The new look High Country Grizzlies arena football team opened their season last weekend with a 34-19 loss to the defending APF league champions, the Richmond Roughriders, but that is not slowing down the Grizzlies as a force to be reckoned with in the National Arena League this year.
First year Head Coach, Scott Meserve, is quick to move past the team’s opening loss and simply use it to learn and get the win this weekend when they will be in the Holmes Convocation Center again, this time against the Florida Tarpons. “We are treating each week as a championship week,” said Meserve, “I brought in individuals who will do that for us. I don’t want a repeat of last year, I want to win a championship.”
Part of that championship mindset for Meserve was revamping close to the entire personnel group, with only 5 of 21 players from the 2017 roster remaining on the active list this year.
With such a large turnover of players, the team has focused an emphasis on building chemistry and forming a tight-knit bond in order to battle with the rest of the competition this season.
Starting at quarterback for the High Country in his first season with the organization, Darren Daniel elaborated on the situation by stating, “We always are all together and we compete in practice, but turn it off and we’re all friends when it’s over.” Darren hopes to use this season not only to improve, but lead by example as a major influence of a group with a lot of new faces.
One of the five returning players, wide receiver Alex Coleman, already believes this is the closest group of wideouts he has ever been a part of. When asked if there would be a gap between the Grizzlies and the other teams chemistry-wise this season he responded, “Oh there will be a gap; it’ll be us out in front and everyone else behind.”
Meserve and his group have found much of that connection and bond through the service work the organization has emphasized in Watauga County and the city of Boone. The team frequently has readings at local elementary schools, autograph signings on Appalachian State’s campus and local eateries, and several other activities that help better the community’s youth.
This is yet another element to the reshaping of this franchise. Meserve and the Potter family, who own the Grizzlies, have admitted it as a clear goal this season to get more involved with the city and the fans that support them.
When speaking about his players and their talents on and off the field, Meserve said, “We have developed a different approach this year compared to last year. I brought the best talent to Boone that Boone has seen in a long time.”
For the still growing team, however, they are trying to avoid an 0-2 start this weekend. As their next game approaches, they will seek to “watch the film, practice, and come out this week ready to play,” says defensive back Sean Potts-Harris.
The Grizzlies will kick off at 7pm in the Holmes Convocation Center on Saturday night for student night, honoring the attendees of App State University. A valid student ID can be used for ticket discounts at the door.