Edgewood business owner hopes Duke City Gladiators’ success will boost fan base

Edgewood resident and business owner Matt Caward hopes the recent success of his Duke City Gladiators will bring more people to future games—including folks from the East Mountains.

“I’d love to see an East Mountain cheering section in the stands,” Caward said.

The Duke City Gladiators are a professional indoor football team in the Champions Indoor Football league, or CIF.

Indoor football uses an eight-on-eight player format; the games tend to be high-scoring affairs, and the teams have entertaining names like the Amarillo Venom and the Omaha Beef.

Caward co-founded the Gladiators four years ago and serves as the team’s general manager.

The Gladiators’ season runs March through June and they play all their home games at Tingley Coliseum.

Caward said the average attendance is about 2,500 per game but he’d like to see that number increase.

“We hope people will come out and support us,” Caward said. “To see the fans screaming in the stands, that’s important to us—we love it.”

The Gladiators are all former college football players. Some of them hail from New Mexico, including Jayson Serda, an Eastern New Mexico University alum and Manzano High graduate who was named CIF Defensive Player of the Year.

There are also eight former UNM Lobos on the team.

This past season’s 12-2 record earned the Gladiators the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Gladiators defeated the Wichita Force, the CIF’s 2016 champions; in the second round, the Gladiators bested last year’s champs, the Texas Revolution.

The climax of the Duke City Gladiators’ season came on June 30 when they beat the Sioux City Bandits 31-27 in the Champions Bowl for the CIF title.

According to Caward, a record crowd of 3,850 attended the Champions Bowl. He said he hopes the CIF title will bring notoriety to the Gladiators.

“When we started out, we knew we had to build a winning program to be successful, so it means everything to win the whole thing,” he said. “And to do it in four years is pretty amazing.”

Caward noted that it’s also important for the Gladiators to serve the Albuquerque area off the field.

“It’s always been set up to be a community team,” he said, noting that the Gladiators do a lot of activities to support youth sports. “We hope people and families will see that and want to come out and be part of it.”