A new league, a new home and a new outlook awaits the Wichita Wild as the team prepares for its home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hartman Arena against four-time league champion Sioux Falls.


A new league, a new home and a new outlook awaits the Wichita Wild as the team prepares for its home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hartman Arena against four-time league champion Sioux Falls.
The Wild held its media day Monday night at Hartman Arena.
Wichita opened the season with a 41-35 loss March 20 on the road to the Omaha Beef. Wichita then took a week off before preparing for a team that won the United Indoor Football title for four years.
This year, both teams are playing in the Indoor Football League, a merger between the UIF and Intense Football League.
After a 2-12 campaign last year, the Wild brought in Ken Matous as head coach and shook up the roster.
“Anytime you start a new football team and bring in players from all over the country with different personalities, you have to blend and get to know each other so you can do the right things,” Matous said. “We have to get people in the right positions so we can win. When (team owner) Wink (Hartman) brought me in last year, he said take the best we had last year and rebuild the thing, which is fine with me. When I was in the AFL, I was a personnel guy. I was bringing players in and working them out, trying to improve the football team.”
A coach for 27 years, Matous served with the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League for the past three, serving as offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and player personnel director. He was 13-3 in 2004 with the Tulsa Talons of arenaleague2, winning a division title. A Hutchinson native. Matous played and coached at Hutchinson Community College with numerous other college coaching stops.
“When I was coach at Tulsa, we had just three or four players back,” Matous said. “At this level, our job is to win. But I also want to develop young players. I’m not into recycling players from other teams. I want kids who want to learn football and want to get to a higher level.”
Matous was helped this season by the folding of NFL-Europe and the AFL suspending its season.
“We’ve got a handful of guys who would be in those situations, or would have gone to camp with them,” Matous said. “We have four or five guys who could play in the AFL when it comes back. I hope we have more than that.”
One of the newcomers is former University of Iowa player Clinton Solomon, who played for the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League last season. He also spent time in training camp with the Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams.
Solomon was named the league’s offensive player of the week in the Omaha loss, catching seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns. He set the franchise record for receiving yards and tied the record for total catches and touchdown receptions.
“It was exciting to go out there for the first game,” Solomon said. “It’s a new look for the Wichita Wild this year. We were excited to come out as a group. We were hoping for a victory, but we had a few errors. Our defense played a great ballgame. We’re very confident about this season.”
Solomon was expected to be a key player for the Rush this season, but the AFL shut down due to economic factors. The AFL recently signed a new agreement with its players and is expected to resume play next year.
“This is a chance to play football and do what I can to play better,” Solomon said. “My ultimate goal is to reach the NFL. I’ll do all I can to get there. If (the AFL) comes back, I’d love to play there, but I view this opportunity to play for the Wichita Wild as a chance to get on films and something to put on my resume.”
Rule differences between the AFL and IFL forced some adjustments for Solomon.
“Reading defenses is a lot different,” Solomon said. “You have three (defensive backs) in the AFL. You have four DBs here with two linebackers. It’s better here and will help me out in the long run. ... This league, you have to block, which is good.”
Last season, the quarterback spot was a week-to-week question mark, mainly because of injuries. Newcomer Derek Rasmussen hit 16 of 29 passes for 232 yards with one interception and three touchdowns.
“We had five or six turnovers,” Rasmussen said. “We had a lot of problems with the quarterback-center exchange. (The center) is a rookie too. We lost by five points and left 30 on the field. Having the week off is good. I prefer to have the bye week in week six or seven, but we get an extra week to prepare with a very young team.”
Rasmussen played college ball at Central Missouri State and Evangel. He spent last season as a back-up at Tulsa in arenaleague2, the AFL’s developmental league.
“This is a mix of Arena Football and outdoor,” Rasmussen said. “You can use some outdoor schemes here. Here, you have a lot more time in the pocket.”
Sioux Falls comes in 3-0, winning its first two games on the road before downing the Beef 67-49. One of the wins was against league newcomers Rochester 31-18, breaking the 24-game winning streak the Raiders compiled in the Continental Indoor Football League.
“They have won four championships,” Rasmussen said. “They are doing something right up there. They have a lot of veterans. This affords us the opportunity to play against the best. The thing we have to focus on the most is getting the ball from the center. Other than that, on offense, we did what we wanted.”