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Region goes crazy for American Football

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By Benjamin Johnstone
Region goes crazy for American Football

AS the Super Bowl touches down in Miami this weekend, an American football team based in the region are hoping it encourages new people to join them.

The Dumfries Hunters were founded in 2014 and now boast three separate teams that welcomes players from the age of eight onwards.

There is a flag team for youngsters aged between eight to 13, with games consisting of five-a-side; a junior team that welcomes players between 14-17; and a senior team for over 18s, which is full contact just like the NFL season.

The club’s popularity has skyrocketed over the years and they have had to switch the location of training sessions due to increasing numbers coming from all over the region, as well as south of the border from Carlisle too.

They first started at Dock Park, before moving to Kingholm Quay after just months because of more people joining, before finally settling at Greenbrae Loaning playing fields. It’s there they train every Sunday, through until April.

And it all came about courtesy of friends Stephen Slater, Chris Strilciw and Luke Summers, who were eager to bring a team to the town because of their love for the sport and were tired of travelling all the way to Glasgow every weekend to play American football.

Club chairman Stephen said: “As a youngster everyone would always say to me that I should take up rugby.

“I would always tell them that I do not understand rugby and they’ll always ask me but you play American football, but for me I have grown up watching it from a very young age.”

He added: “I have some family that are into American sport and it came from there.

“I have always watched NFL and for me, American football is my rugby.”

Sharing the roles, Luke is the head coach, while Chris is both a coach and treasurer.

Explaining the team name, Stephen said: “Initially we were brainstorming with different ideas and then one day, Luke just came up with a name called Selgovae, and we were like where did that come from.

“Back years ago in the early days of Scotland, it was a local tribe. What it means is they were local hunters in the area during the second century.

“We were talking about it and looked at other sport teams and realised none of them had Hunters in their name.

“So we decided that was the name for us and happily settled on The Hunters.”

A logo was next and again they engaged with the community to find the design. Stephen said: “The story of our Hunters logo is actually really smart.

“Luke approached the local college and it then became a project for the graphic design students.

“We basically let them submit their interpretations, we just told them a rough idea about the colour scheme that we were going with and the team name.

“It was a local lad called Reece Wild, who eventual won and his entry became our logo.”

The Hunters are now in their fourth season playing in the British league since being accepted in 2017 and the senior squads this year face four other teams: Clyde Valley Blackhawks, Darlington Steam, Dunfermline Kings and Gateshead Senators. They play them all both home and away between April to August.

All four of their homes games will be staged at the David Keswick Centre on the 3G pitches. For the past two years they have successfully made the play-offs and are looking to carry on this form in 2020.

Stephen said: “It’s like the NFL, who have the National Football Conference and American Football Conference.

“There is a cut off at Birmingham, so you have the NFC which is the North Football Conference and the SFC which is South Football Conference. We’re in the North obviously and then it’s broken up again into regions North, North Central, Central and then the South.

“So when it comes to the play-offs, they try to keep you playing teams that are closer to yourself, even when you get to the play-offs, so you’re not having to travel too far.”

But games don’t come cheap and it costs in the region of £700 to host one game with pitch hire, officials’ fees and medical cover all taken into consideration.

Stephen said: “A yearly membership for Dumfries Hunters is £200 for every player and that covers everything throughout the season.”

Keen to raise awareness, the team are continuously doing all they can to make sure that people know about the sport by going into schools and introducing it to youngsters.

Stephen said: “The one thing which I say to people who are interested is, watch the game and if you’re getting involved, watch it for your position and just learn it that way.

“Seeing it yourself can help put you at ease and we make sure you understand the game before the high contact comes into place, so there is less nervousness.”

He hopes that this Sunday’s Super Bowl, when Kansas City Chiefs take on San Francisco 49ers at The Hard Rock Stadium, will encourage even more people to take up the game and added: “The Super Bowl for us is like everything else, you watch the Snooker World Championships or Wimbledon and people feel like playing snooker or tennis, for us the Super Bowl is much the same.

“People watch and might not necessarily follow the NFL throughout the year but they will watch the Super Bowl because of the spectacle.

“We try to capitalise on that and promote the sport for everyone to come along.”

For more information, find the Dumfries Hunters on Facebook.

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