By Alex Foltz
The Muscatine River Hawks, a semi-professional eight-man football team, is currently ranked 17th in the nation.
The River Hawks, now in their fourth season, formed in 2015 by team owner Kyle Bass. Bass owns the team with his wife, Samantha. The team competes in the Mid American 8-Man Football League (MA8FL) and is ranked third in the league with a record of three wins and one loss.
Eric Johnson, head coach of the River Hawks, is looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I think we have a tremendous staff and coordinators to get the players prepared, and we have great talent in players from Muscatine and the Quad Cities,” Johnson said.
The team consists of players from Muscatine and the Quad City areas, as well as a couple of players from the Cedar Rapids area. The roster currently has around 40 players and Johnson is looking to bring in a new safety. The maximum number of players allowed is 43, so the River Hawks will be making some roster moves before the lock Friday.
The semi-pro football team has to travel some distance for a few games. The furthest game is in Hannibal, Missouri. Johnson stated that the team enjoys playing against Hannibal, as that is a very capable team and the River Hawks learn a lot when they play them.
Eight-man football is a faster-paced game than standard 11-man football. The number of linemen is decreased and passing plays are generally more common than running plays. According to Johnson, his team tries to split the passing and running plays evenly. On defense, the River Hawks generally have two defensive linemen, two linebackers, and four defensive backs. However, being able to adapt to different teams’ offenses is very important.
Johnson is confident in his team and coaching staff and believes that they can make it to the championship. He stated that his coaching staff has done a tremendous job adjusting on the fly and that the players have adapted well.
“We’ve had a good start to this season, learning a lot of stuff, as far as the first four weeks coming through,” Johnson said.
The next game that the River Hawks will play is April 8 against the Peoria Punishers. Johnson said that Peoria is fast and athletic.
“We need to come in focused, see how we match up,” Johnson stated.
As for the season ahead, there are only two home games left to play. On April 29, the last home game, the team will honor the late Desmond Cunningham, a former player who passed away of cancer. The team will retire Cunningham’s number that night.
The River Hawks will play the Peoria Punishers on April 8 in Peoria’s George Doering Park. There will be an admission of $3.