Spread out in five lines of four players on the turf inside the York City Ice Arena on Wednesday night, members of the York Capitals indoor football team were led in stretching routines by veteran defensive back Archie Smith.
But first, they engaged in what has become a customary routine before every practice. A slow clap among players and coaches becomes faster and eventually reaches a crescendo, and is topped off by Smith yelling "York Caps!"
So it seems the players have already come up with a shortened moniker for the team's name. And it seems this assembly of 20 players has already become a close-knit group. Of course, a part of that has to do with what the entire team has been through the last three months to get to this point. Wednesday marked the team's first practice on the indoor surface at the arena. The Capitals' inaugural season opener as a member of the semi-pro American Indoor Football league is just days away. The Caps face the Washington Eagles (0-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday on their home turf inside the York City Ice Arena.
"We're just gonna go out there and give the best we can give them," Caps' head coach Kelly Logan said. "But we're gonna win. I think we still have more experience than they do."
Three players on York's roster have seen time in the National Football League. All 20 players on the active roster have college experience. And 16 of the 20 players have experience playing indoor football, which Logan believes is key to a team's success in the AIF, especially an expansion franchise.
"It makes my job a lot easier," he said. "The outdoor guys, the routes are little bit different. You have to change a few things here and there. You might have to run your posts a little different."
Adjustments: The Caps' fans might have to adjust to indoor football as well. The game features eight players on both sides of the ball instead of the typical 11 seen in outdoor games. There are four 15-minute quarters. The scoring is the same, except a team must go for a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown. And on the ensuing kickoff, the team kicking off can score one point if the kickoff goes through the opposite field goal posts.
Andrew Daley, the Caps' starting quarterback, is still making sense of it all, too.
"This is my first season playing indoor," Daley said. "It's fast. It's a lot faster than the outdoor game. The outdoor game you normally have three to four solid seconds to throw the ball. You might be lucky to get two here. It's a lot different."
The 6-foot, 3-inch, 270-pound Daley, 24, is a native of New Jersey who comes to York after playing professionally overseas in Germany the last year-and-a-half. In college, he was a backup at Towson before transferring to Rowan, where he played in two games.
Backing him up will be Zach Rutherford, a 2004 Northern York High School grad.
Ready to go: Logan, 44, and his staff cut down the Caps' roster from 40 players at the team's first tryouts back in January. Since then, the team has gone back and forth across the Susquehanna River, practicing indoors at the Lanco Fieldhouse in Lancaster County and outside of the York City Ice Arena.
One of the arena's rinks was only converted to a football field in the last few days, with players and volunteers laying out 220 feet of turf and padding the walls, among other tasks. Team officials say the playing surface will be much improved from last year's AIF game at the facility between Harrisburg and Virginia. The playing surface during last year's game came under criticism after buckling in some places and slipping in others.
Logan, originally slated as the team's defensive coordinator, switched roles with Jimmy Lewis, who was going to be the team's head coach, because of Logan's experience. The 2013 season will be Logan's eighth coaching an indoor football team, and his fourth as a head coach in the inaugural season of an indoor team.
"It's gonna take me the first few minutes to really get myself together and focus," Logan said of Saturday's opener. "As soon as I get focused then I'll be ready to go."
-- Reach John Walk at email@example.com.