The Sioux Falls Storm, 11-time indoor soccer champions, enter the 2022 season in a totally unknown location:
After the 2020 Indoor Football League season was canceled due to the pandemic, Sioux Falls returned to action in 2021 as defending champions, but for the first time in nearly two decades it had trouble following. The Storm went 6-6 in the regular season to sneak into the playoffs, where in the first round they were routed by the Arizona Rattlers, the team Sioux Falls upset in the 2019 championship.
With the loss, the Storm ended the year 6-7, officially the first losing season in the team’s 20+ year existence.
The 2022 season begins on Sunday, with a game against Quad City at 3:05 p.m. at the Premier Center.
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Can the Storm return to the top of the indoor game? As long as Kurtiss Riggs is the coach, there’s no reason to think they can’t, but it might take a while. The Storm have one of their youngest rosters ever, will be led by a new quarterback, are green on both offensive and defensive lines and have found recruiting harder than ever as the league closes in on teams larger market.
Add to that the fledgling USFL recently held a draft that drew a slew of players indoor leagues tend to target, and Riggs admits there are a lot of unknowns as the season kicks off this Sunday with the home opener.
“We’re young,” Riggs said. “We got to a point where we wanted to keep letting guys come back to defend our title, but those guys were going to be ready to retire if things didn’t go their way, and so (last year ) has created quite a large turnover of our list.
But for Riggs, a true football addict and someone who has more championship rings than fingers to wear them, it presents a potentially enjoyable challenge.
“(Defensive coordinator Brian) Hermanson said the other day that this has been one of the most fun preseason camps we’ve ever had,” Riggs said. “We have 40 guys who are so keen to be on the team and they are also very coachable. That’s exciting.
Sioux Falls Storm starts season with new quarterback
First, there’s going to be a new quarterback. The team left decorated veteran Lorenzo Brown, as well as former Nebraska Cornhusker Tommy Armstrong. One candidate is Tasleem “Taz” Wilson, who has seen limited action with the Storm and other indoor teams. A 6-foot-4 alumnus of Limestone College, Wilson has the athleticism to play with his feet, as well as the ability to get rid of the ball quickly, which could be important this season.
Riggs is also excited about the team’s other quarterback, Daniel Smith, and hopes the pair will push each other to do something special.
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“Taz can run, especially for a bigger quarterback,” Riggs said. “Daniel’s not much of a runner, but he’ll stay in that pocket with the balls flying all around him. I mean, he’ll stay in there with a linebacker coming right at him and he’ll hang on until the last second. Taz had a great camp, but Daniel was a very pleasant surprise. Great leader, great team guy and knows how to control the huddle. They both had great camps.
Nate Chavious returns to the tail after finishing third in the IFL with 547 rushing yards and scoring 19 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 223 yards and three scores. JoJo Gause is back after notching four touchdown receptions in 2021. Lawrence Martin returns to the offensive line, while Riggs has been impressed so far by wide receivers Carlos Thompson and Aaron Dilworth, who both played with Smith in another indoor league. These two can be the two main weapons of the offense.
On defense, the secondary will be the force, with Paris Taylor, Marquis Hendrix and Famus Hasty all back. Dante Holmes could be a good addition to the defensive line, but Riggs admits on both sides of the ball the team are unproven and potentially vulnerable up front.
The Massachusetts Pirates won the United Bowl last year as an expansion team, beating the Rattlers. This year, the Vegas Knight Hawks join the league, a team belonging to the Las Vegas NHL team. It’s becoming a new trend in the league — indoor teams playing at NHL venues in larger markets — and it has the potential to make life difficult in Sioux Falls. The IFL will be a 15-team league this year, with the Spokane Shock being kicked out of the league last month over stadium issues.
The Eastern Conference will include Sioux Falls, Bismarck, Frisco, Green Bay, Iowa, Quad City (Illinois) and Massachusetts, while the Western is made up of Arizona, Bay Area (Calif.), Duke City ( NM), Northern Arizona, San Diego, Tucson and Vegas.
“The thing we’re finding is that the bigger markets are getting harder and harder to compete at a consistent level,” Riggs said. “It bothers us in the Midwest. When you’re recruiting against Frisco or Vegas or Arizona and you say, “Hey, it’s really sunny today, it’s four degrees with a 40 mph wind.” … It’s difficult.