Salina’s indoor professional football team is within a couple of weeks of kicking off their second season. The Salina Liberty hosted the media Wednesday afternoon, on their field inside the Salina Bicentennial Arena where preseason camp is underway, and offered a 2017 season preview.
General Manager Francis Flax and Coach Eric Clayton both spoke. Both agreed that the 2016 season was a disappointment and vowed to be much improved in 2017. The Liberty ended the 2016 season on a 7 game losing streak, finishing 2 – 10.
Flax said that as the season progressed last year it became more and more of a struggle. He credited a core group of players who persevered, though, and made it to the end.
Clayton said that this year will be different. He is excited about the group of players he has assembled, a mix of athletic veterans and rookies. He added that the organization has allowed him to hire an offensive coordinator this year as well, a position that he himself filled last year. Clayton will be more involved with the defense, a job in which he is much more comfortable.
Among the 2017 Liberty are several players who Salina fans will recognize. Last year’s leading tackler Brock Long, a local fan favorite, is back. The Assaria native played in high school at Southeast of Saline and in college at Fort Hays State University. Another key player returning for another season in Salina will be Isiah Barfield. The former KU Jayhawk is the league’s 2016 Special Teams Player of the Year.
New to the Liberty, but not to Salina fans, is Jake Lattimer. Lattimer played in college at Iowa State, where he was one of the best defensive ends in the Big 12. He spent time in the NFL with the New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, and Kansas City Chiefs. He also played for the Salina Bombers, before taking some time off to go back to school and get a second Bachelor’s Degree. Lattimer told KSAL that he has never lost the desire to play football, and he is thankful for the opportunity to play in Salina
The Salina Liberty play in the North Division of the 14 team Champions Indoor Football League. Including Salina, the league has teams throughout the Midwest and Southwest including in Kansas City, Omaha, Dallas, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Dodge City, Sioux City, Wichita, Bloomington, Allen, Belton, Muskegon, and Bismark.
Flax announced that the Liberty are teaming with the football programs from Salina Central and Salina South High Schools in a ticket promotion. Beginning Friday Cougar and Mustang players will start selling Liberty tickets for the next week. The team that sells the most will win a donation from the Liberty. Flax is going to make the same offer to the Southeast of Saline, Ell-Saline, Sacred Heart, and Bennington football teams as well.
The Liberty will begin the 2017 season at home on Sunday, March 5th, hosting the Wichita Force at the Salina Bicentennial Center. It will be the only Sunday game of the season. All other games will be on Saturday nights with a 6:35 kickoff.