By Steve Behr

Former Appalachian State and Tampa Bay receiver Dexter Jackson leads the High Country Grizzlies into their season opener on Saturday at the Georgia Firebirds.


BOONE — It may be hard to believe, but the High Country Grizzlies are merely six days away from the team’s first game in franchise history.

The Grizzlies, born in April, 2016, play their first National Arena League game on March 18 at the Georgia Firebirds, which is located in Albany, Ga. The game is at the Albany Civic Center and begins at 7 p.m.

After the season opener, High Country plays its first home game on March 25 against the Leigh Valley Steelhawks. The Grizzlies host the Dayton (Ohio) Wolfpack on April 1 and the Jacksonville (Fla.) Sharks on April 9.

Grizzlies head coach Josh Resignalo said the team already began game planning for the Firebirds last week, even though they had no game film of the team nor do they have any to give away.

The Firebirds played an exhibition game on March 9, losing to visiting Jacksonville 39-24.

Resignalo did not seem concerned about the lack of film available since the Grizzlies’ veteran players have either been teammates or opponents against the veteran players on the Firebirds.

“We’re trying to game plan as much as we can without having any film and stuff,” Resignalo said. “I know some of the guys there and one of the additions we made was bringing on co-defensive coordinator Damien Daniels. He’s a long time veteran of arena football and at the time last year, he finished with the Columbus Lions and he’s the interception leader in arena football with 108 interceptions in 10 years.”

Daniels has played with several of the Firebirds when the team was known as the Albany Panthers, according to Resignalo. The Firebirds’ head coach is Antwon Savage. The Albany Panthers former quarterback Cecil Lester was hire to be a coach on offense.

“Their quarterback Cecil Lester, he’s actually their offensive coordinator,” Resignalo said. “They have quite a few players who came back. Probably about four of five of their players played with the Columbus Lions last year and all went back to Albany this year. Having Damien on staff, we’ve got the inside track on all of those guys with them all being in Columbus.”

The Grizzlies have been practicing since Feb. 28. They’ve been practicing three times during the last two weeks, held two practices on March 4 and a final scrimmage on March 11 sends the team into their final week of preparation for the Firebirds.

“We ran around well and we started to gel pretty quickly,” Resignalo said of the first week of workouts. “One of my concerns was how we would come together and things are coming along pretty great.”

Georgia is coming off that exhibition loss to Jacksonville. The Sharks took a 14-0 lead before Georgia quarterback Jeffrey Legree found Kurtis Green for a 21-yard touchdown. Legree completed 6-of-15 passes for 49 yards, while backup quarterback Isaiah Jupiter completed 10-of-20 passes for 79 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Because of the style of the arena game, which places an emphasis on passing, there won’t be much difference between Georgia’s offense and most of the offenses in the NAL, according to Resignalo. Each team may throw in its own wrinkle, but all teams are likely to lean on the pass once the games begin.

“For the most part, the arena game is very similar across the board and universal,” Resignalo said. “But, everyone talks different with different verbiage, but for the most part the concepts are the same. There are some tweaks here and there. It depends on personnel.”