By John L. Pitts | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Mississippi Hound Dogs, the third indoor pro football team to test the waters here, begins its inaugural season tonight at BancorpSouth Arena.
Kickoff against the Rome (Ga.) Rampage is set for 7:30 p.m. at BancorpSouth Arena. Admission starts at $10.
Head coach Martino Theus and his players got on the arena’s turf for the first time on Thursday and did a final walkthough on Friday afternoon.
“We feel great about the season getting started,” said Theus. “The guys are excited – the players who have experience in the indoor game and our rookies, too.”
The 24-man roster circulated earlier this week included 14 rookies, including all three of the Hound Dogs’ quarterbacks. Two of those QBs are from the area – Jami Boland (Nettleton) and Richard McFadden II (Amory).
“We’re really determined to make this a truly Mississippi-based team,” Theus said. “But this is a business, too. A guys could be here today and gone tomorrow. It’s all about performance.”
The larger question of succeeding in a market where a variety of minor-league franchises have already failed will boil down to community support. Theus said the team has been embraced in many recent public appearances and hopes that will translate to a good turnout tonight.
“We need to make a good impression tonight, as it’ll be three weeks until we’re home again,” he said. After tonight, the Hound Dogs play a pair of games in Florida before the Rampage visits again on March 23.
All told, the team will have seven home dates and four road games. There are also three open dates in a regular-season schedule that runs through June 2.
The Hound Dogs play in the UIFL, which enters its second season with 10 teams – only two of which were active last season. The UIFL stood for “Ultimate Indoor Football League” last season but was rechristened as the “United Indoor Football League” on Jan. 19, when the league’s assets were sold for the second time in seven months.
The Hound Dogs are one of several UIFL teams owned by the league’s management.
The Tupelo FireAnts (2001-05) were the first indoor pro football team to play here, followed by the Mississippi MudCats (2007-08). The FireAnts lost their debut game, 64-30, at Johnstown, Pa., on April 14, 2001. The MudCats won their opener on Feb. 3, 2007, beating Pittsburgh 54-34.