ARMOLD: York Capitals, with help from defunct Harrisburg Stampede, enjoying perfect indoor football season
You know the old saying:" "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
Well, the York Capitals have revised the saying a bit this season, and to their benefit.
In their inaugural 2013 season, the Capitals were eliminated in the first round of the American Indoor Football playoffs by the eventual champion Harrisburg Stampede.
Now, with the Stampede having folded, some key figures from the group that denied York a title are now helping the Capitals chase this year's crown. They've brought along championship experience and veteran leadership, while also helping tutor teammates new to the indoor experience.
York is well on its way toward that title, sitting at 7-0 on the season and having already locked up the league's regular-season championship and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
It starts at the top, with head coach Rick Marsilio.
Marsilio was an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the Stampede team that helped keep the Capitals from their first shot at glory.
It was a whirlwind start of sorts for Marsilio in York. He was originally scheduled to be the Capitals' offensive coordinator, but when work commitments made the team's original candidate for the head coaching job unable to perform the duties, Marsilio was promoted shortly before the season began.
"I was asked to build a championship caliber team, and to do so I made contact with many of the former, unsigned, Stampede players," he said. "Within the first week, I was able to sign about 10 former Harrisburg players, then some free agents, about eight guys from the original staff's team made up our 30-man (roster). It is a great mix of players that comprise this year's squad."
The Capitals also benefit from their Stampede connections in the form of assistant head coach and offensive line coach Jake Minnich.
Minnich served alongside Marsilio in Harrisburg as an offensive assistant from 2010 until 2014.
Perhaps the best move by Marsilio was to bring in the player he counted on most to help lead his highly-successful game plans, quarterback EJ Nemeth.
Nemeth was the 2013 AIF Player of the Year while leading the Stampede to glory. He also helped the now-defunct Baltimore Mariners to an AIF title in 2010.
"Guys like EJ Nemeth and (linebacker) Jermaine Thaxton have been instrumental in providing leadership to our squad," Marsilio said. "In fact, when I accepted the (head coaching) job, they were my first two calls."
Another part of the successful mix, according to Marsilio, is his team's versatility, with many players unselfishly willing to play both sides of the ball. In addition, many rookie players have stepped up and adjusted well to the indoor game.
One of those rookies is former York High standout wide receiver Malik Generett
The coach says Generett's height has helped him adjust well to being "thrown to the wolves" in his first season of indoor football.
"Most rookie wide receivers in indoor football take a season to adjust their game to play inside the walls," Marsilio said. "It is very difficult for rookies to learn that the wall never misses a tackle. At (6-foot, 5-inches) he is a quarterback's dream in indoor football. We are working with him weekly to bring him along and teach the nuances of the game."
Marsilio was also pleased with Generett's flexibility, noting that injuries during a recent game forced him to play Generett at linebacker. The coach said he immediately made his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball, and the team has been experimenting with him playing both ways since.
However, a knee injury currently has Generett sidelined, and Marsilio says the team is tracking his progress.
Another Capital with York High ties hasn't been as lucky. An early-season injury forced Javon Matthews to the sidelines for most of the season. But Matthews has recently returned to the team and is said to be making an immediate impact.
A regular-season finale against the Conshohocken Steelers remains at 7 p.m. Saturday at the York City Ice Arena before the playoffs begin. The top-seeded Capitals will take on the fourth-place finisher for a spot in the AIF title game.
Marsilio notes another thing that has helped this season is the support the team has received from the community. It's something he hopes to see continue Saturday and throughout the postseason.
"We have had great crowds that have been very interactive with our team," Marsilio said. "That's one of the best parts about this game. Fans are up close and personal with the action of every play."
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.