The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ)

Freedom ready for inaugural season


TRENTON — excitement, and of confidence in O’Hanlon’s voice.

For an indoor football veteran with eight seasons of coaching experience behind him, O’Hanlon is optimistic as he awaits his head coaching debut Sunday as head man of the Trenton Freedom.

The Freedom bring indoor football back to the Delaware Valley as they host the Richmond Raiders at 2 p.m. at Sun National Bank Center — the first of six home games for O’Hanlon’s squad.

Trenton is in the PIFL National Division with the Harrisburg Stampede, Lehigh Valley Steelhawks and Richmond. The American There’s a lot Kevin Division consists of the Alabama Hammers, Georgia Fire, Columbus (Ga.) Lions and Nashville Venom.

Trenton is projected to be playing the league’s toughest schedule with Richmond, Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley making the playoffs in 2013. Last season Richmond lost to Alabama in the PIFL title game, its second season in the championsh­ip game.

Four of the Freedom’s final six games are on the road, so they hope to get off to a fast start and not be facing playoff eliminatio­n by midseason.

“We have a good group with indoor football experience,” said O’Hanlon, who grew up in Lower Bucks County where he played at Bensalem and later at Georgia Tech. He was offensive and defensive line coach at Lehigh Valley the past two seasons before Freedom owners Megan and Dennis Williams felt he was the guy to build their expansion football franchise.

“The blend of players we’ve put together is a good one, with guys who know the indoor game, have been to NFL and AFL (indoor) training camps, and are excited about the team we’ve brought in,” O’Hanlon said.

The Freedom won’t get on the Sun Bank Center turf until Sunday morning, having held preseason workouts at Bob Smith’s spacious Robbinsvil­le Fieldhouse.

The roster O’Hanlon and his veteran coaching staff have assembled include quarterbac­k Warren Smith, who played for Richmond last season, and defensive backs Kwaheem Smith and John Kennedy who were all with Lehigh Valley in 2013.

Kwaheem Smith played with Lehigh Valley for part of 2013 then was brought up to the Erie Explosion of the CIFL where he was Defensive Player of the Year.

O’Hanlon has had some of his key signings move up to AFL camps or signed to offseason deals with NFL teams. Among them is Reggie Sullivan, a defensive back that had signed with Trenton but is back for the third time with the NFL Charlotte Panthers. Lehigh Valley offensive lineman Jeremy Schonbrunn­er was to join Trenton, but was promoted to the AFL Iowa Barnstorme­rs. Defensive lineman Marques Slocum made the roster of the AFL’s Pittsburgh Power and won’t be helping O’Hanlon.

O’Hanlon’s biggest signing is QB Warren Smith, who led Richmond as a rookie last season finishing third in the PIFL in completion­s (244), second in passing yards (2993), fourth in TDs (48), and second in completion percentage (63.3). When Richmond’s reigning team MVP Antwon Young was lost to injury, Smith took over and led Richmond to its second consecutiv­e championsh­ip game.

The Freedom do have five guys who played with the Philadelph­ia Soul, which was Arena League playoff finalist the last two years.

Wideout Antoine Rivera, signed with the Soul in 2011 but has prior indoor experience with the Trenton Steel, who played at Sun Bank in 2011.

Trenton-born Luquan Abdullah, who played at The Hun School and later at the University of Miami, has been one of the big surprises in Freedom training camp.

“He has shown a lot of promise at nose tackle and looks like he can help us a lot,” said O’Hanlon.

***** Season and single-game Freedom tickets are available by calling 1-800-521FREE (3733) or by going to http://www.trentonfre­edom.

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