Here we are at the destination that all 12 Champions Indoor Football teams had set their sights on since the tail end of February: the 2016 Champions Bowl. Now that the dust has settled, the Amarillo Venom and the Wichita Force are the last two squads standing among the dozen.

This year’s Champions Bowl matchup is between two franchises who have crossed paths a little more than a month ago. The Force defeated the Venom 59-51 at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum. Therefore, there is a little familiarity.

Before we dive into this year’s Champions Bowl preview with Amarillo and Wichita contending to cement their indoor football legacies, I want to give plenty of thanks.

First off, I want to thank CIF webmaster Trey Braid for approaching me after the first set of my Power Rankings and helping me put them on the official website.

I appreciate the encouragement given to me by folks such as Ricky Bertz of the Dodge City Law, Wendy Ohl of the Sioux City Bandits, Sonny Clark and John Navarez of the Texas Revolution, Stephanie and Toby Tucker of the Amarillo Venom and the CIF Commish himself, Randy Sanders. It’s awesome to get multiple blessings from the movers and shakers of the CIF. I can’t tell you how cool that is.

I also want to thank the coaches and players from all across the league, for always asking me about the Power Rankings and their appreciation for them. To talk with numerous folks about what I love – indoor football – makes my day each and every time.

Last but not least, I have to give love to each and every fan of Champions Indoor Football who drops by the CIF website and my website, the 4 Winds of Liger, to read and provide feedback every week. Just remember, I’ll keep doing these as long as you want me to do so.

You’re all awesome.

Now, let’s get to this preview, shall we?

Amarillo Venom

10-4; #2 Seed from CIF Southern Division; CIF Southern Division Champions.

CIF Quarterfinals: Defeated Dodge City, 98-56.

CIF Southern Division Championship: Defeated Texas, 57-53.

Ladies and gentlemen, the dark horse is at the Champions Bowl. To get to the big game, the Amarillo Venom has played their best football and their best has shown up at just the right time.

Against the top-seeded Texas Revolution in the CIF Southern Division Championship last week, the Venom made the second half theirs by rallying from an 11-point deficit. Fueled by kicker Jacob Felton’s onside kick early in the third quarter, the Venom outscored the CIF’s top offense 35-20 to take their Roaring Rampage of Rematches tour north.

Quarterback Nate Davis and wide receiver Raymond Johnson Jr. lead the Venom into the Air Capital of the World as the top quarterback left playing in the CIF and all-purpose yards leader in the league respectively. Against the Revs, Davis outdueled CIF MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Robert Kent Jr., going 20-of-33 for 270 yards and six touchdowns.

Affectionately known as “The Flash” by Venom Nation and nominated for CIF Special Teams Player of the Year, Johnson Jr. has more than 2,600 yards altogether. It is also worth noting that Johnson Jr. leads the team with 23 touchdown catches.

On the other side of the ball, the Venom are anchored by defensive end Desmond Raiford and defensive back Jemichael Williams. While “Batman” has tallied eight sacks to now sit at third in the league, Williams has five interceptions with two of those returned for touchdowns.

Lastly, there’s Felton. The former West Texas A&M Buffalo is deadly accurate, leading the league in converting PATs, field goals and field goal percentage.

Three Keys to Victory:

Shut Down Anderson and Soft: Learning from their loss against Wichita on May 21, the Venom secondary will have to be physical with the likes of Force wide receivers Clarence Anderson and Brett Soft. Anderson and Soft combined for 10 catches, 128 yards and three touchdowns in their last time out against the Venom. Should defensive backs Jevin Colbert, Percy Turner, Leroy Trahan and Jemichael Williams put a lid the production of both receivers, Wichita quarterback David Olson will be left with limited options at wide out. In the game of indoor football, passing is a major component to putting up points and winning games.  

Hangin’ Tough: In the hostile environment that is the Intrust Bank Arena, as long as the Venom trail no less than 10 points at the break, they have a legitimate shot at winning this game. Proving by their win against Texas, Head Coach Julian Reese and his staff are masters of making adjustments and motivating the Venom. In the playoffs alone, the Venom have outscored their opponents in the second portion of the game by the score of 101-70. Should the Force succumb to a second half surge by the Venom, the Force Faithful may be unable to out chant the members of Venom Nation who will make the trip to Wichita, much like what happened last week at the Allen Event Center.

Thunder and Lightning: For the Venom knock in rushing touchdowns to wear down the Force in waning moments of the game, it will be up to running back Leonard Dixon Jr. and fullback Wyreaz Bradley. While Dixon Jr.’s speed in the open field opens up the gates to the Venom’s balanced attack, it is Bradley who can create problems if he gets past the line of scrimmage. In fact, the 5’11’’, 295 pound Bradley powered through Texas defenders for a 14-yard, third quarter touchdown in last week’s victory. Bradley, who is on a dead set mission to collect a championship ring, is a proverbial nightmare for many linebackers.

Wichita Force

11-2; CIF Northern Division Regular Season Champions; CIF Northern Division Champions.

CIF Quarterfinals: Bye

CIF Northern Division Championship: Defeated Bloomington, 52-51.

Since dropping two straight in the first two weeks of April, the Wichita Force ride into their first Champions Bowl with a seven-game winning streak. This was done by being ace in the clutch, winning six of those seven games by 10 points or less.

In a thrilling 52-51 victory over the Bloomington Edge last week, quarterback David Olson earned the CIF Offensive Player of the Week award by way of going 18-of-29 for 160 yards and four touchdown. The former Stanford Cardinal/Clemson Tiger also played a very clean game, throwing no interceptions and not coughing away the ball against a fierce Bloomington Edge defense.

