Now two weeks into 2018 – a year of new beginnings for many – anticipation is rising for everyone to take hold of everything this year has in store for them. For the Sioux City Stampede, the plan is to sustain a high level of success in multiple new adventures.
On Feb. 24, the Stampede will play an indoor game versus the Sioux City Bandits of Champions Indoor Football, so in recent weeks they’ve been working on their chemistry at what is a significantly different game than they’re used to.
“At this point, we have been going hard the last five weeks,” Stampede head coach Jason Garnand told Developmental Football USA. “A lot has to do with indoor, but with the advantage of getting our players together, we also are getting our new offense together as we brought in a new offensive coordinator, so it’s very exciting.”
While this game won’t effect either team’s record for the season, if you’re familiar with the Stampede, you know they don’t just plan to show up. No, they plan to win it.
“Winning the game is a great motivation for our players,” Garnand said. “Over the last four years, we have been the stepbrother to the Sioux City Bandits here as in talent level on the field, regardless of indoor or outdoor.”
Win or lose, however, this is a huge opportunity for the fourth year developmental dynasty-in-the-making.
“As for how big this game is for our organization, it’s the biggest thing we have done other than winning an undefeated league championship,” Garnand said. “By means of getting our team on a stage to be able to showcase our look and actual talent level and using this game as a vehicle to put us in front of football fans that may not of seen us yet. They might have heard of us, but never seen the entertainment value of what we bring to Sioux City, Iowa, and surrounding communities.
“With those two mixes, it is critical we compete well and do what we can to give Sioux City Bandits a look they need to solidify a roster and begin their 2018 campaign.”
Once that game is behind them, their focus will fully shift to the outdoor season as they’ll get ready to kick off their first season as members of the Northern Elite Football League – one of the top developmental leagues in the country.
In 2017, the Stampede finished out a perfect undefeated season with a Midwest Football Alliance Championship, their first ever championship in just the fourth year of their program.
“I think the majority of our success last year came from players really checking egos at the door,” Garnand said. “We had a lot of depth last year and at this level, I’ve learned that you can have all the great players you want and a great coaching staff, but if you don’t have players willing to give up some playing time and buy into what the organization is trying to accomplish, you’re not guaranteed wins.”
Depth proved to be an advantage for the Stampede in 2017 and they’ll lean on it again in hopes of making this season just as sweet.
“We were so deep at middle linebacker last year, where my three middle linebackers could have started for anyone in the league,” Garnand said. “I had a defensive line that was rotating every other series. The wide receiver core was great, with two great backs. We had depth and guys not worried about stats, but doing what it takes to win and we learned a lot and that’s the foundation going forward.
“We’re probably going to bring back about 90 percent of what we had last year. Success drives motivation, as long as players don’t get complacent.”
Instead of setting out on another season in the MFA, focusing on not losing as they defended their title, setting their sights on something new should keep the team focused and the momentum trending upward for their program.
“The excitement is huge in the community in Sioux Land,” Garnand said. “We have a lot of backers, a lot of sponsors and new fans every day. There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on.”
Wins are never guaranteed and in the NEFL, the Stampede will have to work harder for every single one of them.
“The consistency of week-in and week-out competition is going to be better,” Garnand said. “The Des Moines Blaze, the Kansas City Bulldogs (both of the MFA), those are great teams and they match up very well with the good teams in the NEFL. Now, it’s going to be a marathon, no sprint. We have to be able to have depth again and be consistent all year to compete and that’s what’s intriguing for me. There’s no breaks or gimmes in the NEFL, you have to come prepared to play every week or you’re going to end up with an L.”
Overall, the Stampede has faired will in past match-ups against teams from the NEFL, but that’s all history now, with more on the line next time they square off.
“We’ve played the Minnesota Sting, we’ve played the North Bank Bulls, which was in the NEFL Championship last year and we played the Fargo Invaders last year,” Garnand said. “The Stampede, going into 2018 with new players and a new direction, it’s not something we’re going to take for granted. It’s going to be a huge opportunity.”
Not only is the level of competition going up, so is the time sacrifice that goes hand-in-hand with the move up to a higher level.
“There’s going to be a considerable amount more distance for travel this year, which was one of the things we had to weigh heavily on,” Garnand said. “You’re looking at 300 miles, minimum, for an away game in this league, going against great competition, new teams and new players.”