Nighthawks, Gladiators all about fun

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
— NFL team owners and their employees are having a heck of a time dividing up a cookie jar filled with $9 billion.

The employees don’t trust the owners, so they turned to lawyers and judges for help. The NFL players’ move hurt the team owners’ feelings so much they locked the NFL’s doors on the players.

What the NFL owners and players have is a failure to communicate. How about an egg-eating contest to decide who gets that extra billion?

Just when sanity returns to pro football is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, local amateur teams—the Janesville Nighthawks and the Rock County Gladiators—are planning on a big season, beginning in June.

The big news is the Nighthawks switched from 8-man football to a regulation 11-man team. Each team joined the Great Midwest Football League.

The Glads shifted home game sites to Milton and Clinton instead of Janesville’s Monterey Stadium. The Nighthawks play their home games on a football field outside Monterey Stadium, and the team is hoping to make improvements.

The franchise moves have created an instant rivalry for the local football fan, plus you can throw in the Beloit Titans to add spice to the rivalry recipe.

Topher Diehl, the tireless Nighthawks’ owner, coach and cheerleader, has no locks to turn, but only gates to open on the new season for the three-year-old franchise.

“It will definitely make for interesting things,” Diehl said. “The Rock County team has moved to the league.’’

Tony Clayton, the Gladiators’ general manager, knows a good thing is taking shape.

“It’s a good thing,” Clayton said of both teams entering the same league. “It’s like a rivalry between Craig and Parker. That is good for all of us.’’

While the Nighthawks are stepping up, the Gladiators are trying to build on their fan base.

“We want to rebuild,” Clayton said. “We want to have family values and a winning attitude.’’

While the Gladiators are comfortable playing home games in Clinton and Milton, the Nighthawks are happy to call Monterey Park home.

“We use Monterey field outside the stadium,” Diehl said. “I’m not sure we could afford to play (in Monterey Stadium), but we don’t want to play anywhere else.’’

The Nighthawks raised funds for goal posts, and they are considering putting up a scoreboard.

“We asked the city if we could raise funds for a scoreboard,” Diehl said. “We’re not asking the city for funds. A decent scoreboard costs between three and six grand, depending on the size.’’

As for the transition from eight-man football to regulation, Diehl said the linemen have to make the biggest transition.

“It’s not going to be that big a difference,” Diehl said. “For the guys that have played the offensive line, it’s the biggest adjustment. Instead of blocking three-on-three in eight man, they are going to have to learn different blocking schemes.’’

The Nighthawks had 39 prospects turn out for their tryouts last February. Diehl said 64 men signed waivers. Clayton said the Gladiators’ roster has many returning players.

While the big boys of big-league football argue over billions, the little guys are excited about playing football just for fun.

Last updated: 4:45 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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