Of those yards, 62 yards and two TDs went to wide receiver Clarence Anderson, who earned the CIF Special Teams Player of the Week honor by way of tallying 299 all-purpose yards. Right behind Anderson is Brett Soft, who contributed by capturing six receptions for 39 yards and a trip to the endzone.

Defensively, linebacker Jason Catchings continues his stellar 2016 campaign, providing Wichita with three sacks on Bloomington quarterback Caleb Holbrook. Defensive back Dontra Matthews provided the lone turnover for the Force, while defensive lineman Matt Moss added a sack as well.

Lastly, you can’t forget about defensive back Kendrick Harper, who made his return known as the former Kansas Jayhawk converted a two-point conversion pass into a PAT return. This gave the Force the leverage to send Bloomington back to Illinois on a somber note.

Three Keys to Victory:

Olson’s A-Game: With all due respect to Wichita’s signal-caller, he’s no Steven Panasuk. However, after the Panasuk left the Force to join the Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators, the South Carolina native has improved in every outing he has been a part of. For the Force to prevail over the Venom, Olson must capitalize on his performance against the Edge, limit any sort of turnovers and get in sync with wide receivers Clarence Anderson and Brett Soft early. If that happens, Olson will be holding up the Champions Cup at the end of the game, much to the delight of Force Faithful.

Big Lead, Big Win: Speaking of getting in sync early, the best scenario for Head Coach Paco Martinez and his staff would be to see the Force jump out to a big, early lead. As evidenced by the Venom’s early season losses to the Texas Revolution and the San Angelo Bandits, if an opposing team is able to create a large advantage by halftime, it forces Amarillo to play catch up in a huge way. It would be a tall task to do with Amarillo’s seasoned offense and defense, but not impossible. If Wichita comes out and fires on all cylinders on both sides of the ball to begin the game, the Champions Bowl is theirs for the taking.

“Force” Nate into a Late Mistake…Again: In two of the four losses by Amarillo this season, it was due to the defense forcing Venom quarterback Nate Davis into late mistakes. Wichita has done this before against the Venom, as linebacker Jason Catchings converted a potential game winning drive into a pick six. In the ensuing drive, a botched snap led to a fumble recovery that sealed the game. Replicate that situation in a tight contest between these two teams, and the Force will come out with yet another close victory. While many could consider those positive breaks luck, the Force have a habit of calling those scenarios clutch.

Tyler’s Predicted Score: Amarillo 56, Wichita 52.

Since the Force Faithful are quick to put the “Crying Michael Jordan” meme and Cam Newton/Carolina Panthers jokes on the Texas Revs, it will be everyone else’s turn to put the Crying Jordans on top of the Wichita logo. But that’s none of my business…*sips tea*

Much like last week’s games, this one will be another close battle – all the way until the final buzzer.

It will be Amarillo, who saw the Force steal away a victory on their home turf a little more than a month prior, to repay Wichita the favor. There will be no pick six to halt this game-winning drive, as Davis not only outduels Olson and passes for at least another 200 yards, but finishes off the Force by handing the ball off to a hellbent Wyreaz Bradley for a game winning score.

Quick Power Rankings

Just a quick note. Again, not a whole lot of movement. The final analysis will come at the end of season.

  1. Wichita Force (11-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (+1)
  2. Amarillo Venom (10-4) – Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (+1)

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  1. Texas Revolution (10-3) – Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (-2)
  2. Bloomington Edge (8-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (None)
  3. Dodge City Law (8-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (None)
  4. Sioux City Bandits (7-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (None)
  5. Omaha Beef (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (None)
  6. Duke City Gladiators (6-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (None)
  7. Chicago Eagles (3-9) – Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (None)
  8. Mesquite Marshals (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (None)
  9. San Angelo Bandits (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (None)
  10. Salina Liberty (2-10) Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (None)

tyler andersonCIF Playoff Preview – Division Championships

With one week to go until the Champions Bowl, the six squads who earned a spot in the playoffs is now whittled down to four. This week, and speaking as a devil’s advocate, there are no favorites in both of these contests.

Now, there are three different, and very possible scenarios. There are three probable hosts for the 2016 Champions Bowl: the Texas Revolution, the Wichita Force and the Amarillo Venom.

First, all the “Red Hot Revs” need to do is win out to host the second edition of the Champions Bowl inside of the Allen Event Center. No matter if Bloomington or Wichita takes the Northern Division crown, Texas has earned the right to be the home team. This is due to the Revs winning the head-to-head matchup on April 9.

In the situation where Texas bows out to Amarillo and Wichita prevails, the Champions Bowl goes to the INTRUST Bank Arena. It would be the first time that the Venom would make the trip to “Doo-Dah.” Force Faithful, is that still the city’s nickname, or should we stick with the “Air Capital of the World?” Nonetheless, the Force will be rooting for the Venom in the Metroplex.

Finally, there’s the scenario where the CIF turns upside down, seeing both Amarillo and Bloomington win on the road. If the Venom and the Edge are victorious, Bloomington pays a visit to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum. For an extra home date and one of the loudest crowds in the CIF, the Venom are definitely pulling for Bloomington if they take care of business.

CIF Northern Division Championship

Bloomington Edge vs. Wichita Force – 7 p.m. Saturday at INTRUST Bank Arena, Wichita.

In the third meeting of the season between the two squads, Wichita has owned the series despite each game being a closely-contested battle. On April 1, the Force earned a hard fought 51-48 home victory while taking a 32-27 win in Bloomington just two weeks later.

Well rested following their 56-50 regular season finale victory over the Omaha Beef, Wichita have a knack of taking advantage of clutch situations…along with possessing a little bit of luck. Quarterback David Olson has filled in nicely since the departure of Steve Panasuk, tossing for an average of 129 yards and 10 trips to the endzone in his five games behind center. Linebacker Jason Catchings has been dominant as well, putting up 85 tackles and four interceptions for the Force.

