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Panthers release 2013 schedule; PIFL adds two new teams

Albany Panthers General Manager Will Carter speaks during Thursday afternoon’s news conference to announce the team’s 2013 schedule. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Albany Panthers General Manager Will Carter speaks during Thursday afternoon’s news conference to announce the team’s 2013 schedule. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — To repeat as Professional Indoor Football League champions, the Albany Panthers will have to go through two more teams than last season.

The Panthers announced their 2013 schedule Thursday and that two new franchise will join the PIFL this season: the Lehigh Valley (Penn.) Steelhawks and the Charlotte (N.C.) Speed.

“I like it. I’m very much in favor of it,” Panthers coach Lucious Davis said when asked about the expansion of the league. “Personally, I wish we would’ve added 10 new teams. You get tired of playing the same teams over and over again — and so do the fans. Last year, we played four times against Columbus and three times each against Richmond and Louisiana. That’s 10 of our 14 games right there all against the same teams. I’m glad we expanded.”

The Panthers, who won last year’s PIFL title after winning it all in a different league a season earlier (SIFL), begin their fourth season on the road in Week 1 against the Louisiana Swashbucklers on March 9. The Panthers then play the first of six home games March 16 against their intrastate rival Columbus Lions on Phoebe Field at the Albany James H. Gray Civic Center.

All home games will be played on Saturday evenings beginning at 7:30 p.m. with the Panther FanFest slated to start three hours before each kickoff at 4:30 p.m. The Panther FanFest will allow fans to tailgate and fellowship.

The Panthers will play home-and-home games against the Swashbucklers, the Alabama Hammers, the Knoxville Knighthawks, the Steelhawks and the Lions. The Panthers play the new entrant Charlotte Speed once at home April 27 and their 2012 championship opponent, the Richmond Raiders, just once in Richmond on May 4.

Davis said he isn’t thrilled about all the long road trips, and he hopes the Panthers will fly — rather than take a charter bus — to their game in Pennsylvania, which is roughly 1,000 miles from Albany.

“The travel time, leaving at midnight, riding through the night — it just wears on you,” Davis said. “I’m hoping we get to fly to Pennsylvania. That’s a long way.”

The two-round PIFL playoffs will be held June 22 and June 29 with the top seeds hosting.

The Panthers’ 2013 regular season schedule is as follows:

Week Date Opponent Venue Time

1 Sat. 3/9/2013 @Louisiana Lake Charles Civic Center 8:00 PM

2 Sat. 3/16/2013 COLUMBUS Albany Civic Center 7:30 PM

3 Sat. 3/23/2013 ALABAMA Albany Civic Center 7:30 PM

4 BYE

5 Fr. 4/5/2013 @Knoxville Knoxville Coliseum 7:00 PM

6 Sat. 4/13/2013 @Alabama Von Braun Center 8:00 PM

7 BYE

8 Sat. 4/27/2013 CHARLOTTE Albany Civic Center 7:30 PM

9 Sat. 5/4/2013 @Richmond Richmond Coliseum 7:00 PM

10 Sat. 5/11/2013 LOUISIANA Albany Albany Civic Center 7:30 PM

11 Sat. 5/18/2013 @Lehigh Valley Stabler Arena 7:00 PM

12 BYE

13 Sat. 6/1/2013 KNOXVILLE Albany Civic Center 7:30 PM

14 Sat. 6/8/2013 @Columbus Columbus Civic Center 7:30 PM

15 Sat. 6/15/2013 LEHIGH VALLEY Albany Civic Center 7:30 PM