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Xplosion Hopes to Raise Roof

New indoor-football team expects area will embrace latest addition to Kalamazoo's minor-league roster

by Randy Snow

Originally printed in the Portage Gazette newspaper, Monday, February 26, 2007


The Kalamazoo Xplosion, of the Continental Indoor Football League, may be a new team in the second-year league, but several players with local ties -- as well as some of the team's coaching staff -- already have experience in the indoor game.

As a major winter storm recently raged outside, 13 of the 30 to 40 invited players were able to attend the first night of minicamp at SoccerZone in Oshtemo Township.

One player who braved the elements was Bryan Lape, a linebacker who played at Western Michigan University from 1998 to 2002 and was the first player signed by the Xplosion in October.

Lape drove all the way in from the Jackson area to attend the first night of minicamp.

"I wanted to get back in the game,'' Lape said. "Every time I'd come back to watch Western play I'd get that feeling in my stomach that I wanted to get back on the field.''

Lape has been reunited on the team with a couple of his former WMU teammates -- coach Anthony Allsbury and kicker Brad Selent.

Xplosion assistant coach Allsbury played at WMU from 1999 to 2002. Allsbury was an assistant coach with the league's Battle Creek Crunch last year, but he also played in seven games as a defensive end, recording 5.5 sacks and 16 tackles for the team.

Selent, of Three Rivers, who played at WMU from 1997 to 2000, was selected as one of the school's All-Century Top 100 Players in 2005. He is a 1997 graduate of Paw Paw High School and played for the Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League in 2002.

He also was with the Battle Creek Crunch last season, which played at Kellogg Arena. The Crunch folded after the season.

"It's going to be exciting,'' Selent said of playing in Kalamazoo again. "Hopefully this team will take off and do well.''

Selent already has been to Wings Stadium, where the Xplosion will play their home games, to evaluate the venue from a kicker's perspective.

"I was sitting up in the stands with my son (at a recent K-Wings hockey game), and it looks like it is going to work a lot better than what Kellogg Arena did.''

Xplosion head coach Bob Kubiak is a longtime Kalamazoo resident. He was head coach at Kalamazoo Central High School from 1993-2004 and has been an assistant coach at Division III Olivet College since 2005.

Last year, Kubiak was the head coach of the Battle Creek Crunch and led the team to the playoffs before losing to the eventual league champion Port Huron Pirates.

"I think Kalamazoo is one of those cities right now that is looking for entertainment, and I think this is going to be a great situation for a lot of audiences, families, business people, college kids,'' Kubiak said.

"Kalamazoo is a sports town. You look at the other minor-league teams here in town, the Kings (baseball), the Kingdom (soccer) and the K-Wings (hockey), and they all have a consistent fan base. We're trying to make sure that we bring a quality product here. It's a different game, and for a lot of people this is the first time they will get to see indoor football.''

Kubiak continues to live in Kalamazoo and commutes to Olivet on a daily basis.

Wide receiver/defensive back Eric Gardner played for Kubiak in high school at Kalamazoo Central and also was with the Crunch last season, scoring 23 touchdowns. He finished the season second in the league in all-purpose yardage.

Another player with local ties is wide receiver Brian Dolph, who graduated from Galesburg-Augusta High School in 1996. He played at Division II Saginaw Valley State University and was named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2000.

Dolph played for the Houston Thunderbears and the Indiana Firebirds of the Arena Football League in 2001 and 2002, respectively. He also played for the Battle Creek Crunch last season as well, until an injury cut his season short.

The Xplosion must trim their roster to the league-mandated 21 players by March 10. The team's first game is March 24 in Ohio against the Marion Mayhem. The first home game at Wings Stadium is April 14 against the Chicago Slaughter.

All of the team's practices are open to the public. Check out the team's Web site at www.kzooxplosion.com.

The Continental Indoor Football League will be kicking off its second season next month and plays a unique brand of seven-on-seven football. The league was known as the Great Lakes Indoor Football League last season and debuted with just six teams, all in states that bordered the Great Lakes. This year, the league has expanded to 14 teams.

There are three CIFL teams in Michigan -- Kalamazoo, Port Huron and the Muskegon Thunder. The Xplosion is in the Great Lakes West Division, along with Muskegon, Chicago and the Springfield (Ill.) Stallions.


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