As for Bloomington, there’s no doubt that they had this date circled on their calendars. Entering the postseason on a five-game winning streak, the Edge has outscored opponents by a combined score of 272-151.

Against Sioux City last Saturday, quarterback Caleb Holbrook put up another stellar effort as the rookie completed all but nine of his 26 passing attempts for 155 yards and four TDs. Wide receiver Orlandus Harris led the Edge receiver corps with 97 yards and two trips to paydirt on seven receptions.

As far as defense is concerned, Bloomington boasts on the best units in Champions Indoor Football in scoring defense. The Edge have allowed just 37 points per game, and is the best of the four teams left in allowing 215 yards per game.

BloomingtonEdge

Bloomington’s Road to the Champions Bowl: To reach their first title game since the 2008 United Bowl, Bloomington will need to continue to rely on tough defense provided by rookie defensive lineman Antonio Ficklin and defensive back Dominic McDuffie. While McDuffie is second in the league with six INTs, Ficklin is currently seventh in the CIF with seven sacks.

The steady hand Holbrook is also vital toward keeping the Edge on track toward their second championship appearance. The key to victory for Bloomington is making sure Holbrook and Harris are in sync despite a hostile environment and harassing Wichita’s offense into submission early in the ball game. If the Edge execute, luck will simply run out for the Force.

Wichita Force

Wichita’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Contrasting their ability to pull out of games, Wichita has a championship-caliber team with the likes of wide receivers Clarence Anderson and Brett Soft. While Anderson is currently fourth in the CIF in all-purpose yardage with 1,844 yards, Soft is the perfect complimentary receiver with 42 grabs for 453 and 13 touchdowns in 2016.

For the Force to realize their “One Team, One Dream” mantra, Wichita has to remain in the game should they continue the trend of strong second half performances. Another part of that gameplan is keep Olson upright and composed while the defense, led by the fearsome Jason Catchings, remains opportunistic. If that happens, Wichita is punching their ticket to the second edition of the Champions Bowl.

Tyler’s Predicted Score: Bloomington 48, Wichita 45.

Yes, you read that right. After falling in the first two meetings against the Force, Bloomington finally makes the third time count and breaks through with a victory. This time, Holbrook finds Harris Jr. amid traffic in the final moments of the game as the Bloomington secondary holds off a desperation throw to the endzone by Olson, vaulting the Edge into their first championship game since 2008 as the Bloomington Extreme.

CIF Southern Division Championship

Amarillo Venom vs. Texas Revolution – 7 p.m. Saturday at Allen Event Center, Allen.

This game has been in the making since the start of the 2016 season. While the Revs has been a complete team all throughout the season, Amarillo is finally hitting their stride.

In the Venom’s 98-56 victory over the Dodge City Law this past weekend, quarterback Nate Davis went 23-of-36 for 372 yards and six touchdowns. Despite rushing for only 14 yards on six attempts, the Ball State grad took the ball into the endzone five times. This earned Davis CIF Offensive Player of the Week honors. Davis’ main target, wide receiver Raymond Johnson Jr., is the CIF leader in all-purpose yards with 2,141 and 178 yards per game.

Defensively, defensive back Jemichael Williams has been a force in the secondary, accumulating nine tackles, a half-sack and a fumble recovery. Williams, who captured the CIF Defensive Player of the Week award, also leads the Venom with five interceptions.

For Texas, everything starts with veteran quarterback Robert Kent Jr. The former Jackson State Tiger leads the CIF in average total offense, passing yards per game, passing touchdowns, pass completions and passing efficiency. Against the Mesquite Marshals on June 4, Kent Jr. tossed for 239 yards and eight touchdowns. This was despite a loss in the final moments.

On the other side of the ball, defensive back Jerico Nelson leads the Revs with 57 total tackles and four interceptions. Altogether, Texas leads Champions Indoor Football with 26 picks, despite being seventh in the league in defending the pass.

VENOM graphic - color

Amarillo’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Everything rests on continued improvement for the Amarillo Venom, especially on the defensive side of the football. Last week against the Dodge City Law, the Venom defensive unit forced five turnovers with three fumbles and two interceptions.

This is thanks to pressure up front up from defensive linemen Justin Williams and Desmond Raiford. Raiford is currently the fifth in the CIF in sacks with seven and a half, and is the top remaining sack artist. While the Venom are considered underdogs of this game, the label is deceptive.

Texas Revolution

Texas’s Road to the Champions Bowl: The Revs had a bye week to adjust and fine tune their game, following their 75-74 loss to the Mesquite Marshals in their final regular season game. For Texas, it’s all about mentality and focus, as they perfected during their 2016 campaign thus far.

To host the Champions Bowl, Texas will need to duplicate what they did in their regular season opener against the Amarillo Venom. Should the “Red Hot Revs” jump out to another large lead, their defense can apply pressure on Davis and the always potent Venom offense.

Tyler’s Predicted Score: Amarillo 63, Texas 62.

This time, and to the dismay of Revolution fans, the Venom won’t be behind by 27 points early. Instead, the two top offenses in the CIF will conduct an old fashioned Texas Shootout and it will be a clinic. This time, the Venom defense will come up with the big play toward the end, as defensive back Jevin Colbert slaps away a two-point conversion. Utility lineman Cameron Edwards captures the following onside kick to deny Texas their second straight Champions Bowl appearance and send Amarillo to their first championship since 2013.

Quick Power Rankings

Just a quick note. There won’t be much movement in the Power Rankings this week. That won’t happen until the Final Power Rankings following the Champions Bowl.

