Independence has a potential championship team on its hands, and most people don’t even know the team exists.

Independence has a potential championship team on its hands, and most people don’t even know the team exists.
The eight-man, semi-pro Independence Bulldogs of the Central Plains Football League will take on Mid-Missouri Outlaws in the CPFL championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday at State Fair Community College Field in Sedalia.
Owner and general manager Gabe Frank is the man behind the Bulldogs, who have reached the championship game in both years of their existence.
“We just got the right amount of talent and hard work,” he said.
The players are mostly NCAA Division II to NAIA athletes. The Bulldogs consist of players from as far north as St. Joseph and as far south as Warrensburg.
“It’s mostly word of mouth,” Frank said of team organization. “Coach (Jake) Denneman knows a lot of the players and he gets a lot of them into it. We also have a Web site (www.cpflfootball/com/bulldogs). But mostly it’s by word of mouth.
“This league is really for the guys who just want to keep playing football. It’s just for fun.”
Players are not paid and must pay a fee for insurance to play. However, Frank doesn’t rule out that some day the league might be big enough to pay its players.
The “casual” league consists of seven teams located throughout the state. Games are played on a 50-yard by 28-yard field under arena-type rules. Recently, the league added defensive restrictions for a more offensive-influenced game. Teams are allowed a 32-man active roster, including practice squad players who can be rotated throughout the year depending on the players’ schedules.
“We know they have lives,” Frank said. “If a player has to work or something, that just leaves a roster spot for another player.”
Although most teams don’t rake in a lot of fanfare, the Bulldogs’ fan base is up from 25-30 to about 50 per game, although the Outlaws have nearly a 200-person following, Frank says.
The Bulldogs, who play their home games at Winnetonka High School, went 7-1 on the season, their only loss coming to the Outlaws, who are undefeated.
“They beat us in the last 32 seconds of the game,” Frank said. “We didn’t have a lot of our team and were playing with a lot of backups.”
Winnetonka High School is only a temporary home for the Bulldogs. Due to issues with field space in Independence, the team had to move their practices and home games from the city.
“People hear Independence Bulldogs and then see we play up north and are a little confused,” Frank said. “We’re hoping to move back and be a little closer to home.”
Frank added that, although Winnetonka is also their practice field, they rarely practice during the season.
“We practice, like, twice before the season and just wing it from there,” he said with a laugh.
The Bulldogs crushed the St. Joseph Ravens 84-32 in the first round of the playoffs and then went on to beat the Blue Springs Xtreme 50-38 to reach the championship.
The Xtreme, who are in their second year in the league, finished 2-4 on the year, led by their captains, quarterback Josh Adamczyk, a graduate of the Univeristy of Central Missouri, and tight end Tavares Allen, who attended San Diego State University.
The team took on the Junction City (Kan.) Tigers in the first round of the playoffs (every team makes the playoffs) and pulled off a 44-42 upset. Xtreme co-owner and head coach David Duncan seemed pleased with his team’s accomplishments.
“We had a pretty good year,” he said. “We’re gonna take some time off for things. We have a lot of older guys; I think we’ll be retiring them and getting them as coaches. … It’s a long time till next year, so who knows?”
Despite the tough loss to the Outlaws earlier in the year, Frank and the Bulldogs are optimistic about the championship game between the league’s two powerhouses.
“In the time the league’s been formed, it’s been the big rivalry,” Frank said. “We’re usually the two top-tier teams in the league. They talk a lot of trash; we talk a lot of trash.
“It shaping up to be a good game.”