In 2015, the Albany Metro Mallers finished with a 14-1 record, a World Football Federation Championship and a No. 3 national ranking. Later this year, they look to surpass that.
“We want to win the league, then the Harvest Bowl, then the national championship,” Metro Mallers owner Sal Iavarone recently told DFUSA. “That’s the pecking order, but it really comes down to winning the national championship game.”
For that to happen – and it certainly can – Albany will need another big season from all-everything athlete C.J. Tarver behind center.
“He’s our number one core player,” Iavarone said. “He’s the offense. He’s our quarterback right now, but he’s not a true quarterback. He takes the position of quarterback, he’s a wildcat type of player. He can throw the ball but he also runs. He’s a short person, 5-7, 5-8, weighs very little, 150 pounds probably. He tries out for the Canadian league every year. He’s our utility guy and everybody knows him in the semipro world.”
What makes Tarver so deadly is his ability to create plays with his feet and make stuff happen if the initial play call falls apart.
“We’re a running team first, but it’s really a variety,” Iavarone said. “We do have the power for the power backs, but we have the wildcat stuff where we go outside. CJ makes players miss and a lot of our scores are on broken plays. He’ll call hut, run around for awhile – the defensive players won’t catch him – then he’ll run or find someone open.”
Let’s not forget the big men in the trenches paving the way for Tarver and the rest of the Metro Mallers offense. Albany’s offensive line is led by 6-foot-2, 300-pound captain Andres Morris.
“He was a D-2 center years ago,” Iavarone said. “He’s starting to get up in age, in his thirties now. He’s our star lineman that controls plays as far as the linemen goes. He’s the top player on that end.”
Morris and his offensive line will also be opening up running lanes for running back Justin Hartwick.
“We’re definitely more of a running team than a passing team,” Iavarone said. “We have a core of young receivers and two running backs that are phenomenal that had NFL tryouts, but did not make it.
“We’ve got a good mix of running and passing with CJ and our running backs. On defense, there’s not really one defensive guy, but it’s just a veteran group that’s been around awhile that plays good together. There’s not one individual special person for defense.”
It won’t be an easy road to repeat as WFF Champions as three teams in particular also have their sights set on the league title and possess the ability to win it.
“The number one team would be the Central Penn Piranhas, then the next one would be the DC Seahawks from Washington DC,” Iavarone said. “Then we have a team called the New England Soul, from Springfield, Massachusetts. Those would be the top three teams knocking on the door.
“After league play, we’ll have a tournament for the right to go play in florida for a national title.”
While the regular season is still a few months away in July, the Metro Mallers will kick off their four game pre-season slate one month from now.
“On May 14th, we play a team called the Dutchess County Bears, then the Troy Fighting Irish on June 4th,” Iavarone said. “We’re going to Brooklyn to play in a charity game against the New York Rebels, then we’re playing a team called the Connecticut Panthers after that.”