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Jones hopes to jump-start Sharks

A fresh start and solid financial backing separate the Dayton Sharks from other indoor arena football teams.

But not having to play against home-grown quarterback Tommy Jones trumps all that.

“I’m to the point where I want to have a couple more good years and just hang it up and have that normal life,” said Jones, an Eaton High School graduate who jumped to the Sharks for the upcoming season.

“This was good timing for me to stay close to home and play.”

The Sharks are the latest minor-league sports team to call Dayton and Hara Arena home. They’ll make their program debut in tonight’s 7:30 p.m. home opener against the Port Huron Patriots.

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Members of the 10-team Continental Indoor Football League, the Sharks are scheduled for 10 games in 12 weeks, followed by the playoffs. The season began last week; the Sharks drew a bye.

There are several different arena football leagues throughout the country. The CIFL began in 2006 and touts itself as the only arena league not to have ceased operations at least once since then.

The Dayton Silverbacks couldn’t make such a claim, having folded following last season. Jones led the Saginaw Sting to a 35-7 victory over the Silverbacks in last season’s CIFL title game. It was the Silverbacks’ only loss.

The Sharks aren’t a new version of the Silverbacks; the front office and most of the players are different. Corwyn Thomas bills himself as the managing general partner/CEO/chairman. New players like Jones, former Wayne High School and arena football veteran Robert Redd and several members of Cincinnati Commandos league title teams have joined the Sharks.

Derrick Moss, a standout running back at Dunbar and Central State, also is in the backfield. Wideout Shawn McGarity played at Lakota East and Oregon State.

It’s that kind of local star power on a small field – half the size of an outdoor field – that appeals to spectators. Most all arena teams stuff their rosters with recognizable area names, whether high school or college players. Close proximity also is the norm; CIFL teams are anchored in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

The league mandates a salary cap for each team. Like most members, the Sharks practice two, three times weekly and at night. Most all the players have full-time jobs.

Jones has won three arena football titles since playing at Indiana University from 1998-02, where he was a back-up to QB Antwaan Randle El. At 6-feet-4, 240 pounds, Jones still has a lively arm in the pass-heavy sport. Twice he’s surpassed 100 touchdown passes in a season. Also the team’s offensive coordinator, Jones expects the Sharks to average 63-65 points.

“It’s something different,” he said. “We’re playing on a small field, it’s fast paced and there are a lot of points. If you like football and points, it’s a game that you’re really going to enjoy.”

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