Bluegrass Warhorses, new semi-pro indoor football team, holds tryouts

tlashbrook@herald-leader.comJuly 9, 2013 

Indoor football is returning to Lexington. The challenge now is putting a team together.

The Bluegrass Warhorses are preparing for their first season as a semi-professional indoor football team.

They will compete in the Continental Indoor Football League which features teams from Dayton, Ohio; Detroit, Port Huron, Mich., Saginaw, Mich., and Erie, Pa.

Their first home game is Monday, Feb. 3 at the Alltech Arena against the CIFL defending champion Erie Explosion.

On Sunday, 37 players were part of an open tryout at the Bullpen in Georgetown.

Players ran 40-yard dashes, did repetitions on the bench press, performed agility drills and worked on running routes one-on-one against a defensive back. The offensive and defensive linemen were separated in one group, while skill positions were in another.

Two quarterbacks competed in a series of passing drills and two place-kickers worked in a netted-off area.

One of those kickers was Casey Clarke, a field-goal kicker from London, England.

Clarke, 24, came to the United States to play soccer for Campbellsville University where he played left midfield for four years. He gained an extra year of eligibility while going for his master's and decided to kick field goals for the football team.

He fell in love with it. He recently went to the regional NFL combine in New York but was told by scouts to get two years of coaching, then return to try out again.

Clarke hopes to make the Warhorses roster so that he can keep his dream of kicking in the NFL alive.

One of the best athletes at the tryout was former Bryan Station and Georgetown College running back Patrick Cornett.

After running one of the fastest 40-times of the day, Cornett jogged to the back of the line. In the middle of his jog he tumbled into a backflip to the amusement of everyone in the building.

When Cornett wasn't putting up great agility numbers or pumping out reps on the bench press, he was performing sideways pull-ups.

When he isn't playing football, he's fighting on the amateur MMA circuit.

Cornett holds a 6-2 amateur record, trains at Four Seasons in Lexington and hopes to one day become a professional fighter.

Or a professional football player.

"I'm trying to use all of my God-given talent," Cornett said. "If I'm talented in soccer, I'm gonna play soccer. Whatever it is, That's what I'm gonna do. I'm just an athletic person."

After Sunday's tryout, 30 players will be invited to training camp at the beginning of November.

From there, the team will cut the roster to 25 with 21 players being active and four staying on as practice team players.

Three players are currently under contract: former UK defensive linemen Ellery Moore, semi-pro football veteran Marcus Commodore and former Bryan Station High School and University of Louisville standout J.T. Haskins, who is under contract as a player-coach.

Commodore played football for Henry Clay, graduating in 2002. He was at the most recent tryouts, in flip-flops, encouraging the guys trying out. Commodore, 28, said that playing semi-professional football keeps him in shape. He hopes to one day play in the Canadian Football League, the Arena League or even the NFL.

The Warhorses were founded by Eric Taylor and JaQuar Sanders.

The head coach is Mike Harmon, who coached the former Lexington indoor football team, the Kentucky Horseman, and who is the head coach at Tates Creek High School. His assistants include Haskins and former Louisville Cardinals football player and current Mason County assistant Harry Lewis. The indoor season is in the spring so there is no overlap for the high school football coaches.

Taylor had worked with the Kentucky Horsemen during their entire existence, from 2003-2009. After that he went to Pikeville and worked as the general manager for another semi-professional football team, the Kentucky Drillers.

After a few months away from the game, Taylor decided to look into bringing back a team to Lexington.

He said that he ran into Sanders — a former Horsemen player — at a gas station and the two decided that they would work together to bring an indoor football team back to the area.

Taylor thinks one reason the Warhorses can make it is because they joined the Continental Indoor Football League.

The CIFL is the longest continuous-running indoor football league in the country, with its eighth season upcoming.

One reason the CIFL was the best choice for the Warhorses is the location of teams around the league.

Traveling is one of the most costly expenses for teams. The Horsemen played teams as far away as Corpus Christi, Texas, which is more than a 19-hour drive. But the Warhorses' farthest opponent is around seven hours away in Saginaw, Mich.

The Warhorses want to be in Lexington for the long haul.

Tyler Lashbrook: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @heraldleader

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