OGDEN -- After four grueling months, 14 fast-paced games and 16 players suffering season-ending injuries, the Ogden Knights' inaugural season has finally come to an end.
It's been a roller-coaster ride for the American Indoor Football Association's expansion Knights, who managed to salvage a 4-10 record.
"We had a 25-percent roster change," said Ogden head coach Mike Mink. "When we started to have some consistency in our lineup overall, we made some changes defensively. We were pretty effective with the new defensive scheme in the second half (of the season). The guys started to learn it, and we started getting turnovers as we started getting more pressure on the quarterback. We just got more consistent play from the whole team in general."
After an 0-6 start to the season, the Knights ended strong, going 4-4 in their final eight games. The Knights were 2-1 in their final three home games.
"We wanted to leave everyone with a good taste in their mouths," said Ogden wide receiver Adrian Conway. "We were excited about the opportunity to do that."
Conway was one of only three Knights to play in all 14 games. While he remained healthy, he watched teammate after teammate go down with injuries. With the backups to the backups even getting injured, only eight Knights played in 10 or more games, and 21 players saw action in five or less games.
Somehow, the injury bug let up a little in the second half of the season, allowing for some continuity.
"The key to turning things around was just creating some chemistry on our roster," said Conway, who led the team with 1,178 all-purpose yards.
"Really, the last six or seven games, we've had a chance to play together and really gel, especially with our quarterback. Timing has a lot to do with this game, so that was kind of a big deal."
Starting quarterback Brendon Doyle went down with a season-ending injury in the Knights' fifth game. Former Idaho State quarterback Caleb Eastman was thrown into the starting position straight from his American Family Insurance agency.
In his first game with the Knights, on the road against New Mexico, Eastman orchestrated a last-minute drive to complete a comeback and earn the franchise's first victory. Eastman went on to throw for 1,295 yards on the season.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Jason Hermansen led the corps with a team-high 50.5 tackles, 31 unassisted.
As a team captain, Hermansen was also instrumental in some of the things the Knights tried to do off the field -- visiting more than 25 local schools, hosting a fundraiser golf tournament and hosting a car show.
Hermansen and the Knights worked hard to grow and retain a fanbase for their high-flying brand of football.
"It was tough to keep the fans here starting out 0-6, so that 4-3 stretch -- which really should have been 5-2 -- was huge," Hermansen said. "We really wanted to make sure the fans knew that we're here to stay. We wanted to give them something to come back to."
Mink is confident that the fans will be able to come back to watch an improved team next season, as the AIFA continues to expand, adding another team to the Knights' West Division in Wenatchee, Wash.
"We're going to have a pretty good nucleus coming back," Mink said. "We've just got to bring in some other parts."
4CAVALRY TO HOST EXPRESS FOR AIFA TITLE: The Reading Express topped the Columbus Lions 60-51 in Georgia on Monday to earn a spot in the AIGA championship game against the Wyoming Cavalry on July 26 in Casper, Wyo.
The Cavalry topped the Utah Valley Thunder 43-31 last weekend for the Western Conference championship. Wyoming has not lost at home in two seasons.