Blitzed

Quarterback T.R. Kanuch (10) is tackled in this 2008 Ada Evening New Oklahoma Outlawz file photo. Kanuch is one of three Outlawz players that purchased the team as a primary owner, changed its name to the Ada Blitz and signed the semi-pro club up to play in the Oklahoma Metro Football League (OMFL) next year.

Richard R. Barron
AdaEveningNews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

The league and the team name have changed, but head coach Mark Barrett said Wednesday a lot of the things that worked for the Ada Blitz — formerly the Oklahoma Outlawz — in 2008 will be back in 2009.

After competing in the semi-pro Central Footbal League the past couple of years and reaching the CFL title game this spring, the Outlawz changed names and ownership and have switched to the fledgling Oklahoma Metro Football League for 2009. Barrett said fans of the old Outlawz shouldn’t have much of an adjustment, though, when the OMFL begins its second season in late February.

“We’re pretty much still the Outlawz, just under a different name,” said Barrett, who took the team to the CFL semifinals in 2007 and to the title game in 2008, where they lost, 18-11, to the Joplin Crusaders.

Although the OMFL will have at least eight teams next spring (up from five this year) from Guthrie, Stillwater, Midwest City, Del City, Shawnee, Ada and the Oklahoma City metro area, most of the league games will be played at two sites.

“Last year the OMFL played all their games at Crooked Oak High School (on Saturday, with an afternoon and night game and one league team having a bye each week),” Barrett explained. “This year, they’ve grown to eight teams with the possibility of 10, and since they can’t have five games a night, they’re going to have half their games at Shawnee and the others at Crescent or in the Oklahoma City area.

“It’s a metro league, but it’s open to anybody in the state,” he added. “That’s not to say if we can secure a field in Ada, we wouldn’t start having some games there. We’re representing the Ada community, even though we’re playing in Shawnee.”

Former Outlawz owner Mike West (now the defensive coordinator) sold the team over the summer to a group of players headed by T. R. Kanuch (the team’s quarterback), Daniel Crites (who owned the Outlawz until 2006) and Ken Zartner (the league representative for the Blitz). Barrett said joining the OMFL not only lessened the overall financial burden on the team’s owners but also made it easier to get a representative squad to each game.

“In a way, the CFL was good for us, because it was good competition, but we were having to travel over four states,” Barrett said. “A lot of our guys couldn’t afford to travel, so we were going to Kansas or Joplin with 15 guys, where we would have 45 sometimes for home games. Everybody can make it to Shawnee or Oklahoma City, and we can have all our core guys at every game and not have to spend a lot of money every weekend on gas and motel rooms. The way the economy is right now, it’s better for us as a team overall.

“Instead of having to pay for officials and other expenses for home games, now we pay a one-time, $3,000 league fee, and (OMFL officials) take care of everything,” he noted. “At the end of the year, they take the profits and disperse them back to the teams. It should be more of a money maker for the team. The down side is we have to play our games in Shawnee, unless we play some games in Ada.”

Although the Blitz will be one of the new kids on the OMFL block, Barrett said keeping last year’s CFL runner-up virtually intact should make his club an instant contender for a championship in its first season in the new league.

“We really feel like right now we’ll be a big fish in a little pond,” he said. “There will be several CFL teams in this league, but nobody that’s had the kind of success we’ve had. Hopefully, we can bring a championship in this new league, and if we win the league championship, there’s a chance we’ll play the CFL champion in a bowl game.”

Although Barrett will welcome back most of his key players on both sides of the ball from his 2008 squad, he said the Blitz hopes to fill in some blanks on the roster Saturday, when the team hosts tryouts in two sessions — at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — at Ada Middle School, with a mini-camp for team veterans between the two sessions.

“I know we’re looking for at least three to four linemen, running backs, and possibly quarterbacks and a couple of defensive backs,” Barrett explained. “We have a lot of our core guys back, but we’ll have a few openings.”

Barrett said that, although a few things have changed from the team’s old CFL days, life shouldn’t be a lot different for Blitz players and coaches next spring in the OMFL.

“The guys want to play, and the thing with the OMFL is that it also has ties to the next level (arena football),” he noted. “The (Oklahoma City) Yard Dogs scout these guys. Is it a step down from the CFL? Yes, but no, because it’s an infant league. It could be the CFL of the future. The CFL is going to have more teams in the ast, where the OMFL is going to be more the league of the west.

“Our guys just play for the love of the game, but you can have a few of those diamonds in the rough who will hook up with an arena league or a college team,” Barrett said. “It’s not just an old fat man’s league. You have kguys who want to make it to the next level.”