Phoenix Set to Rise in Leominster

LEOMINSTER — A gridiron dream four years in the making will rise this summer, as a local group plans to give back to the community all while competing for a title.

Townsend’s John Kiedaisch and Lunenburg’s Bill Nash have founded the Mass. Phoenix, a team spawned from their days with the New England Football League’s Gardner Sabercats. Kiedaisch was a one-time president of the team and also coached the offensive and defensive lines. Nash was a defensive coach, as well.

The new team will play in the East Coast Football League, of which Kiedaisch is also president. The league is comprised of teams throughout New England, with one in Maine, two in New Hampshire, three in Massachusetts, as well as two each in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

“(The Phoenix) has gone through a couple of lifetimes,” Kiedaisch said recently, noting he had left the Sabercat organization in 2014. “When we split, my partner and I wanted to buy (the Sabercats). They weren’t interested.

“We applied to the EFL (Eastern Football League). They were not interested in any new organizations, so they shut us down. We knew we couldn’t go into the NEFL; we would be direct competition with the Sabercats.”

The pairing had come up with the Blue Angels as a new summer football entrant, Nash said, but at the beginning of this year, “we wanted to revisit it.”

“We met with (Mass. Phoenix head coach/Quabbin Regional assistant) Jason Andrews and put our heads together,” Nash said.

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The result was the Phoenix, which will utilize a red and gold color scheme and play at Doyle Field.

“We want to unite and raise Fitchburg and Leominster football,” Kiedaisch said.

Kiedaisch noted the team already has upward of 70 young men registered for a 55-member team — and that the organization is still looking for additional players.

“Bottom line, we have a number of young men signed up, but the team has made it clear that we need to build the most competitive team. We’re not out to hurt anybody, but we do want to make it as strong as possible,” he said.

The team also wanted to give back to the community in many ways.

“My philosophy, and Bill agrees, and the coaching staff agrees, the only way to make this a livable entity is to be synergistic with the community,” Kiedaisch said. “That requires us to give back: to participate with the youth.

“Two or three years ago when we started this with the Blue Angels, a couple of women who were going to be very supportive of us, had a strong input for breast cancer. At that point we promised them that if this ever comes to fruition, we would support their efforts. We’ve committed assets of one game to that support and encouraging people to be supportive in that endeavor and be involved.”

The team’s mission statement notes it will provide young men an opportunity to continue their football careers and to assist those recently-graduated high school athletes keep their dreams of playing college football alive.

“We are going to have the Hudl service as a coaching tool and to aid the young men in giving them clips to send to Fitchburg State, to Framingham State, etc.,” Kiedaisch said. “We think it’s being smart like a fox, because if we help the young men, it’s the right thing to do. And then more young men will come out and participate with us, and when they finish their college careers, they may want to come back as players, possibly as coaches, or just be sponsors or involved with the team to give back.”

The team will also look to support local youth teams by offering coaching aids in teaching proper safety and football techniques, while extending an offer to all youth teams to attend Phoenix games at a reduced cost.

“(Nash’s) mantra is to build Saturday Night Lights,” Kiedaisch said, “and he gave me the bug. He brought a large contingent from Lunenburg to one of the (Sabercat) games. And after the game, we asked the guys to stick around and the youth came down to the field. All of a sudden, they’re asking the players for autographs. The players’ heads were immediately out here. Again, that’s what we want to promote: it’s good for the community, it’s good for the kids, and again, do it right.”

The team also plans on supporting local veterans groups.

“We also want to take it one step further and get the military, police, and first responders involved,” Nash said.

The team is also looking to the area’s business community to sponsor the team, including placing ads in the game-day program. Corporate packages range from $1,000 to $2,000.

“As I emphasize to people, these options are just that: options. There’s nothing set in stone,” Kiedaisch said. “We’re more than flexible. To some people, the idea of tickets is very important to them to give to employees. To another person, tickets aren’t important to them: they want a better ad, a better placement. Whatever works, we want to do.”

written by Sean Sweeney, Correspondent, Sentinel & Enterprise – 3/27/18