After last weekend’s games, the Minor Professional Football League is now down to The Standing Four and this Saturday’s games will determine who will advance to play in Shanklin Bowl VI. In one semifinal match-up, the Austin Vipers (9-2) will host the North Texas Stampede (11-3, 8-3 in MPFL).
“I think as long as we stay poised and execute, I think we should come out and win,” Vipers owner Hank Morris told Developmental Football USA. “We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves right now. We’ve got some players back from some injuries sustained earlier in the year. We’re healthy and we’re starting to click right now.”
On Saturday, the Vipers handled the Capital City Bison for the third time this season, 23-6, to stake their claim to the Capital Division’s single bid into The Standing Four. Now at the top of the top-heavy Capital Division, the Vipers haven’t received as much spotlight as other teams in the league this season.
“Prior to the season starting, we lost some key players and it just seemed like a lot of people didn’t respect us and didn’t think we would even be able to make the playoffs and here we are, two games away from a championship,” Morris said.
The Stampede, on the other hand, scored the go-ahead touchdown against the DeSoto Golden Eagles to escape with a 26-22 win in the final seconds to secure one of the ultra-competitive Metro Division’s two Standing Four bids.
With a track record of success that is widely known in the Southwest Region, the Vipers – which have won at least 11 games in each of the last four seasons – should always be taken seriously. In fact, Austin’s only two losses of this season were at the hands of last year’s champion, the Texas Bullets, which had their 24-game winning streak snapped on Saturday by the Denton County Rhinos in an upset.
“I think right after we lost the second time to the Bullets, I think it opened up our eyes,” Morris said. “Over the course of the season, everybody wants to remain perfect, but we’ve won championships before without going undefeated.”
All season long, the Bullets – which haven’t lost a regular season game in four years – were a heavy favorite to repeat as champions. Now with them out of the picture, the MPFL Championship race is wide open.
“We wanted the Bullets again,” Morris said. “I don’t think the first or the second game, we still hadn’t put everything together. Right now, I’m very pleased with the offense and the defense. We’re figuring things out.
“Offensively, Moss Mays, our running back, is starting to hit his stride. Defensively, I can’t really single anybody out, because defense has really been on their game all year long. I’ve got to give it to the offensive line. They’re starting to gel and figure things out and not overthink stuff.”
Regardless of how the remainder of the MPFL season shakes out for the Vipers, expect to see them back and contending again in the MPFL in 2018.
“The mere fact that these guys, with all the obstacles we’ve had, with losing players, and the fact that these guys and the younger guys and some of the veterans are already saying they want to come back another year, win or lose after this, it’s inspired me to keep on going,” Morris said.