By Jay Luster
High Country Grizzlies Braintrust
Team Owner Bryan Bouboulis
General Manager William Thompson
and Head Coach Josh Resignalo
The Grizzlies recently left the NAL to join the AAL, what prompted the move?
Bryan Bouboulis: It was more or less getting back to what our original focus was when we formed the team. The plan was to have regional rivalries with local travel and that didn’t happen with the NAL. When we originally formed the team, we were going to be part of the American Indoor Football League (AIF) but before that happened, the league folded. We decided we would join the Arena Developmental League which ended up being the National Arena League. Through those transactions we went from being regional to a league which had teams all over the place like in Monterrey, Mexico, and Corpus Christi. The NAL wants to grow into a nationwide league and were talking to teams in New York and on the West Coast and that wasn’t what we envisioned for ourselves. We wanted to be in a league where our fans could travel a couple of hours and attend out away away games and the other team’s fans could come up here. We didn’t want to travel more than six hours and unfortunately, with the Nal that was our shortest trip.
William Thompson: Bryan and I, are both of the same mindset because we are both prodigies of Jerry Moore the coach from App State.
How much does the move to the AAL reduce your traveling expenses?
(Laughter) Bryan: Six Figures. That was the whole reason for the move. It’s a business and we had to make the decision based on it being a business
William: We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm for the move regionally. People calling us for season tickets and telling us how they feel this is going to create great rivalries. We believe it will. It’s really a community based business and the fans want to see other local teams. We also feel it will good for business within the community.
Tell me about Boone? It seems like a small town and an out of the way place for a professional sports team?
William: It’s a resort town with a skiing and a scenic town for the fall. Spring
and summer has beautiful weather. Also, It’s an education town with Appalachian State University right here.
Speaking of the college, how do you get students to turn out?
Bryan: The university radio station reach out to us this year to be partners. As a result we’re already seeing a change in that from last year. This is all because of of our new regional footprint.
Last year your games were broadcast on youtube.com, will you be continuing with that?
Bryan: We’re still going to use youtube.com and keep our TV contract with WHKY. The league is now talking about doing the same thing we did last year. That’ll be their decision to decide how they want us to do it. We’ll find all that out at our league meetings on Oct. 21, but the bottom line is we’re still going to funnel our stuff through Skyline/Skybest TV and through WHKY in Hickory N.C. and still give that 1.2 million base of people from here all the way to Chester SC the opportunity to keep up with us on an everyday basis.
Lets talk about your building for a moment. The Homes Convocation Center has a somewhat small floor. Is that a problem?
Bryan: It’s a little short, not much. We’ve had to make a few adjustments, but the arena is happy with us and we’re happy with the arena. We’re getting ready to see them about trying to do some different things next year to get fans more involved and we’ll see what happens.
What went right and what went wrong last year?
Bryan: Yes, we wanted to make the playoffs and we didn’t quite do that. Unfortunately we had the injury bug hit us. We had a couple of guys banged up with their knees, and our QB had shoulder injury. Unfortunately we had a couple of key injuries at the wrong time and we just couldn’t seem to get out from under the injury bug.
William: Coming from the coaches side of it, we moved into a league with teams like Jacksonville, the Columbus Lions, and the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks and when you go back and look at the scores, we played Lehigh nose to nose and showed everyone we had talent. Then we
began to get nicks and bruises and then some of our main talent went down with severe injuries like torn biceps, and elbow dislocations. Some of our key players were out for three of four games and some for the entire season. Going out and grabbing talent that late in the season in the arena league when 90% of the players around the country are already signed it creates a hard position for you.
Obviously that’s what went wrong, but what do you think went right?
William: The biggest thing for us is we became a balanced arena team that had our ideas and thought process exactly where we needed to be. We know what our goals are and we played good quality football.
We made good inroads in the community, we got into the schools, we are building our foundation which was our original goal but we had to get that first year right. If you don’t get it right the community is not going to get behind you. When you say what we did right, we feel like getting into the schools, doing our promotional stuff, going after real arena talent, the right coaching staff. Those were the things we did good. We got good sponsorship which relates back to the community involvement.
Bryan: I think you couldn’t have said it any better. Just the outreach by some of our players, we get people all the time telling us how much they appreciate our players. We have a number of them that moved here to the community and they’re being seen at the local hockey games watching the kids, we’ve had them at the sch
ools, with Cub Scout Packs, at car washes, and fund raising. One of our main goals was to be tightly knit into the community and from that aspect we’ve hit a homerun.
Who’s coming back?
William: We’re bringing our coaching staff back. We already had a great coaching staff and now we’re adding Coach James Fuller as our offensive coordinator. We think we’ve got the best coaching staff in arena football. As for players, we’re working on that.
Coach Josh Resignalo: Along with Coach Fuller we’ve already signed DL Brandon Sutton, DL Ethan Farmer, DL/LB DeMarkus Berry, WR Alex Coleman, and WR Jake Holmes.
Second Team All-NAL FB Undra Hendrix has moved on to Lehigh Valley as a free agent, and it looks like you don’t currently have a QB?
Coach Resignalo: We have a lot of players we’re waiting to hear back from including two QB’s. One of the players we’re excited to have back under contract is Brandon Sutton. He was 2nd teal All-NAL last year and the anchor of our defensive line.
What are your expectations for 2018?
William: Our expectations are always to win.
Josh: There is only one goal and that’s the championship.
William: That’s the game (laughter). If you don’t want to win you’re in the wrong business. (laughter)