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Peach State Cats to play arena football at Cumming Fairgrounds
Peach state Cats
The Peach State Cats will play their home games at the Cumming Fairgrounds starting on March 22. - photo by Photo submitted

Arena football is coming to Forsyth County.

Beginning next month, the Cumming Fairgrounds Arena will be the home of the Peach State Cats, a professional arena football team that is a member of the newly formed United Arena League.

The 2020 season will mark the Cats’ third season of existence. After a yearlong stint in Dalton, the team played its home games at the Classic Center in Athens last season, but the team wasn’t able to get a deal done to stay there. When owner and general manager Tim Freeman found the Fairgrounds, though, he saw a chance to branch out to a new audience.

“It's a good space that seats 3,100 people,” Freeman said. “It was an area where they've never had arena football before and don't have any other professional sports there. It's a good opportunity for us to come in and build our fanbase and be a part of the community. It's a good place to grow the team.”

The team is comprised of players looking for second chances — they’ve either played at the college level and are trying to play at a higher level, and may have been looked over because of stats or injuries.

Perhaps the Cats’ most high-profile player will be wide receiver/defensive back Demarcus Sweat, who played college football at Kentucky. 

Sweat, who graduated from Stephenson High School in 2012, pieced together an impressive freshman campaign at Kentucky before transferring the following year. He flashed big-play potential at wide receiver, scoring two touchdowns on just four receptions. Sweat also returned 25 kicks for 512 yards (20.5 average).

Sweat's brother, Montez Sweat, was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins out of Mississippi State.

*Week 1: Georgialina Lions at Cats, 4 p.m.March 22 

Week 2: Bye week

*Week 3: Georgialina Lions at Cats, 7 p.m. April 4 

Week 4: Cats at Georgialina Lions, 4 p.m. April 12

*Week 5: Southern Steam at Cats, 4 p.m. April 26

*Week 6: Atlanta Furious at Cats, 4 p.m. May 10

Week 7: Cats at Georgialina Lions, 4 p.m. May 24

Week 8: Bye week

*Home games played at Cumming Fairgrounds Arena

On defense, 6-foot-5, 320 pound lineman Brandon Thorpe will look to make an impact.

Thorpe, who played at Texas Tech after graduating from Tucker High School, also shares a connection to the NFL. His brother, Neiko Thorpe, is a seven-year NFL veteran who currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks. 

“What our team does is give them that second opportunity to come out and play, get film, stay in shape and hopefully get a second look at a higher level,” Freeman said.

The Cats will be coached by James Moreland, who also serves as assistant offensive coordinator at South Atlanta High School.

The indoor game has some distinct differences from the outdoor variant that most people are familiar with. The field is much smaller — 50 yards long by 28 yards wide — and the strategies are much different. 

On offense, the ball is thrown nearly 95 percent of the time, and on defense, there’s definitely a learning curve for the players.

“Teaching the players how to play the arena game is a challenge, to convert their mindset from outdoors to indoors,” Freeman said. “You have to teach the skill players that it's all about spacing, timing and following your assignments. Especially on defense, it's assignment football. It's almost like defending the option — you've got to do your assignment first, get to where you're supposed to be and then make a play. If you try to make a play without doing your assignment, you're going to get beat.”

The Cats will play their first home game March 22 against the Georgialina Lions, a team based in Augusta. Single game tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Season tickets are $30 and $15 for adults and kids, respectively.

The first 500 people to buy adult season tickets will be entered into a drawing to win an autographed jersey from former Atlanta Falcon Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. Tickets are available on the team website

“We're trying to make our games a good family environment and make it to where it's affordable,” Freeman said. “Arena football's very exciting — it's very high-paced, a lot of action and a lot of scoring.”