SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Mike Davis got a bit emotional when he appeared on press row Saturday night for his post-game radio interview.
That’s not too surprising. The Nebraska Danger coach had just watched his team drop the United Bowl to Sioux Falls 63-40 in the final game at the Sioux Falls Arena.
Davis definitely wasn’t emotional because the arena is closing. And it really didn’t seem like that emotion came from losing the game either.
Sure, that was part of it, but the big part was the fact that this was the last game this group of players will be together.
Some will move on to other teams. Others will move on with their lives.
A few have confirmed their retirement. Others may follow.
“Andre Piper-Jordan, it was his last game,” Davis said. “He’s a true leader. Adrian Davis is probably done. I know Pig Brown is done.”
This is when you could really hear the emotion in Davis’ voice.
“People don’t realize Pig is kind of like my son,” Davis said. “We kind of know too much about each other. He’s just a good kid.”
This is both the blessing and the curse of team sports. All good things must come to an end, and football careers generally end at a very young age.
On the other hand, players and coaches can build close relationships that will last a lifetime. This is true at any level of sports.
Tom Osborne was certainly right when he said it’s the journey, not the destination. The destination in this case was to win the Indoor Football League title.
The Danger came up a win short in that respect for the second year in a row, but the journey to get there was quite a ride.
The Danger battled through key injuries throughout the season. Quarterback Jameel Sewell was hurt off and on, but it was hard to keep him down for long.
Receiver Marcus Barnett missed much of the season. Kayne Farquharson also had his share of injuries, including what was a scary neck injury in the Intense Conference final against Colorado when he was carried off the field on a stretcher.
Farquharson bounced back in a hurry and led the Danger with six receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns against Sioux Falls.
The schedule was challenging as well. There was a three-game road swing where the Danger played at Tri-Cities (in Kennewick, Washington), at Wyoming (in Casper) and at Green Bay.
According to MapQuest, a round trip to Kennewick is 2,762 miles, Casper 1,024 miles and Green Bay 1,426 miles.
That’s a total of 5,212 miles of travel in about two weeks on the calendar (May 3 through May 17). And this isn’t the NFL. The team drove to Omaha and flew to Kennewick, but took the bus to both Casper and Green Bay.
And the Danger won all three games.
“In spite of all the injuries and the ups and downs, to get into the championship again made this a very special year,” Danger general manager Mike McCoy said. “We just got to figure out a way to get back here and win.”
Nebraska scratched out 11 wins for the season, but that was little consolation on Saturday night.
”I’d rather be 8-8 and win a championship than 11-5 and be second,” Davis said. “We had a ton of adversity this year. To go 11-5 was pretty amazing because of all the injuries. Still we were here for a championship game and came up a little short. That’s the frustrating part.”
Davis talked like a coach who would be back next year, but until the contract is signed nothing is for sure. The Danger need him. He’s known as one of the best — if not the best — recruiter of talent in the IFL.
The Danger will need some new blood for the 2015 season. Davis said 10 to 15 players on this year’s roster will likely be gone next season.
“You’ll see a really different roster next year,” Davis said. “That is what the game is for. You get a special group of players together and make a run. It’s championship or bust. It was a bust for us right now.
“It’s just tough to think about it for another six months. It will eat at me. But we’ll come back and make a run at it next year.”
This group of players has done a lot for the Danger. They just came up a little short of their ultimate goal.
“I’ll be forever grateful to these guys because they helped me build a foundation,” Davis said. “We’ll take it and continue to build on it. These guys will hold a special place for me.”
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.