The Fayetteville Mustangs made quite a splash in their inaugural game in the National Arena League.
Most expansion teams in any professional sports league take their lumps during that initial season.
Not the Mustangs.
The indoor football team went to Orlando on April 8 and not only won but set a league record for points scored in the opening week of the season. The Mustangs beat the Predators 68-43.
“We shocked the league,” said owner Robert Twaddell.
The previous record was 66 points.
That’s the kind of splash Twaddell, a chiropractic physician who has lived in Fayetteville since 1996, hoped to make when he decided to bring indoor football back to Fayetteville.
“I really enjoyed arena football in years past,” Twaddell said. “I just wanted to bring it back to Fayetteville.”
The Mustangs are Fayetteville’s fifth entry in an indoor football league, following the Cape Fear Wildcats (arenafootball2, 2002-04); the Fayetteville Guard (National Indoor Football League, 2005-07); the Fayetteville Force (Southern Indoor Football League, 2011); and Cape Fear Heroes (American Arena League, 2012-19 with an off year in 2017).
The Mustangs home field is the Crown Coliseum.
The National Arena League began in 2017 and has seven teams, including Fayetteville. The others are Orlando; Jacksonville, Florida; San Antonio; Albany, New York; Greensboro; and Odessa, Texas.
The Mustangs play a 14-game regular-season schedule that ends July 29 with a home game against Albany.
Coach Charles Gunnings was not surprised by the Mustangs’ opening-week success.
“We’ve got some good athletes on my team who can make some good things happen out there,” said Gunnings, who has been a part of all of Fayetteville’s indoor league teams, starting as a player with the Wildcats in 2002.
“It’s not my first rodeo,” he said. “I’ve been here, like, 18 years.”
Arena football is played on a field sized to fit stadiums where ice hockey and basketball are played. The field is 50 yards long instead of 100, and the end zone is 8 yards deep as opposed to 10. The units on the field are smaller, too, with eight-man squads on offense and defense instead of 11. That necessitates many players going both ways.
That’s just the way Gunnings likes it.
“It’s actually football I grew up in, the Arena Football Ironman league. We have to go both ways to play,” Gunnings said. “You obviously have to play defense, so it makes you a true athlete in this league. You don’t necessarily have to be the best football player, but you’ve got to be a true athlete.”
For more information, go to FayettevilleMustangs.com.