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Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Tri-County Raiders ready for first season

By Gary R. Rasberry

Members of the Tri-County Raiders semipro football team work on the bleachers at. . .

As part of their plan to gather a fan base for their team, the area's newest semi-professional football team decided to fix up their potential base of operations.
The Tri-County Raiders will open the season this Saturday in the Interstate Football League at the old New Bremen High School football field, which the team renovated as part of a deal to use the facility. The Raiders will host the Indiana Cutters, which won IFL's Interstate Bowl V last season 38-37 over the Kosciusko County Mustangs.
Mike Rammel, who wears two hats, one as a lineman for the Raiders and also is the assistant vice president of the board that oversees the franchise, said giving back to the community was the primary goal of starting the team.
"A couple of us got together and wanted to go and create a semi-pro team," said Rammel. "Nine of us formed the team as board members. We decided we wanted to go out and get sponsors. Once we got a couple sponsors to get our non-profit certificate, we went after a field."
When looking for a playing field, New Bremen offered its former high school field, which is used for junior high football. One issue was the stands, which had become dilapidated and needed a large sum of money for repairs.
"We gave them a proposal to come in, shore up the bleachers and after that, we'll recycle the material and rebuilt the bleachers," said Rammel. "We started working on a Friday. Saturday we had 50 guys show up. We started working on it, took an hour break for lunch and two-hour break for practice, then we went right back to work later on Saturday and Sunday. Then the board members worked on it through the week. Last week, we finished up."
The workers installed kickboards to prevent anyone from slipping through the bleachers, added black tile, the team color, to the fence area and fencing on the front of the bleachers so no one could slip under the bar.
The team will also take care of the field during the season, re-seeding and fertilizing the field and will handle the general upkeep.
"Part of the reason we did the bleachers is because we wanted to do community service," said Rammel. "We're a first-year team and wanted to do service to show that we're serious in what we're doing. That's part of the reason we jumped in rebuilding it early."
Forming the team
Once the franchise was approved, with a number of area businesses signing on as sponsors, the club set about looking for players in all directions.
"We split up in four different directions," said Rammel. "We drove down to Tipp City and past Tipp City and hung flyers at every gas station and post office we could stop at. Did the same thing east, west and north. We had a date for tryouts. We did two tryouts and had over 100 people interested."
The team began practicing in March and played some exhibition games. The area is well-represented on the roster, with players from St. Marys, Celina, New Bremen, and other spots. The team also boasts an All-American, as former Coldwater and Ohio Northern standout Steve Vagedes is on the roster and will see some time this season.
The Raiders boast a full coaching staff, led by head coach Matt Taylor.
"That helps out tremendously," said Rammel of having a full-time staff. "It takes a lot of weight off players trying to be player-coaches. That helps out a lot."
With players having semipro - and in some cases, pro - football experience, Rammel hopes that the first year of the Raiders will be a successful one.
"We're looking at this year to really shock the IFL," said Rammel. "We have really strong running backs, our offensive line is tough, our defense is a shutout defense if our offense can move the ball. We're looking really strong this year. ... We have a lot of talent."
Tickets for Raider home games this season are $3 per person, $6 a family with kids under age 12 free.
Additional online story on this date
Darke County officials have positively identified an 18-year-old woman who was murdered and dumped in a cornfield near Arcanum nearly 39 years ago. [More]
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