May 23, 2024

Arena Insider

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Southwest Kansas Storm entering new season with ‘underdog’ mentality

3 min read

DODGE CITY, KS — Merging into its second league in only its two seasons as a franchise, the Southwest Kansas Storm are prepared to showcase its small community on a big stage.

The Storm entered into the indoor football atmosphere in 2022 under the Champions Indoor Football League (CIF). In its inaugural season, the Storm finished 3-7 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

First-year head coach Gary Thomas said he’s approaching the new season with an underdog mentality. He was previously a consultant with the Storm and later tapped as coach at the end of last season.

“Honestly we’re 10 times better than I thought that we could ever be, at least athletically with the group we brought in,” Thomas told Arena Insider. “I’m super excited to be part of it and hopefully help the [Arena Football] league build for the next three to 10 years.” 

Thomas is no stranger to Dodge City. He coached the Dodge City Community College Conquistadors from 2013 to 2018 where he led the team to a conference championship and tied the school record for most wins in a season. Thomas also won the Kansas Jayhawk Conference Coach of the Year Award twice.

Throughout his coaching career, Thomas lead players into the National Football League, Canadian Football League and other professional careers – something he aims to do with his new group.

“I know what those athletes look like and what they’re supposed to look like running around,” Thomas said on the athleticism of NFL and CFL players. “We have a few players that I’m honestly shocked are in this league. They probably should play at a higher level so hopefully we can give them that exposure and put them in a system that showcases their abilities.”

The Storm will play in the Central Division against the Iowa Rampage, Salina Liberty and Wichita Regulators. The Liberty, Billings Outlaws and Rapid City Marshals were previously in the CIF with the Storm.

Centered in historic Dodge City, the Storm will play their home games at United Wireless Arena. Although the city has a small population of nearly 28,000 people, many tourists regularly visit the area which will be key for the team throughout the season.

“The thing that’s going to immediately draw people to us is the product that we put out there, ” Thomas said. “We got a great practice facility, and a nice arena with a casino connected to it so it’s great for [travelers]… We draw from a pretty big area. The difference is when our guys walk around town they are going to get recognized.”

The arena has a capacity of about 5,300 seats. While it may be significantly less compared to other teams in the league, Thomas believes it will be a competitive advantage and rewarding especially with games slated to be nationally televised.

“Our [arena] is going to be loud, the fans are going to be engaged and vocal,” Thomas said. ” If you were at practice and looked at our roster you wouldn’t think that we’re underdogs. I only say that we’re underdogs because people like to bring up quite often that we’re the smallest market. I guess we’ll find out.

“We got ten opportunities to prove if that matters or not.” 

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