BOONE — They’ve been a vision, then a front office staff and a coaching staff, and then a training camp of hopefuls. After making cut downs on March 12, the High Country Grizzlies are finally a team.
The Grizzlies are an indoor football team playing in the newly formed National Arena League in Boone. The Grizzlies will play six games in the Holmes Center on the Appalachian State campus and six games on the road.
After selecting the final 24 players to be on the Grizzlies’ roster, the team plays its first NAL game March 18 in Albany, Ga., against the Georgia Firebirds.
After that game, the Grizzlies, coached by indoor football veteran coach Josh Resignalo, play three games in Boone, starting with a 7 p.m., March 25 showdown against the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks. The Grizzlies will also host the Dayton Wolfpack on April 1 and the Jacksonville Sharks on April 9.
“It’s exciting,” Resignalo said. “For it to finally be here — and I’ve kind of visualized the scene in the distance horizon from past experiences and with my background, being new to Boone there are people asking what is it like with the players? What is it like with the team? I’ve been there and done that so I know what do expect, but it’s still exciting, no matter how many times you do it.”
The Grizzlies were formed in April 2016 by former App State equipment manager William Thompson and owners Donald Thompson and Bryan Bouboulis. The team was a member of a different league, but became a charter member of NAL after that first league folded.
The team held tryouts in October and December, and just finished its training camp that went from Feb. 28 to March 11 with a full-contact scrimmage. The final roster was trimmed to 24 players on March 12.
The Grizzlies found four players in their backyard. Four Appalachian State graduates, three who played football for the Mountaineers, made the final roster. Jackson and Jones were joined by former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Troy Sanders and former App State track athlete Cody Sterrett.
“We’re going to be very physical,” Resignalo said. “We’re going to be very physical on defense and on offense we’re going to put points on the board. We’ve got some guys who can get down and make some plays.”
Resignalo can turn his attention to the Georgia Firebirds, who lost 39-24 to Jacksonville in an exhibition game on March 9. The Grizzlies do not have any game film on the Firebirds, but will have to rely on the previous contacts the coaching staff and veteran players have built by either coaching or playing against members of the Georgia franchise.
“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.”
The Grizzlies unveiled their field at the Holmes Center in February, which was a symbolic gesture to Donald Thompson that the season was approaching.
“Like anything in life, you need milestones to give you the perspective of progress as you’re marching forward,” Thompson said. “Seeing the field, seeing it rolled out, seeing the sponsors, seeing the players interact with the fans is pretty exciting.”