Salina make 12-hour trip to take on expansion Mustangs
For the Salina Liberty's veteran players, a Champions Indoor Football road trip is nothing new.
But Heron O'Neal is interested in how his rookies handle a 12-hour overnight bus trip to Gillette, Wyoming, where the Liberty will take on the expansion Wyoming Mustangs at 8 p.m. Saturday in their first road test of the season.
"It's definitely a different experience," O'Neal, the Liberty's third-year head coach, said before the team departed Salina at 11 p.m. Thursday. "We got our travel suits (Thursday), and that's when it really hits home that we're going on the road.
"We'll see how our rookie players perform on the road, but it shouldn't be that different, though traveling 12 hours does have an effect on the body. That's why we're getting there early (Friday morning), to get acclimated."
The Liberty, who improved to 3-0 last week with a dominating 35-14 home victory over the Omaha Beef, will face a Wyoming team that lost its first true CIF game, 20-18, to the Dodge City Law. The Law took over operations for what had been the Oklahoma Flying Aces a week before the season.
Wyoming, 2-1, has yet to play outside the 4,100-seat Wyoming Center, where it opened the season by beating non-league opponents Dallas Prime, 42-40, and the Rapid City War Eagles, 56-0.
"They definitely have a great defense," O'Neal said of Wyoming, which has yet to post any statistics for its three games. "They're led by their linebacker (D'Nerius Antoine), who makes a lot of plays for them.
"He's probably the best linebacker we've faced, and their defensive line has some guys that can cause us some trouble. So does their secondary."
Antoine played collegiately for Southern Mississippi.
"On the road, we've got the mindset of being down 14 (at the start)," said Liberty running back Tracy Brooks, who is averaging a league-best 72.5 rushing yards per game with eight touchdowns. "We know it will be a loud crowd.
"They're a new expansion team and we look forward to going there and showing them what we've got."
The Mustangs sold out their season opener and have averaged 3,700 fans through their first three games.
The Liberty lead the CIF in total offense and average 116 rushing yards per game, led by Brooks and quarterback Tyrie Adams.
Wyoming has employed two quarterbacks, with starter David Perkins and Faustino Saucedo splitting time, while Brian Handley is the top running back and Garry Brown the go-to receiver.
Salina made a roster move this week, releasing former Kansas Wesleyan offensive lineman Martin Cintora and adding receiver Jason Shelley from Southern Oregon. The Liberty also could activate offensive lineman Joshua Hughes, who missed the last two games with an injury.