After a successful season of finishing second in the Northern Division with a record of 9-5 and earned the team’s first playoff appearance in their brief three-year history, the Baltimore Mariners are serious about building on their past success to win the AIFA (American Indoor Football Association) championship. The Mariners re-signed key players, added more talent and are poised to make a statement, starting on the road against the Harrisburg Stampede March 6 with their home opener on March 14 against New Jersey Revolution ( a new expanded squad welcomed to the AIFA) as the team’s 2010 schedule was released.
Similar to other well ran organizations that are committed to winning, the Mariners re-signed major contributors who helped led the team to a great turnaround and to be a force in the league. Linebackers Brian Bradford (Towson University, Gaithersburg), Fearon Wright and Vince Tiberi are back. Bradford had workouts with the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Washington Redskins with offers from the Detroit Lions and the Arena Football League’s (AFL) Chicago rush, but was not promise any playing time. Wright played with the Minnesota Vikings for two seasons and Tiberi was a high school star in Delaware. Tiberi was a walk-on for the Mariners last season along with his long-time friend Matt Folke who is the team’s number two quarterback behind E.J. Nemeth.
Defensive lineman Adam Foley, defensive backs Andre Letren and Armar Watson, running back Isaiah “Zeke” Grier, and wide receiver Jamaal Stokes signed the dotted line again. Watson led the Mariners in tackles last season (43.5) and the league in interceptions with 17 (returned three to the house). Grier led the AIFA in rushing with 514 yards and finished second in rushing touchdowns (20). Stokes capped his season with the Mariners in 2009 as he led the team in receiving yards (763), catches (71) and was third in receiving touchdowns (10). Stokes is the Mariners’ franchise leader in receptions with 99 and in yards, 1,151.
Along with the returning veterans, the Mariners loaded up with more talent, majority as a Maryland resident, from the area and by school, including a former standout and another with NFL experience. Offensive linemen Kobie Howell, a 6-6, 330 pounder from Morgan State and 6-6, 280 pound Jeff Tyler from Towson University (who re-signed) will give the Mariners solid protection. Former Maryland Terps’ standout quarterback Joel Statham and former Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Mike Pitts signed with the club. Potts was in the Steelers training camp in 2008, but was released before the last preseason game after former Steelers’ quarterback Byron Leftwich signed.
Adam Goloboski signed after spending some time with the Edmonton Express of the CFL (Canadian Football league) and the Cincinnati Bengals and two-way player Brandon Beal has potential to play as a defensive end, linebacker and even a wide receiver. But Beal probably won’t need to help spread the offense as much because wide receiver Damon Harrison was inked. Harrison has experience as a kick returner and a quarterback in his high school days in New Jersey.
Among the Maryland natives, offensive linemen Mike Lucian (Frederick), who played his collegiate ball at Penn State, and 6-3, 280 pounder James Violand also from Frederick. 6-5 defensive lineman Akiel Russell (Silver Spring) will help the defensive line give the push the Mariners need with Fort Washington’s, Illinois University star Rodney Pittsman and defensive back Richan Gaskins (Greenbelt) applying pressure to attack opposing quarterbacks. Dematha High School’s standout Daniel Orlebar signed and he helped Appalachian State to win two national titles (I-A).
From the Baltimore City/County metropolitan area, pure talent is everywhere. Wide receiver Delannie Spriggs, Jr. (Owings Mills, Northern High School) and offensive lineman Kheon Hendricks (Pikesville, Woodlawn High School) are proof of that. Hendricks has tons of accolades from his years playing at the University of Delaware and proudly protected Ravens’ star quarterback Joe Flacco for two seasons. Like many players on the Mariners’ squad, don’t be surprised if Hendricks get that dream call to go to the next level.
“I am very pleased with the off-season efforts of both my front office and entire coaching staff,” said general manager Greg Justice. “While we have maintained the chemistry and 95 percent of last year’s team still in place, we have aggressively sought out new talent to add depth and compete at each and every roster spot.” Last season, Justice was the ultimate two-way player. During the five day work week, Justice worked the front office as general manager running the team and on weekends, he lined up in the trenches on the offensive line. Justice is excited to get back on the field to bring a “ring” to Charm City. “I look forward to opening training camp in February and then opening up on the Road in Harrisburg as we set sail for the ring in 2010,” said Justice.