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)

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