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Wildcats Bring Football to Worcester this Summer

Saturday, June 23, 2012

 

You don't have to wait until August to get your fill of football here in Worcester.

The Worcester County Wildcats open play today with a pre-season game against the Merrimack Valley Maulers, and hope to bring hard-hitting action to Central Mass. The Wildcats are coming off a 3-7 season in the New England Football League, but Wildcats owner and coach Dennis Faulkner likes the talent he has returning.

"I think we have a great group of men coming back this year," Faulkner said. "I'm really happy with our group based on the level of talent and commitment to the program."

Faulkner founded the team in 2004 and was originally involved primarily as an administrator. But, after several coaching changes led to instability, he decided to coach the team himself. The one constant for the Wildcats has been change, as they have fought through tough economic conditions to continue recruiting players they feel good about and drawing fans.

"It's really been a mixed bag every year," Faulkner said. "From year to year it changes. The economy changes. Our players aren't compensated, and fewer guys try out when times are tough. I remember having 120 guys one year and having to do cuts, but it's tough to get that now. Still, I feel like we're in a place we want to be."

The Wildcat roster features several local college standouts, including former Worcester State quarterback/wide receiver Shane Swift. Faulkner says the team draws players from schools across Central Mass and down into Rhode Island, but that it also attracts recent high school grads that are looking to stay in shape while they sort out college or work plans.

With players of different ages all playing and practicing together, Faulkner sees his organization not only as a team, but also a chance for men in the community to network.

"It's all about being a part of people's lives and connecting people," Faulkner said. "One of the blessings we have here is to connect people and do some internal networking. We may have a young kid out of trade school that just joins the team, and we can connect him with someone with experience in the same line of work. So, we do this for the love of the game, but connecting people in the community is also very rewarding."

The Wildcats enjoyed early success playing on the NEFL's Double-A level, but a move to Triple-A in 2007 has made winning much more difficult. Faulkner's team must now contend with former Division I college players and more established franchises.

Still, the coach and owner is cautiously optimistic about the 2012 season.

"Ever since jumping to Triple-A, the competition has been fierce," Faulkner said. "Winning hasn't come as easily as we had hoped, but we truly feel that this could be the year we break through and have a really good season."

The Wildcats host Merrimack Valley tonight at 6:30 pm. The game will be played at Worcester's Foley Stadium. For ticket information, click here.

 

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