Are you ready for some football?
Don't be deceived by the fact we are just a few months removed from the Bowl Championship Series title game and the Super Bowl " football in Oklahoma is gearing up again with the Oklahoma Metro Football League.
This season marks the second for the new semi-pro league, which has blossomed to 10 teams from all around the state, including Tulsa, Guthrie, Stillwater, Ada, Shawnee and the Oklahoma City metro area. The OMFL was formed to collect Oklahoma teams playing in various regional leagues and centralize them within the state to cut down on travel and develop more loyal fan followings.
The Oklahoma City Gunners were the 2008 OMFL champions, but league secretary Chris Dodson said they will be facing stiffer competition from the expanded field of teams.
"The overall competition will be much greater this year," he said. "There are a few new teams, but you also have teams that have been together for years. It is becoming very territorial, drawing sectional lines saying, 'You can't recruit past this street!' Almost like gang wars."
Originally, the OMFL wanted to keep the games as centralized as possible, but it has outgrown its original two fields. The games are played on Saturdays on four fields: Crooked Oak High School in Oklahoma City, Crescent High School in Crescent, Destiny Christian in Del City and Tulsa East Central in Tulsa.
Dodson started the league, basically running the whole show with his wife. It was decided that, for the 2009 season, the workload be spread amongst the teams.
"The league restructured this year, went to a board format so the teams have a say," said David Potter, co-chairman of the board. "The board is made up of one representative from each team. That way everyone has their own voice and things can be ironed out, a joint decision."
Dodson said the decision to shift his role allowed him to focus on his own team, the Guthrie Falcons.
"We accomplished a lot with me and my wife, but it got to be way too stressful, especially when everyone is looking to you for the decisions," he said.
Potter anticipates a 25 percent to 50 percent increase in attendance this year, boosted by lowered ticket prices. It's $5 to attend a Saturday game, which includes every game being played on that field, and $35 for season tickets.
The rosters for the teams are diverse. There are high school standout players who didn't move on to college, but are looking for a route into arena football. Other players are veterans with no interest in pursuing football as a career, but still enjoy putting on pads as a workout.
Potter thinks the league will likely expand again next season, and as long as there are plenty of ticket sales and sponsorships to offset the costs, OMFL will continue to grow from there. He is certain the interest in football doesn't fade once the Super Bowl ends.
"You have a bunch of football junkies out there and once the NFL is over and the weather gets nice, flag football leagues pop up," Potter said. "Football keeps going. They want to get out there and play. They can't get it out of their system." "Charles Martin