  1. Texas Revolution (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (None)
  2. Wichita Force (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (None)
  3. Amarillo Venom (9-4) – Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (None)
  4. Bloomington Edge (8-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (+1)
  5. Dodge City Law (8-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (-1)
  6. Sioux City Bandits (7-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (None)
  7. Omaha Beef (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (None)
  8. Duke City Gladiators (6-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (None)
  9. Chicago Eagles (3-9) – Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (None)
  10. Mesquite Marshals (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (None)
  11. San Angelo Bandits (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (None)
  12. Salina Liberty (2-10) Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (None)

tyler andersonCIF Power Rankings, June 3

Author Note: Due to the Texas-San Angelo game on Monday and a crazy personal schedule, this has been bumped to early Friday morning. It’s been a crazy stretch as of late. Forgive me?

This is exciting, isn’t it? As Champions Indoor Football winds down on its second regular season, the playoff picture still has a few games left to determine who goes on and who goes home.

Thanks to Branden Henneous, the CIF Insiders and the Indoor Football Forum (big shout-out here to some dedicated fans) there’s an outline of what situations may arise. For ease of access, I’ll place them here too.

The Texas Revs have the Southern Division locked down, attains the first round bye and has home field advantage. Wichita clinched the Northern Division, possess the first round bye and should Texas get upset in the playoffs, the Champions Bowl shifts to The Air Capital of the World.

Now, it gets fun. Sioux City has three scenarios going on. If the Bandits beat Bloomington, they’re the number two seed and host a playoff game, whether the Beef win or lose, at the Tyson Event Center. If Sioux City drops and Omaha wins, the Bandits are out.

Speaking of the Omaha Beef, if they win and Sioux City loses, they host Bloomington. Should Omaha win while the Bandits (who play Bloomington) also come out with a victory, they’re the final seed in the playoffs due to their season series against the Bandits. If the Beef drop and Bloomington (who plays Sioux City) loses, the process is repeated – Omaha visits Sioux City. Lastly, if Omaha loses and Bloomington pulls off the season series clincher, the Beef are done.

Lastly, there’s the Bloomington Edge…livin’ on the edge. Terrible Bon Jovi reference there. Sorry. Best case scenario for the Edge and their red turf is that if Bloomington wins and Omaha loses, they’re hosting a home playoff game. If they beat Sioux City and Omaha wins, they get the third seed and head west to the Slaughterhouse. Not too bad for Bloomington, should they win.

The Southern Division is so much easier. If the Dodge City Law wins, they get the number two slot and they host Amarillo at the United Wireless Arena. If the Amarillo Venom churns out a home victory, the Law turn right back around and play at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum next Saturday.

Are we clear as mud? Great! Let’s get this last set of rankings out in the open. For next week won’t see Power Rankings, but will instead see Playoff Previews and Predictions. Yay!

Let’s get started!

Texas Revolution

Texas Revolution (10-1): At the top of the heap, Texas took care of business and defeated San Angelo on Memorial Day at Foster Communications Coliseum, 88-56. While there are no numbers to share (dang it, San Angelo, you had one job), quarterback Robert Kent Jr. and Jerico Nelson captured the CIF Offensive Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week awards respectively. Kent for CIF league MVP, anyone? With the victory, the road to the Champions Bowl for any squad – Northern or Southern – will go through the “Red Hot Revs” and their homely confines of the Allen Event Center. The Revs will conclude their regular season with on short rest as well as a short trip to Mesquite to face the Marshals at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (None)

Wichita Force

2. Wichita Force (9-2): Through 24 fourth quarter points, Wichita outlasted Sioux City to clinch the top spot in the CIF Northern Division this past Saturday at the INTRUST Bank Arena, 44-30. This huge victory for the Force was spearheaded by two pick-sixes, courtesy of defensive backs Dontra Matthews and Evan Ray. Matthews went 43 yards on the interception return, while Ray took one back for 27 yards. Wide receiver Clarence Anderson also contributed to the Force’s ninth win of the 2016 campaign, nabbing seven of quarterback David Olson’s 12 completions for 77 yards and two trips to paydirt. Wichita will have a good shot at finishing the regular season with double digit victories, hosting the Omaha Beef on Saturday evening. Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (None)

Dodge City Law

3. Dodge City Law (8-3): Ugly win or not, the Dodge City Law notched another one in the win column as they held off Mesquite last Saturday at Mesquite Arena, 38-27. In the face of a small score, quarterback Derrick Bernard was still a force under center by going 14-of-24 for 174 yards and three TDs. The former Sul Ross State Lobo shown his mobility as well, rushing for 85 yards and two more scores. Defensive back DeWayne Autrey led the Dodge City defensive effort with 11 total tackles and an interception. The Law will play the Amarillo Venom in a battle for the second seed in the CIF Southern Division portion of the postseason at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum. Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (+1)

SC_Bandits_logo

4. Sioux City Bandits (7-4): The Bandits encountered a bump in the 2016 campaign, as they fell to Wichita on the road last weekend, 44-30. As will the Bandits will do and I shall as well, we won’t dwell on the numbers too much, even though quarterback Chuck Wright put out a solid effort behind center. Sioux City remains in the thick of the Northern Division playoff race, splitting their season series with Bloomington and sweeping Omaha. However, should the Bandits falter in the heart of Land of Lincoln and their southern rival pulls out the upset road victory over the Force, the defending champs could be left out in the cold. The true definition of “win or go home.” The Bandits will look to cement their playoff standing with a victory, traveling east to the heart of Illinois to battle the Bloomington Edge at 7 p.m. Saturday on the red turf at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (-1)

