By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
The 4-State Fusion, Joplin’s own arena-style football team, wasted little effort in picking up their first win of the season on Saturday, an 81-0 pasting of the Springfield Phantoms at the Joplin Athletic Complex.
You weren’t aware that Joplin was home to an outdoor arena football team?
Meet the Fusion, members of the Central Plains Football League, a group of 10 teams — stretching from Kansas City to Topeka to Omaha to Springfield — playing arena-style football without the arena.
It’s all part of a plan that Danny Davis hopes will culminate with Joplin one day — preferably soon, he says — having a professional arena team.
“That’s our dream right now,” said Davis after Saturday’s game. “We want to have a pro team in Joplin. There’s talk of putting a multipurpose arena here and if that happens, we’ll be able to join a pro league.”
For now, Davis —who helped run the team last season as the Newton County Tigers after a fallout with a previous owner — says he is focused on presenting the best product possible to the football-crazy four-state area.
That includes talent — the Fusion roster includes former college players, including some from Missouri Southern, and a handful of former local prep stars — and a sharp look.
The Fusion sport an eye-catching black and neon green uniform with new, matching helmets. That’s something that couldn’t be said for the visitors from Springfield, the mismatched, upstart Phantoms who showed up late, forcing the Fusion to scrimmage for about 15 minutes.
“The plan was no more teams. I was done,” Davis said. “But I got to thinking after the season about what I could do. Myself and Kevin King, we decided that we were going to do this the right way. We got the community involved. We’ve got businesses involved. The community response has been great.”
Devon Fowler, a standout running back at Joplin High School in 2006 and 2007, is one of the Fusion’s leaders. He’s back on the field for his second year of Central Plains football after playing for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
“It’s a great opportunity to stay in the game,” he said. “What’s really cool is I’m still playing for the home team. I’m still playing for Joplin and this area.”
Fowler got Aaron Frost, a 2011 Joplin grad and the second-leading passer in school history, to give the team a shot.
“I ran into Devon at the mall and he approached me about the league,” said Frost, who became known in this area for his strong arm and big passing numbers and known around the nation for his story of surviving the May 2011 tornado. “I was a little timid but it has been a lot of fun. It has been a great opportunity to experience football again, past high school and outside of college ball.”
Davis said the Fusion gives players like Fowler and Frost the chance to prove themselves for a possible jump to a professional team.
“What we’re trying to do is give these guys a chance to play football and move on to the next level,” Davis said. “The guys who have the talent and ability to move on, they get to do it here.”