‘Blitz’-krieg Bop

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For all of the Bakersfield College sports fans who love Renegade football, but cringe at the notion of no gridiron for eight months, there is an oasis on the horizon.

The Bakersfield Blitz has begun its inaugural season at the Centennial Garden. The Blitz are part of the arenafootball2 league, which consists of 34 teams nationwide.

The original arena football league is made up of 16 teams and represents large-market cities like Toronto, San Jose, New York and Chicago, said Todd Anderson, director of public and media relations for the Blitz.

Although Bakersfield is considered a small-market city compared to the large-market Los Angeles Avengers, Anderson said players have no affiliation between teams and are not obligated to sign with major teams in their area.

“Once a player signs with us, they stay for the season,” Anderson said. “Larger market teams have more coaches and staff but the size of the player rosters are the same.”

Arena football adheres to the concept that less is definitely more. Each team has eight players on offense and defense during game play, compared to 11 players used for the traditional game.

Players play both offense and defense except for one offensive specialist, two defensive specialists, the kicker and the quarterback.

The Blitz have brought in a local star to help light up the scoreboard on offense. Steve Wofford, a Bakersfield High School alumni, handles the offensive specialist duties and is adapting well to his new, slimmed down profession.

While at BHS, Wofford rushed for over 7,100 and scored 107 touchdowns. During his four years at Southern University, he broke the single-season rushing record consecutively during his junior and senior year. He was also a Southwestern Western Athletic Conference player of the year and earned First team All-American for Black Colleges.

Wofford was excited after the Blitz avenged its only loss so far this season by defeating the Fresno Frenzy on May 4.

“We played solid all four quarters and we did what we had to do to win this game,” said Wofford, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown and rushed for two more to help lead the Blitz to a 64-41 victory. “We have a lot of veteran teams coming in later in the season and we have to be ready.”

James Fuller is the head coach and director of football operations for the Blitz. Although arena football emphasizes offense first, Fuller has earned a reputation around the league as one of the top defensive coaches.

While handling the duties of being the defensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Wranglers of the original arena football league in 2000, the team ranked No. 1 in total defense and pass defense.

After the May 4 game against the Frenzy, Fuller was pleased with his team’s performance, but acknowledged that as the season goes along, teams can develop a better understanding of one another.

“I thought we matched up well against them,” Fuller said. “But once teams start to circulate game film, teams start to see what everyone else is doing.”

Arena football can be described as a smaller version of the traditional game. According to league rules, all of the games are played on artificial turf and the fields are only 85 feet wide and 50 yards long with eight yard end zones. High school, college and professional leagues in the United States all play on 100-yard fields with 10-yard end zones.

Sideline barriers protect players from being smashed out of bounds. The high-density foam rubber walls are 48 inches high and encompass the entire field. When players come in contact with the barriers, they are considered out of bounds. Anyone cheering near these spots is literally right on top of the action.

Arena football games are traditionally high scoring since teams only have to cover 50 yards to reach the end zone and punting the ball on fourth down is illegal. Teams have the option of going for the first down or attempting a field goal.

Arena football also has brought extra excitement to the kicking game and special teams. The field goal pillars have two huge rebound nets on opposite sides of the goal posts. The rules state that when a kicker misses a field goal and the ball bounces off the nets, the ball is considered live and the opposing player can run the missed attempted back for a score.

Also, if a pass is deflected off the nets, it can still be caught by the offense for a score or it can be caught by the defense for an interception.

One of the most attractive attributes of attending a Blitz game is the frenetic atmosphere. Because the field is small, there are very few bad seats. Even sitting in the upper decks of the Garden provides an almost panoramic view of the entire field.

During the game, there are prize giveaways, raffles, the Hot Squad Blitz dancers and Crusher, the team mascot, all offering added entertainment. Also, any football that goes into the stands is considered a free souvenir for whoever catches it.

The Blitz will play at the Centinnial Garden against Peoria on May 18, rematch against Fresno at home on June 1 and battle San Diego on June 8. Kickoff times at set for 7 p.m.

For the football fans who are dying to see live gridiron gladiators in action, there’s nothing better than having another home team to cheer for during the dog days of summer.

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