Omaha_Beef

5. Omaha Beef (7-4): With an inside track toward the postseason, Beef powered past the fledgling Chicago Eagles last Saturday in the Windy City, 42-29. Due to lack of stats (something must be going around getting stats people sickly), there’s not a whole lot to show. But there’s a good inkling that quarterback Joshua Floyd Jr. had something to do with the victory. What is known for the battlin’ Beef, is that they can either breathe easy with a win over Wichita or a Bloomington loss. With a win and Bloomington taking the season series, there could be a playoff game at the Slaughterhouse in Ralston. If the Beef drop to Wichita and Bloomington loses, it’s to third place they go. Nonetheless, Omaha will aim to make their first appearance in the postseason since 2013, traveling south to face the Force on Saturday night at the INTRUST Bank Arena. Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (None)

VENOM graphic - color

6. Amarillo Venom (7-4): In one of their more complete team efforts this season, the Venom clinched a playoff berth with a 69-46 victory over Duke City last Saturday at the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque. Veteran defensive back Ronnie Goforth has led a healthy and rejuvenated Venom secondary, hauling in two interceptions in last week’s game against the Gladiators. On special teams, wide receiver Raymond Johnson Jr. earned this week’s league special team honors, despite returning four kickoffs for 48 yards. Must be the eight catches for 138 yards and four touchdowns. The Venom will conclude their regular season by hosting the Dodge City Law on Saturday night at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum. Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (None)

BloomingtonEdge

7. Bloomington Edge (6-5): Still in the playoff hunt, the Edge dominated in their 43-6 victory over the Salina Liberty this past weekend at the Bicentennial Center. Quarterback Caleb Holbrook continued his stellar campaign with completing all but eight pass attempts, with 172 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie defensive back Jeremy Caldwell also had an excellent showing against Salina, tabbing two of the three Edge interceptions. Defensive back Michael McGee also recorded a fumble recovery and a subsequent return for a score. The Edge will round out their inaugural CIF regular season campaign in a make-or-break fashion, hosting the Sioux City Bandits at 7 p.m. Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The season series between both squads stands at one game apiece. Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (None)

Duke City Gladiators

8. Duke City Gladiators (5-6): Duke City was bounced from playoff contention with a 69-46 home setback to the Amarillo Venom last Saturday. While keeping pace alongside the Venom for a majority of the game, quarterback Kasey Peters and the Gladiators had trouble down the final stretch via a lost fumble and an interception in the endzone. Despite the setback, wide receiver Dello Davis proved that he is indeed one of the top wideouts in the CIF, leading the Duke City receiver corps with eight catches for 147 yards and six touchdowns. The Gladiators can finish their season with a .500 record, as they will host the lowly San Angelo Bandits on Saturday night at the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque. Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (None)

ChicagoEagles

9. Chicago Eagles (3-9): The Chicago Eagles ended their first campaign in the CIF with a 42-29 home loss to the Omaha Beef. Sorry, since they were no stats from the game, I can’t give props to the Eagles statistic leaders. However, there’s no doubt that quarterback Anthony Iannotti and running back Calvin Phillips were quite alright in Chicago’s regular season finale. There’s plenty of optimism going forward in the Windy City, as owner Brian Brundage and his staff have something good going on with the Red, White and Blue. Expect the “War Eagles” to make the sophomoric leap in 2017. Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (None)

San_Angelo_Bandits

10. San Angelo Bandits (2-9): Perhaps it may be best to bring back the green and black? Despite putting up plenty of points, the Bandits were defeated at home by the Texas Revolution, 88-56. Without stats, I can’t give the fine San Angelo players their props that they deserve in the wake of the losing effort. C’mon, man. Those of us fans and media members who root and cover these teams need some numbers to crunch and digest. The Bandits will finish their season on the road, heading north and west to face off against the Duke City Gladiators at 7 p.m. in the capitol city of the Land of Enchantment. The Bandits are 0-2 against Duke City so far this season. Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (+1)

Salina_Liberty

11. Salina Liberty (2-10): While it’s easily to forget that they’re a new franchise, the Liberty’s first season ended in a sour note in a 43-6 dismantling against the Bloomington Edge last weekend at the Bicentennial Center. Sadly, the Liberty couldn’t get anything going on offense, despite a fumble recovery by lineman Derrick Eshelman for the Liberty D. Also, the lopsided loss is the main reason why Salina dropped down in this week’s power rankings. On a brighter note, the Liberty should rectify their ailments at the quarterback position in 2017 and produce a better venture in their sophomore season. Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (-1)

Mesquite_Marshals

12. Mesquite Marshals (1-10): The Marshals did show some fight, before falling to the Dodge City Law 38-27 this past Saturday at the Mesquite Arena. On a positive note, it is pretty neat to see the Marshals get on the board first with a rouge. You don’t see that very often in the game indoor football. Linebacker Cameron Blakes had a big game on the defensive side of the ball for Mesquite, tabbing 13 total tackles, two and a half sacks, a forced fumble and a recovery against the Law. Mesquite could look to end their inaugural campaign on a high note, should they upset their cross-Metroplex rival in the Texas Revolution at 7 p.m. Saturday night at the Mesquite Arena. Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (None)

Tyler’s Playoff Projections (as of June 3):

CIF Northern Division

First Round Bye – Wichita Force

Omaha Beef at Sioux City Bandits

Still Alive

Bloomington Edge

CIF Southern Division

First Round Bye – Texas

Dodge City Law at Amarillo Venom

tyler anderson

CIF Playoff Preview – Divisional Round

This week, we’re going to go in a different direction. So if you’re looking for where your team stands after the conclusion of the regular season, I have provided a set of “Quick” Power Rankings at the bottom. After this, there won’t be too much movement until the final Power Rankings, which will be put up after Champions Bowl II.

