Gladiators, Nighthawks begin football season today
JANESVILLE Amateur football is thriving in the Janesville area.
The Great Midwest Football League opens play today with three teams based in a seven-mile radius of Janesville.
The Rock County Gladiators, Janesville Nighthawks and Beloit Titans all begin play in the six-team Central Division of the Gateway Conference. The GMFL is broken into two conferences with four divisions in each conference.
The Rockford Raiders, Rockford Rams and Twin City Dawgs complete the Central Division.
Finding enough players to field three teams in this area is a challenge for all the teams.
“We try to get as many Parker and Craig (graduates) guys as possible,” said Topher Diehl, who plays on the offensive and defensive line for the Nighthawks. “But we do have (local) guys who drive down to Rockford, Burlington, Lake Geneva and Madison. And some drive to Janesville to play for us.”
Carter Linneman, the Gladiators’ team president and co-owner, said players have gravitated toward his team.
“We have 52 guys on our roster,” said Linneman. “We have a lot of returning players. Those guys mainly recruit for us.
“We’ve got a good record, and players show up trying out for the team.”
Playing football is not like playing slow-pitch softball on the weekends. There is insurance available to players at an approximate cost of $25 a month, Diehl said. Still, there is the risk of being injured and losing time from full-time jobs.
“We actually have two guys gone for the season already,” Diehl said of preseason practice injuries. “One game was doing routes, and he came down wrong and snapped his ankle. Another had a knee-to-knee blow. One guy was fine, but the other tore a knee ligament.”
“I definitely admire these guys,” Diehl said. “They play for the love of the game. They put their bodies on the line, and they’re not making $2 million.”
The Gladiators open against the Beloit Titans at 4 p.m. today. The game is at the former Beloit Catholic High School field. The field is located on Henry Avenue (coming from the north on Highway 51, turn left on Henry and field is 7/10 of a mile off 51). Admission is free for fans 12-and-under, $3 for fans 13-16 and $6 for fans 17-and-older.
The Titans are the defending divisional champions.
The Gladiators’ 10-game schedule includes home games at Clinton High School and Milton High School.
The Gladiators joined the GMFL this season after playing three years in the Ironman Football League.
“This is a multi-state league, which always wanted to be in,” said Linneman. “The IFL is kind of located in the Milwaukee area. The GMFL has teams from five states and a team in Canada.
“This allows us to play more locally,” Linneman said.
The Nighthawks, who played in an eight-man league last season, are also a first-year member of the GMFL.
The Nighthawks play home games at Monterey Park in Janesville. The team opens at home against the Twin City Dawgs at 6 p.m. today. Admission is free.
“We’ve been mowing it and getting it ready,” Diehl said of the field adjacent to Monterey Stadium. “With the way the economy is, we don’t want to charge families. Admission is free, and we’ll have concession stands available with catered food.”
The Nighthawks also have a cheer squad that features cheerleaders from both Parker and Craig.
ROCK COUNTY GLADIATORS
Head coach: Ralph Uhe.
Team website: www.rcgladiators.com
Today—at Beloit Titans, 4 p.m., Titan Stadium (former Beloit Catholic High field)
June 11—Chicago Cardinals, 5 p.m., Clinton High
June 18—at Rockford Rams, 6 p.m.
June 25—Illinois Firehawks, 5 p.m., Milton High
July 9—Rockford Raiders, 5 p.m., Milton High
July 16—at Kane County Chaos, 7 p.m.
July 23—Beloit Titans, 5 p.m., Milton High
July 30—at Rockford Raiders, 7 p.m.
Aug. 6—Janesville Nighthawks, 5 p.m., Clinton High
Aug. 13—at Twin City Dawgs, 7 p.m.
Head coach: Dale Berlin.
Team website: janesvillenighthawks.com
Today—Twin City Dawgs, 6 p.m., Monterey Park
June 11—Rockford Rams, Monterey Park
June 18—at Beloit Titans, Titan Stadium (former Beloit Catholic High field)
June 25—at Chicago Colts
July 9—Illinois Gators, Monterey Park
July 16—at Illinois Spartans
July 23—Rockford Raiders, Monterey Park
July 30—Beloit Titans, Monterey Park
Aug. 6—at Rock County Gladiators, Clinton High School
Aug. 13—at Rockford Rams.