A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Northern Kentucky Nightmare hope to make an impact in first year of arena football; aim for playoffs

By Andy Foltz
NKyTribune contributor

Fans of arena football have a new local team to support, the Northern Kentucky Nightmare.

The team is playing all road games this season, but they are hoping to make an impact by reaching the American Indoor Football playoffs.

Jimmy Dan Conners (holding football) and the Northern Kentucky Nightmare hope to make great strides in season one (photo by James Ernest).

Jimmy Dan Conners (holding football) and the Northern Kentucky Nightmare hope to make great strides in season one (photo by James Ernest).

This season, with six road games on the schedule, it’s all about love of the game for players, owners, and coaches. The players aren’t being paid just yet – although they are getting fed by Sub Station II in Florence prior to hitting the road for games.

“I’m old, every time I step out on the field it’s for love of the game,” said veteran quarterback Antonio Davis, or A.D. “But I knew the coaches, so as soon as they called me, it was a no-brainer.”

The Nightmare are practicing at Griffin Elite in Erlanger, but will play home games at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights next season.

“We were going to wait until next year to play, but reaching out to people in the community we were able to play,” said co-owner Kyle Hogan, who also serves as the team’s offensive coordinator.

The main thing this year is to get the brand known.

“Griffin Elite is a wonderful facility,” said James Ernest, the team’s marketing director. “Games next year are going to be fun. Kids will be able to go out on the field after games, tickets will be reasonably priced. We’re thinking of having a super hero night.”

Some folks might remember the Northern Kentucky River Monsters of years past, and many of the players and coaches are the same. That team, however, only managed to play one of the previous four years.

“Unfortunately, there was no consistency,” said Ernest. The name change was because “we wanted a fresh start.”

The team’s first game ended in a lopsided 47-6 loss, but the defense was a highlight, holding the River City Raiders offense to 150 yards and 21 points. The offense, in addition to not putting up many points, gave up points, as did the special teams.

“We’ll put up more points to match our defense,” Davis said.

nightmare helmet

He missed the first game due to family obligations, but vowed following games will be a lot different.

“I’m too old to get banged up,” Davis said. “I’m trying to get the ball to the fast guys and let them do something with it.”

The defensive backs are the strength of the team, with T.J. Harris picking off three passes in the opener. Sergio Freeman added another interception.

“We work as a group,” said Harris. “It’s really important. We’ve got to stick together and come out with confidence.”

The team likes playing on the road, which is a good thing this season.

“Away games are the best,” Harris said. “You can really show what you can do. Last game, they booed the ref after I threw a ball to a fan.”

“You can get the fans on your side,” added the third member of the backfield, Ontario Williams. “We were high-fiving them during the game, taking selfies.”

Ernest said that behavior, which would earn a fine in the staid NFL, is encouraged as being fan-friendly in arena football. He expects to see it next year when the Nightmare have home fans.

“Even T.J.’d love for everyone to love him, not just half the crowd,” A.D. said.

Though the team got off to a rough start, they aim to sweep the remainder of the schedule and make the playoffs in year one.

“It’s always a must to play for the playoffs. It makes a statement,” said Williams. “Especially on a year when we’re not getting paid.”

The Nightmare have several events coming up where fans will get to meet and greet the team. They will be at the Florence Easter Egg Hunt March 26, at UC Health Stadium, home of the Florence Freedom. April 16, they will have teams of two participating in the Izzy’s Reuben Challenge at the Florence Izzy’s location.

Additional information on the Northern Kentucky Nightmare and the American Indoor Football league is available here. The Nightmare also has a Facebook page .

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