Champions Indoor Football fans and followers, it’s finally playoff time. Starting up with #RematchWeek, it’s best to give a thorough preview of each game. While Amarillo, Dodge City, Bloomington and Sioux City battle it out to see who moves on and who goes home, waiting in the wings will be the Texas Revolution and the Wichita Force.

Sure, that’s quite obvious, but let’s take a look at who is likely to move on to face the Force and the Revs next weekend for the right to play for the Champions Cup. While I’m no Nostradamus, it’s fair to give each game of #RematchWeek a fair shake.

CIF Northern Division – Divisional Round

Sioux City Bandits vs. Bloomington Edge – 7 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Bloomington.

Let’s be clear with this one, this is the fourth time that the Edge and the Bandits have faced off this season. Bloomington, as of right now, holds a 2-1 season series advantage over the defending champions after the 48-38 victory. Of course, there’s going to be a lot of familiarity between the two teams.

Returning to the red turf will be Sioux City, who fell short despite putting up 22 fourth quarter points. Quarterback Anthony Graham was able to provide a spark for the Bandit offense, going 10-of-13 for 96 yards and two trips to paydirt. But the Bandits will need to punch into the endzone early and often to score a road victory.

Expect Bandits coach Erv Strohbeen to implement tailback Drew Prohaska like adding more cowbell to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Prohaska has a history of swinging a game’s momentum into Sioux City’s favor in critical moments.

Meanwhile, Caleb Holbrook and his offense did quite well against the Bandits. Holbrook went 17-of-25 for 200 yards and three TDs, while running back Darrlynn Dunn and wide receiver Orlandus Harris contributed on the ground and through the air. The Edge defense, led by Dontae McCoy and Dominic McDuffie, will continue to look to cause turnovers and keep Bloomington alive and well in the postseason.

BloomingtonEdge

Bloomington’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Bloomington could be considered one of the hottest teams to enter the CIF playoffs right now, winning four straight since posting a 3-5 record after a 61-33 loss at Sioux City. While the Edge has seen an elevated play from quarterback Caleb Holbrook, it’s been their defensive unit who has brought them to the show. The Edge have been show stoppers, allowing no more than 210 yards per game.

Most experts do agree that while offense wins games, defense wins championships. However, for the Edge to take the Champions Cup back to the heart of Illinois, they need to take care of business at home before heading south to put a stop to more explosive offenses.

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Sioux City’s Road to the Champions Bowl: The Bandits will need to become proverbial road warriors to return to the Champions Bowl, channeling their inner Mad Max to do so. The Bandits have skidded into the playoffs after winning five straight. Granted, two of those three final regular season losses came at the hands of the Wichita Force.

However, Sioux City plays best when their backs are against the wall, as seen from winning five consecutive games after dropping two straight. It’s not impossible for the Bandits to hoist the Champions Cup, but it will just have to be on their opponents’ home turf.

Tyler’s Predicted Score: Bloomington 41, Sioux City 38.

Again, the Edge will jump out to an early lead before Sioux City keeps it interesting with a switch-up at quarterback or a big game from Prohaska. Despite another frantic Bandit rally, it’s easy to see Bloomington hold on to bounce the defending champions via another stellar game by Holbrook on the offensive side and McDuffie’s defensive play.

CIF Southern Division – Divisional Round

Dodge City Law vs. Amarillo Venom – 7 p.m. Saturday at Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum, Amarillo.

Last week, the Amarillo Venom kept their season series with the Dodge City Law in Amarillo with a 52-35 victory. In all three meetings in the 2016 season, all of the meetings between the Law and the Venom have been the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum, which hasn’t been for the best for Dodge City.

While the Venom scored 31 unanswered points to defeat the Law, Dodge City could argue that the zebras weren’t exactly the greatest field crew on the carpet. Altogether, the Law had committed 16 penalties for 108 yards, which didn’t sit well with Dodge City fans and head coach Sean Ponder.

Dodge City, who lead the league in rushing offense and yards per rush with 143 yards and 5.6 yards per game respectively, will continue to look for quarterback Derrick Bernard and running back Dominique Carson to produce. Together, the two former Sul Ross State Lobos combined for nearly 160 yards and four TDs against the Venom.

Even though the Venom defense gave up that many yards, they still boast the best defenses against the rush in the CIF, allowing just 60 yards per game. It’s also worth noting that the Venom possess the best kicker in the league in Jacob Felton, who earned the CIF Special Teams Player of the Week honors by converting two of three onside kicks, along with a balanced and talented offense run by veteran quarterback Nate Davis.

VENOM graphic - color

Amarillo’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Consistency and mistake-free football are the keys to this castle. Should the Venom curb their miscues and play hard all four quarters, Amarillo coach Julian Reese and his staff are working with a championship-caliber team. It helps that the Venom, most notably their defense, has continued to improve from week to week, winning four of their last five games to return to the postseason.

With so much talent all around, Amarillo is the dark horse in the race to bring back a Champions Cup. There’s no question about that. Should the Venom take care of their own destiny and win out, all while Bloomington or Sioux City take the Northern Division, there could be a chance where Venom Nation sees their first championship game since 2013.

Dodge City Law

Dodge City’s Road to the Champions Bowl: The Law have a nice chance of forging their own path to the Champions Bowl as well, as long as they can keep the legs of Bernard and Carson churning. However, Dodge City does have wide receiver Daniel McKinney, who was uncharacteristically in last week’s game against the Venom. The Law also need to capitalize on turnovers generated by their defense to keep their season alive.

