The Cyclones have touched down in Franklin County.
The Cyclones, who play “amateur club football,” as Head Coach Troy Robertson terms it, will be playing most of its football games this season at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School.
The schedule included a preseason exhibition against the Sugar Creek Shockers last Saturday night, a game which ended in a 48-18 Cyclones victory.
The Cyclones have had tremendous success in recent years. Based in Warrenton last season, the Cyclones won the Great Midwest Football League championship and advanced all the way to the Minor League Football National Championship game, losing to the Nashville Storm.
The Cyclones are looking to locate a community which will support the team and its endeavors. Robertson was encouraged with what he saw in Washington.
“We had maybe 150-200 fans with less than a week’s notice,” Robertson stated. “It’s a beautiful facility. Hopefully we will have a concession stand for the next game.”
Who Are the Cyclones?
Most of the team’s players are former college athletes at many different levels.
“College football players bring the discipline,” Robertson said. “We’ve got a lot of Division I players as well as many from schools such as Lindenwood and Missouri Valley.”
The team has some athletes from larger colleges. Quarterback Clayton Tunney came through the UCLA program. Defensive end Jason Null came through Texas A&M. Travis Triplett played at Kansas State. Matt Askew is a former Idaho player while Tony King went to Kansas.
Robertson indicated further former Division I players could be coming following the conclusion of the Arena Football League season.
Robertson indicated the team holds one practice per week since most of the players have full-time jobs and many live around the state.
“It’s different at this level,” Robertson said. “We’re a lot like the rugby team here (Franklin County Crimson). We’re at the club level. There’s a fine line you have to walk. We have a 55-man roster and we try to play everybody we can. We usually play about 42 per game.”
The team plays in the Great Midwest Football League, one of a number of amateur football leagues around the country.
“There are a ton of leagues around the nation and over 1,000 club teams,” Robertson said.
The Cyclones play in the Great Midwest Football League while the Sugar Creek Shockers of Kansas City, Saturday’s preseason opponent, belongs to the Alliance Football League. There are several other leagues around the nation as well.
Robertson indicated that the team seeks players who are good, responsible and solid citizens.
One of the team’s top veterans is Evan Brinker, who is a Washington High School graduate who played college football at Lindenwood. Brinker helped to secure Washington as a home base for the club this season.
The Right Fan Base
“We’ve moved around a lot hoping to find the right fan base,” Robertson said about the team’s movement during its history which stretches back to December of 2000.
The team was formed as a member of the North American Football League and played three seasons there.
From 2001-04, the team was called the St. Charles Cyclones and was based in St. Charles County. In 2004, the team moved to Vandalia and played as the Northeast Missouri Cyclones playing in the Minor League Football Association.
Robertson became the team’s head coach in 2006 and he led the squad to a 14-0 record and the MLFA Eastern Conference championship.
The team merged with the Missouri Wildcats (now Gateway Hawks) in 2007 and the combined team won another MLFA title during the one season the teams were together.
In 2008, the Cyclones left the merger and joined the GMFL, using CBC as its home field. The team went 13-1 in 2008 and 15-0 in 2009, winning the league title in both seasons.
In 2010, field usage issues led to the team spending a 10-4 season at different locations, including Warrenton, Holt in Wentzville and CBC.
The team moved to Warrenton for the 2011 season and went 14-2, winning the GMFL and reaching the national championship game before falling in the title game.
But for the 2012 season, Robertson said the field fees in Warrenton were raised too much to continue playing games there.
So, the Cyclones went in search of another venue.
“They raised the price of the high school field out of our reach,” Robertson said. “The middle school field was only open for 4:30 p.m. games. We couldn’t do that to our opponents coming from that far away.”
The team knew about Washington. A game scheduled to be played at Washington High School a couple of seasons back ended up getting rained out.
But Robertson hopes this time, basing the team in Washington will end up working out for everyone.
“Evan Brinker put in a lot of effort to make this work,” Robertson said. “Dan Black also worked to make this happen.”
The team is scheduled to play games at Borgia June 9, July 14, July 21 and Aug. 4. Playoff games will follow. Another home game is June 16 and that could be played at another local field.
More information on the team is at cyclonesfootball.net.
Being a preseason contest, Robertson said the team wanted to try as many players as possible.
“We kept the starters in last week in Nashville because that was a game we really wanted to win,” Robertson said about the team’s 26-21 preseason opening loss in Nashville, a rematch of last year’s championship game.
In Saturday’s preseason home opener, the Cyclones took charge early in the contest.
The Cyclones led 10-0 after one quarter and 31-18 at the half.
“We rotated a lot of guys into the game,” Robertson said. “At times, there were mixups in coverage. They also got lucky and caught some tipped balls.”
Kelvin Williams, a former Westminster College player, feasted on Shockers passes during the game, picking off three passes. One was returned for a touchdown.
“He’s a good kid,” Robertson said. “He had three interceptions, including one in the final seconds.”
Ike White, a former McKendree University player, returned an interception over 90 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“He was a running back at McKendree and we’ve converted him to a safety,” Robertson said. “He picked off a slant in Cover 2 and took it all the way back.”
The Cyclones were able to move the ball through the air, getting a quick touchdown from Tunney to Jason Boyd, a play Robertson enjoyed.
The team did have some trouble later.
“Offensively, we had some trouble with some routes being run poorly,” Robertson said. “The running backs played well. Our offensive line has the best guard-tackle tandem in the league. They didn’t play in the second half.”
Offensively in the first half, Tunney had plenty of protection from the line and was able to search out his receivers.
“He played pretty well other than the one interception where he threw it up there,” Robertson said.
“Our kicking game was pretty good,” Robertson said. “We had one field goal of around 40 yards and another of around 30 yards.”
Former Lindenwood player Will Rodriguez does the kicking for the Cyclones.
Overall, Robertson said he’s happy with how the game went.
The Cyclones hit the road for the regular season opener June 2, visiting the Illinois Firehawks. The next home game is set for June 9 against the Midwest Chargers at Borgia. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.