The Ryan Huff Memorial Stadium is the new home of the KC Mustangs, a semi pro Interstate Football League team.
According to ‘Stangs general manager Sid Phillips and confirmed by Whitko High School football coach Wayne Swender, the Interstate Football League Team will battle brother IFL teams from the middle of June through August in South Whitley.
“Shaun Craft has been with us since we started eight years ago,” said Phillips about the move from Triton High School in Bourbon. “He’s always pushed us to move to Whitko.”
The KC Mustangs’ first home field was at Lakeview Middle School in Warsaw where they were quite comfortable for five years. For the last three years they’ve played at Triton.
With a roster that includes two other Whitko graduates, Tyler Elder and James Smith, several players from the Fort Wayne area, including new head coach Bernard Pollard Sr. and Columbia City resident and assistant coach Bart Brower another Whitko alumni and member of the 1986 football team, the move makes logistical sense.
“We’re excited about having the Mustangs use our home field,” said Whitko head coach Wayne Swender. “Hopefully, it will be a nice attraction for the town. They wanted to get closer to Fort Wayne, but not in Fort Wayne.”
Phillips said the team has a 10 game season, five at home and five away, on Saturday nights, starting June 18.
Right now the team members are playing basketball at Pierceton Elementary School for winter conditioning and they plan to use the football field there for practice.
Sign ups continue through the off season with formal work-out, tryouts scheduled in February and March. The player’s fee is $100 until April 16, then it is increased to $150.
The February tryout will be at Indian Springs Middle School in Columbia City at a date to be announced.
“We’re always looking for players,” Phillips said, “and we can take them up to the third game. After that the roster is set.”
Players must be 18 years old to participate and not enrolled in high school. Players provide their own helmet, shoulder pads and uniforms.
“Any current senior in high school could work out with them now,” Phillips said. “If they’re 17 they must have parental consent. Playing semi pro doesn’t hurt eligibility to pay in college.”
And Phillips advocates going to college.
“Sometimes we get guys who are sitting out a year and they want to stay in shape,” he said. “They have a true love of the game. They love to come out and get their head beat in,” he said, laughing.
“Actually, our league mission is getting up to go to work on Monday.”
The average player is in his late 20’s, although the team doesn’t seem to have any age or gender barriers.
“Larry Fisher is our 50-year-old. He went to college to coach and did coach a few teams out west. He still has a good leg on him.”
The team also has a woman on the roster, Chaney Hyde, the extra-point kicker.
“She was the woman who scored the first female point on a Division 1 team. She’s great on extra points. And she loves to talk to young players.
“We have all sorts of people on the team, from all walks of life.”
The IFL is down to six teams; last year there were 14 teams in the league.
“We lose 15 to 20 players every year. They might go to another team. And then they come back. Some guys go on to play arena football,” Phillips said. “The teams come and they go. One team can be really dominant one year and the next year they don’t exist.
“The thing about it is commitment. We give these young gentlemen a chance to do something instead of going into a bar and drinking. One guy said he believes if he didn’t have this to go to he’d be in jail right now.”
The Mustangs’ schedule includes three teams from Elkhart, one based in Brazil, one from Bloomington and one from Detroit.
“We play everyone twice, one home and one away game. We keep the travel distance within three hours.”
The season wraps up with a championship game on the league-leading team’s home field.
For the community the teams presence in South Whitley means an influx of visitors every Saturday night. Phillips plans to support and feature area organizations.
“We’ll have an event for the food pantry. By bringing two canned food items fans will get a dollar off at the gate. We’ll do anything to help the community.”
Admission is $5 for adults. Children 12 and younger get in free.
“It’s up to the high school administration who runs the concession stand. They keep all the proceeds,” Phillips said.
The team is happy to accept sponsorships and program advertisers.
“If a company wants to advertise during the game, we’ll put their banners up and roll ‘em up and store them after the game.
Vendors interested in a place at the game can contact Phillips at 574.268.7979 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ‘Stangs Web site is www.kcmustangsfootball.com
The Web site doesn’t yet reflect the move to South Whitley. However, there is a great amount of information about the Interstate Football and other leagues available.