Much like their #RematchWeek counterparts, the Law could lure the Champions Bowl onto their home turf at the United Wireless Arena. This could be done by winning out, upsetting Texas and rooting hard for Bloomington or Sioux City. Lastly, Dodge City can boast that they are capable of hosting the Champions Bowl, as they have bested the Revs 89-71 at home and only falling to Texas in the final moments of their 72-64 road loss.

Tyler’s Predicted Score: Amarillo 55, Dodge City 52.

Mirroring the first game rather than the second game, the Venom and the Law will endure a see-saw battle. This game will have it all, from kickoff returns for touchdowns to a clash between Amarillo taking to the air while Dodge City counters with their speedy rushing attack. However, it will be the Venom defense who forces Bernard to make a mistake, while a sell-out crowd watches (hometown hero) Felton kick the game-winner through the uprights.

Quick Power Rankings

Texas Revolution (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (None)
Wichita Force (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (None)
Amarillo Venom (8-4) – Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (+3)
Dodge City Law (8-4) – Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (-1)
Bloomington Edge (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (+2)
Sioux City Bandits (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (-2)
Omaha Beef (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (-2)
Duke City Gladiators (6-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (None)
Chicago Eagles (3-9) – Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (None)
Mesquite Marshals (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (+2)
San Angelo Bandits (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (-1)
Salina Liberty (2-10) Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (-1)

tyler anderson

CIF Power Rankings, May 26

Author Note: Apologies for the lateness, battling an illness is never fun.

With the 2016 regular season coming to a close within the next few weeks, there are a few battles to be had for spots in the postseason.

While Texas, Wichita and Sioux City are playoff locks, the final spot in the CIF Northern Division and two berths in the CIF Southern Division are still very much up for grabs. In the northern six, there’s Omaha (6-4) and Bloomington (5-5). The Beef currently have the inside track, but both teams will have challenges ahead in their upcoming schedules, as Omaha will face Wichita on the road in their regular season finale (on June 4) while the Edge have Sioux City coming into the U.S. Cellular Coliseum on the last regular season weekend.

But both teams have to get past Salina and Chicago respectively this week, as the Beef travels east to the UIC Pavilion and Bloomington heads west to central Kansas.

In the Southern Division, you have Dodge City, Amarillo and Duke City, who are still very much alive. Nobody has an easy road getting into the postseason, but Amarillo could potentially steal a home playoff game – should the Venom defeat Duke City on the road and Dodge City at home. The Law and the Gladiators, could vault past the Venom if they win out as well.

Should Dodge City and Duke City win out, there could be a matchup between the Law and the Gladiators at the United Wireless Arena. Should the Law win out and the Gladiators drop out, it would an Amarillo-Dodge City rematch in southwestern Kansas. There’s quite a few possibilities that can happen, but let’s worry about that next week.

For now, onto the poll…

Texas Revolution1. Texas Revolution (9-1): Was there any doubt with this one? The “Red Hot Revs” made easy work of the Mesquite Marshals this past weekend by the score of 92-43. Quarterback Robert Kent Jr., who was named the CIF Offensive Player of the Week, went 13-of-21 for 176 yards and six touchdowns. The defense also shined against Mesquite, grabbing four picks all together, along with a fumble recovery by Cody Berry. The remaining schedule, should there not be any problems, sees the Revs face off against the bottom tier of the CIF Southern Division in San Angelo and Mesquite. This starts with a road date against the San Angelo Bandits, following this week’s bye. Honestly, it’d make plenty of sense to see Texas finish the regular season with an 11-1 record and home field advantage all throughout the postseason. Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (None)

Wichita Force

2. Wichita Force (8-2): Wichita showed why they are a Champions Cup-caliber squad, using two late turnovers to vault past the Amarillo Venom 59-51 at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum last Saturday. Wide receivers Clarence Anderson and Brett Soft led the Wichita receiving corps, capturing 10 of quarterback David Olson’s 13 completions for 128 yards and three trips to the endzone. Linebacker Jason Catchings also sealed the Force victory with a late pick-six. The Force’s road to a division title and home field advantage won’t be easy, as Sioux City comes in for a visit at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at the INTRUST Bank Arena. Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (None)

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3. Sioux City Bandits (7-3): After their bye week, Sioux City is looking for some redemption. Even with three losses to the season, Sioux City’s defense has been the best in the league, allowing just 34 points per game. This is thanks to a stellar secondary led by Cliff Stokes and Rahn Franklin, ranking first in Champions Indoor Football in defensive pass efficiency, letting their opponents gain just 1,288 yards through the air. That’s quite low, especially in the high-paced game of indoor football. The Bandits will battle for at least a shared division title against the Wichita Force (as the CIF hasn’t shared how tiebreakers are done just yet – which I’m sure they’ll do should Sioux City pulls off a win), at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the INSTRUST Bank Arena in beautiful, downtown Wichita. Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (None)

Dodge City Law

4. Dodge City Law (7-3): In resounding fashion, Dodge City returned from their bye week to hang 90 points on the San Angelo Bandits last Saturday at the United Wireless Arena. Quarterback Derrick Bernard is continuing his stellar 2016 campaign, tossing for five touchdowns and rushing for three more against San Angelo. On the other side of the ball, defensive back DeWayne Autrey led the Law with 11 solo tackles and recovering a San Angelo fumble. Definitely worthy enough to earn Autrey the CIF Defensive Player of the Week honors. Dodge City may have a shot to cement second place in the CIF southern six and host a first round game, traveling south and east to Mesquite to face the struggling Marshals at 7 p.m. Saturday evening at the Mesquite Arena. Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (None)

