Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 9, 2009

Wolves host playoff game at Thirlby

The teams split in regular season

By MIKE ECKERT

TRAVERSE CITY -- Daniel Skibbe said there is a lot of excitement swirling around his Traverse City Wolves.

And for good reason.

The first-year Wolves finished the regular season 7-3, qualified for the postseason and will host a North American Football League playoff game on Saturday at Thirlby Field.

"These guys have been waiting for this," said Skibbe, the owner and head coach of the Wolves. "A lot of them haven't played under those lights in 10 years. All due respect to Traverse City Central, but it's not Thirlby."

The Wolves weren't able secure Thirlby Field as their home for the regular season and had to play games at Traverse City Central High School. But for the playoffs, Skibbe and TCAPS worked out an agreement.

"I sat down with TCAPS management and started talking about playing there," Skibbe said. "We're going to donate half of our gate to the schools. That's one of the things we've talked about from the beginning is giving back to the community.

"We have to thank TCAPS for giving us an opportunity to showcase what it's like to have a field like this. This would make us one of the elite teams in the league."

The Wolves will host the Silverbacks of London, Ont., at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The teams played back-to-back weekends in September, with both teams defending their home turf.

The Silverbacks (6-3) picked up a 13-6 victory, while the Wolves came back a week later for a 14-0 win.

"It's going to be a battle, but we're hoping with the home crowd we can pull out a victory," Skibbe said. "They do have a quarterback who can throw the ball. We have to provide pressure with our front four so he doesn't get his feet settled and get in a rhythm."

The key for Traverse City may also be the quarterback position as the Wolves will try to open up the offense a little more this week with Will Moran under center.

Moran finished the regular season with 827 passing yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. His favorite target was Will Conklin, who hauled in 23 passes for 416 yards and three scores.

On the ground, D.J. Szymoniak has carried the Wolves with 106 touches for 667 yards and nine TDs.

A win on Saturday would give Traverse City another shot at redemption next week against either Indianapolis or Racine, the other two teams who beat the Wolves in the regular season.

"We have film on these teams and we know what we're facing," Skibbe said. "There are no surprises this time. When we went to Racine, there were 5,000 crazy fans. That was eye opening for a lot of guys seeing that for the first time. But they're chomping at the bit to get back."

The Wolves are coming off a bye week which gave them extra time to heal their injured players.

"We've got a couple of bumps and bruises, but when we go under the lights, they'll suck it up," Skibbe said. "We want this place to be packed. We want it to be loud and hostile."

Tickets for Saturday's game cost $10 for adults or $6 for students -- including high school and college. Tickets are available at www.tcwolves.com or at Thirlby on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m.