National Arena League football is coming to Boone.
The High Country Grizzlies are the first professional arena football team to call Western North Carolina home. The sport itself is similar to regular football, with touchdowns, field goals, extra-point kicks, and two-point conversions. But, at 50 yards long and 85 feet wide, the indoor arenas are roughly half the size of regular football fields, so there’s very little running, and no punting. Plus, if the kick off splits the uprights, add two more points.
High Country Grizzlies General Manager William Thompson says the compact nature of the sport—there are only 8 men per side—and the emphasis on passing, adds up to lots of excitement.
“I call it NASCAR on a football field. You’re going to be seeing guys go after lots of passes, make catches, and the out of bounds is a wall—four-foot high”, says Thompson. “Basically, they’re going to hit that wall, and they’re going to go over it if they get tackled, or they’re going to get tackled into the wall. You’re going to have a wall that causes fumbles. You’re going to have people hit the wall and don’t get up! [Laughs] It’s just a fun game with a lot of points scored!”
The athletes involved are former college players hoping to make it to the NFL, and former NFL players hoping to make their way back. Co-owner Bryan Bouboulis is a former App State football player himself. He says he’s most proud of the way the community has embraced the team.
“We’ve had our players out with the elementary schools doing reading programs, and doing fundraising activities for other [local] organizations as well,” Bouboulis says. “This isn’t about us. It’s about engaging with the community and being a part of the community.”
Since announcing its arrival last year, more than fifty local businesses have signed on as team sponsors. The High Country Grizzlies kick off their season with a road game Saturday against the Georgia Firebirds.