Wild set to test their new ... everything

TODAY: Team looks to snap winless streak in season debut.

February 27, 2010 

Fans of the Alaska Wild might like to forget last year.

Most of the Wild coaches and players don't need to.

The Indoor Football League team had a full-scale turnover from top to bottom as it looks to regroup from an 0-14 campaign.

A new owner, new coaching staff and overhauled roster -- combined with the hope that springs eternal at the start of every fresh season -- has the Alaska Wild looking to not just win a game but to be a contender. They get their first chance to see if the new look brings new results today at 5 p.m., when they open the season against the Fairbanks Grizzlies at Sullivan Arena,

"We've set our goals high and we think we can reach them. We want to win a championship for Anchorage," quarterback Donald Carrie said. "We want to bring some excitement and give the fans and the town something to be happy about football-wise."

At the end of last season, rumors circulated that the Wild's third season may be the team's last. It was riding a 17-game winless streak and had never tasted victory on the road in 22 contests over three seasons. Attendance was dropping.

But instead of folding, the organization brought in a new owner in Charles Matthews and a new coach in Darnell Lee.

"I know the players are as excited as I am to have the opportunity to lift a program up off the ground," said Lee, who was 60-14 with three championships and three coach-of-the-year honors in five seasons with the Louisiana Swashbucklers in the Intense Football League and Southern Indoor Football League.

The Wild already have accomplished something never done before. Their 40-35 exhibition victory at Fairbanks last week marked the first time the Wild won a road game. They'll have to wait for a March 20 contest at Fairbanks for a chance to end the road skid officially.

But the 17-game losing streak could end today.

"We've been hearing about that record," said running back Kendrick Perry. "We are trying to make a turnaround, show people that we can win."

Perry, a top-10 prospect in Louisiana as a high school player, ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another.

"It didn't take long to get used to it. I had a great experience out there," said Perry, who signed with Ole Miss out of high school, then transferred to Southeastern Louisiana for a year and played semipro ball last season.

Carrie, a former star quarterback at Alcorn State, played indoor football in Laredo and San Angelo in Texas and in the Arena Football League 2 in Peoria, Ill. He sat out last season before signing with the Wild.

He has been reunited with a pair of former San Angelo teammates, wide receivers Henry Hunter and Maurice Rumley. Steven Whitehead of McNeese State adds another threat to the receiving core.

"He's a real go-getter, real quick and can stop on a dime. He also has good hands," Carrie said.

Andrew Carcich, a former player and quarterbacks coach at Belhaven College, an NAIA school in Mississippi, split time with Carrie against the Grizzlies and threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Whitehead and Tyron Taylor to rally Alaska to the win.

Lee said the Wild had five touchdowns called back because of penalties in the Fairbanks game.

"I think we can be an explosive offense," Perry said. "If we corral some of the penalties, we can be dangerous."

Many of the Wild's new faces are from the Deep South. But Anchorage fans will find at least one familiar face -- former Bartlett High and University of Washington offensive lineman Tui Alailefaleula.

Just about everything else about the Wild is new, right down to the attitude.

"What happened last year is a part of franchise history," Carrie said, "but not a part of our own history."

Reach Richard Larson at rlarson@adn.com or 257-4335.

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