A win in this Saturday’s match-up against the Tri-City Panthers for the Central Football League Championship would be by far the biggest in the history of the Northwest Arkansas Battle.
“It’s more than just our organization,” Battle marketing and public relationship specialist Joe Mitchell told Developmental Football USA. “When you think about a league championship – there’s been a team from Northwest Arkansas in the CFL for 13 or 14 years. So far, no team from Northwest Arkansas has ever brought home a league championship ring yet, so this isn’t just about our organization. It’s for all of Northwest Arkansas.”
On Saturday, the Battle look to change that and make history in the championship game, which will be held in Wagoner, Okla., on Saturday at 6:00.
“There’s been just one, maybe two, league championships won in the entire state,” Mitchell said. “We’re as close as we’ve ever been. As our goal and our mantra has been all season, we’ve got to finish. It’s not a goal, it’s not a dream, it’s not just something we want. It’s a job, it’s something we have to do, we have to finish and get that ring.”
On Saturday, the Battle knocked off the nationally-known Joplin Crusaders for the second time this season, 24-18, to advance to the championship game.
In the win, the stable of running backs came up big for Northwest Arkansas as Davon Neal rushed for 75 yards, while Nick Vanderbilt and Wayne Hall each added 50 on the ground. Wide receiver Cole Harris also came up big for the Battle with touchdown catches of 35 and 45 yards.
Look for more of the same offensively this weekend from the Battle.
“We’ve got to stick to our game plan, as always,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to dance with the girls that brung us to the party. We’re a running team at heart. I don’t think there’s anyone in the conference, anyone in the region, that can compete with our offensive line in the trenches day in and day out, game in and game out.
“Win, lose, or try, every play, running the ball is at the core of what we do. Our offense is built around the run game. If we can get that going, it draws in the linebackers, and sucks in the safeties and opens up our ability to stretch the field.”
While this will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams, the Panthers aren’t complete strangers to the Battle.
“We’ve watched them from afar for two years now,” Mitchell said. “The core of their team is the defunct Oklahoma Desperados team, the 2016 runner up in CFL. The core of that team went over to build a new attitude and new look, with a lot of players from the Tulsa area.
“T.J. Covington is a playmaker in the defensive backfield. He’s been on some of the best teams in the country and he’s been a leader on those defensive teams. Rico Watkins at quarterback is big and tall and he can really dice up a defense. He’s really calm and poised as he plays the game very quietly. Carson Smallwood is one of their dangerous running backs we’re looking to bottle up if we can.”
If the Battle defense can stand tall and take away those weapons, they will get closer and closer to hoisting the CFL Championship trophy at the end of the night.
“We don’t like to give up yards and put pressure on players,” Mitchell said. “If we can create a little bit of pressure and force our defensive backfield to not have to cover as long, we can make a play.”
Saturday is also a homecoming of sorts for one of the Battle’s players who grew up in Wagoner.
“Jeremy McMurrian played on that field and he is elated to have the opportunity to play at home,” Mitchell said.