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BPR gives Knoxville arena football two thumbs up on Blount Co. Night

The action at the boards is as up close as you want to get at Knoxville Nighthawks games. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Knoxville – It wasn’t exactly the Lambeau Leap.

Indoor football has all the rough and tumble of its outdoor cousin.

During last Saturday’s loss to Richmond, Knoxville Nighthawks receiver DeAndre Brown, all 6-foot-6, 250 pounds of him, sailed over the boards into the field level seats, right into the waiting arms of a young fan.


Brown didn’t come up with the ball.

Great grab by the kid, both the Brown and the pigskin.

Alas, victory slipped from the Hawks’ clutches for the fourth time this season, Knoxville falling, 51-36, to the Raiders in the 2013 home opener.

Knoxville’s Professional Football Indoor League franchise hopes to put the brakes on a 0-4 start when it hosts the Albany (Ga.) Panthers at the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

It was Blount County Night last weekend, so Blount Press Row went to have a look. The Hawks carry several former area stars on the active and inactive rosters, including former Alcoa Tornadoes Chris Shiverdecker and Rae Sykes.

Neither was claimed off waivers last week. (Coach, you know Chris has got some skills. Just saying.) Both have been with the team since camp opened in March, so we’ll just have to wait. Players can be signed and appear on the active roster with little more than a day’s notice.

Knoxville quarterback Randy Hippeard stays cool.

It’s the nature of the beast.

Still, Saturday offered a chance to get an up close and personal look at indoor professional football, the Brown crash landing perhaps a little too close. It’s an interesting game – (We’re going back.) – with only a handful of rules that require a period of adjustment.

Eight players per side make for a game that’s wide open and super, super fast. A defensive back in this sport better have a strong self-image and family support system. You can’t help but get lit up. A lot.

It’s no picnic for quarterbacks, either. Knoxville’s Randy Hippeard said he has about two seconds to get rid of the ball on passing plays. Any longer, and it’s time to get moving, he said.

The motion receiver is a totally awesome innovation, at least for the guys on offense. Hitting the line of scrimmage at a dead sprint at the snap is a major advantage for a receiver on a linebacker – except for the thing that reminds you it’s still football.

Those linebackers are always blitzing. Rules limiting formation ensure lineman still determine much about the outcome. The passing, high-scoring games and swan dive catches into the front row may be the drawing card for arena leagues like the PFIL, but it’s good to know the old-fashioned stuff – running, blocking, tackling, not turning the ball over – still wins.

Breaking tackles, making plays, is still big.

Richmond turned a second half Knoxville fumble into a quick score, and the two-touchdown differential made all the difference the rest of the way.

We didn’t get to see Chris or Rae out there, or former Knox Central and Vanderbilt standout Cassen Jackson-Garrison, a favorite from way back, either. Who or who isn’t in uniform isn’t Knoxville’s biggest problem right now, Hawks coach Cos DeMatteo said.

“You can make personnel changes,” he said, “but you’ve got to make the plays when you’re called on.”

OK. That’s fair.

Richmond may have won the game, but there isn't a city in all of Virginia that can throw down like this. The Lady Hawks Dance Team.

The Lady Hawks Dance Team helped make the loss a little easier to take, but a win Friday could do wonders for indoor football in Knoxville. Blount Press Row photographer Jolanda Jansma serves as the Hawks staff photographer, so we’ll keep up with the guys this season. If Chris or Rae starts getting some burn, we’ll be all over it.

We’ll get there as much as we can. We like the stuff, two thumbs up, and August is much too far away to wait for some more football.

Go Hawks!

Get some!












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