark. Minnesota finished 2-0 in the preseason.
PIFL fast facts
- Field is 50 yards long and 85 feet wide, surrounded by padded, hockey-like dasher boards. End zones are eight yards long.
- Each team fields eight players.
- Multiple motion is allowed on offense; up to three players can move toward line of scrimmage before the snap.
- No punting; a team can either attempt FG or go for it on fourth down.
- Field goals inside the 25-yard line are worth two points while longer field goals are worth three points.
- 10 yards for a first down.
- Kickoffs are from the goal line.
- Goalposts 10' high, 10' wide.
- No rebound nets; balls kicked into stands on kickoffs come out to the 15 yard line.
- 20 seconds between plays.
- Fans who catch a ball that goes into the stands can keep it. Average of eight balls go into stands each game.