Omaha_Beef

5. Omaha Beef (6-4): With two games left in the regular season, the Beef are in a great position to earn that final playoff spot in the CIF Northern Division. Omaha took care of business at the Slaughterhouse last weekend, defeating the Salina Liberty by the score of 35-18. Quarterback Joshua Floyd Jr. did quite well against the Liberty, going 10-of-21 for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Defensive lineman Kewan Alfred, who is now second in the CIF in sacks with 7.5, nabbed one and a half on Salina quarterback Keahn Wallace. The Beef will now look to lock in a spot in the postseason, as they head east to battle the Chicago Eagles at 7 p.m. on Saturday the UIC Pavilion. Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (+1)

VENOM graphic - color

6. Amarillo Venom (6-4): Just when they had the Force where they wanted them, the Venom “laid an egg,” according to Head Coach Julian Reese. On the bright side, veteran wide receiver Raymond Johnson Jr. anchored the Venom receivers with six receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, along with taking a 50-yard kickoff return to paydirt against Wichita. Also, “The Flash” leads the league in all-purpose yards with 184 per game. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive back Jemichael Williams tabbed his fourth INT in the past three games. In the thick of the CIF Southern Division playoff race, the Venom can get back into the swing of things by traversing west to face the Duke City Gladiators on Saturday night at Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque. The two rival squads share one victory apiece so far this year. Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (-1)

BloomingtonEdge

7. Bloomington Edge (5-5): With two more games left in the regular season, Bloomington is gaining momentum at the right time. In their 55-33 victory over the Chicago Eagles on the red turf, quarterback Caleb Holbrook went 17-of-30, with 180 passing and three touchdowns. Rookie linebacker Dontae McCoy also thrived against the Eagles, picking up a fumble and taking back a pick-six early in the fourth quarter. From here on out, it will make or break for the Edge’s postseason hopes, starting with a road trip to central Kansas to take on the Salina Liberty on Saturday evening at the Bicentennial Center. The Edge currently owns a one-game lead in the season series, defeating Salina 61-29 on May 14. Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (None)

Duke City Gladiators

8. Duke City Gladiators (5-5): On the outside looking in, as of this moment, is the Duke City Gladiators. Coming off of the bye week, the Gladiators will look to make that final playoff push, whether Taylor Genuser or Bryan Randall will be under center. Wide receiver Dello Davis will be able to lend a helping hand to either of the two signal callers, hauling in 74 catches for 28 touchdowns and 168 points over the course of the 2016 season. Definitely good enough for second place in scoring in the CIF. Duke City will look to gain some momentum into the final stretch, battling the Amarillo Venom for game three of their season series on Saturday evening at Tingley Coliseum. The three-game season series between the two squads currently sits at one game apiece. Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (None)

ChicagoEagles

9. Chicago Eagles (3-8): After hanging on the fringe of attaining a playoff spot, the Eagles are now officially out. In the Battle for Illinois, the Eagles fell to Bloomington by the score of 55-33 at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Running back Calvin Phillips led the Eagles on the ground, gaining 96 yards and two touchdowns against the Edge. However, for the Eagles to play spoiler, they need to take care of the football, as they lost one fumble and saw quarterback Anthony Iannotti toss two picks in the loss. Yet after a very long road stretch, the Eagles will be able to head back home to the Windy City. That’s always good news. The Red, White and Blue will host the Omaha Beef this Saturday night at the UIC Pavilion. Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (None)

Salina_Liberty

10. Salina Liberty (2-9): Despite trailing by eight points for a majority of last week’s game against Omaha, Salina wasn’t able to narrow that gap in their 35-18 road loss against the Beef. While quarterback Keahn Wallace connected with wide receiver Joe Kassanavoid on seven occasions for 74 yards, it was not enough in the low scoring affair. But you can’t fault Wallace or the Liberty offense either, as Salina played a very clean game until the closing moments with a late interception. Salina could still be a factor concerning the postseason race though, as the Liberty could have the opportunity to play spoiler with a chance to knock out the Bloomington Edge at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Bicentennial Center. Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (None)

San_Angelo_Bandits

11. San Angelo Bandits (2-8): So, it’s best to not say anything after taking a 90-46 road loss to Dodge City. For an early part of the game against the Law, the Bandits hung in there, trailing by 35-34 mid-way through the second quarter. Quarterback Chris Mitchell played a solid game as well, going 18-of-32 for 179 yards and six touchdowns. Mitchell also led the Bandits on the ground with 40 yards rushing. Sadly, it was the defense that couldn’t keep San Angelo close, allowing 43 points in the second quarter alone. Even though it’s too late, the San Angelo coaching staff may need to address that issue. However, the Bandits could throw a monkey wrench into the CIF Southern Division, starting with hosting the league-leading Texas Revolution at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Foster Communications Coliseum. Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (None)

Mesquite_Marshals

12. Mesquite Marshals (1-9): Sometimes, life isn’t easy being an expansion team. Look no further than that of the Marshals. In the face of a 92-43 loss to the CIF Southern Division-leading Texas Revolution, quarterback Kolton Browning accumulated 205 yards and five touchdowns in his 17 completions. In those 257 yards that Mesquite put together through the air, wide receiver Cordell Roberson caught eight tosses for 162 yards and six scores. Still, the Marshals rank on the bottom or near the bottom in just about category. Here’s hoping that Head Coach Larry Hendrix uses this year, which was quite tough, as a building block for a solid sophomore campaign. Mesquite will host Dodge City at 7 p.m. Saturday night at the Mesquite Arena. Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (None)

Tyler’s Playoff Projections (as of May 23):

*Parenthesis denote projected record

CIF Northern Division

First Round Bye – Wichita Force (9-2)

Omaha Beef (7-5) at Sioux City Bandits (8-4)

CIF Southern Division

First Round Bye – Texas (11-1)

Amarillo Venom (7-5) at Dodge City Law (8-4)

offensive powdefensive powspt pow