The Louisiana Lightning of the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League are looking to kick their season off on February 23rd, and for his part, owner Mike Anderson likes the way the team is shaping up.
“The vibe is very, very good,” he told Developmental Football USA. “The influx of new talent we have brought on has kind rejuvenated the veterans.”
Anderson revealed a concern that the team may have gotten a bit stale and upset after a handful of first-round playoff exits over the past three years, but he seems to think the new talent has sparked the Lightning heading into 2019 — especially the veterans.
Heading into the season, the Lighting are ranked No. 11 out of 22 teams in the APDFL, which puts them right in the middle of the pack.
That’s a ranking Anderson won’t argue. In fact, he told DFUSA that No. 11 is right about where the Lightning deserve to be, and it may even be a bit too high based on last year’s results.
Anderson is showing a ton of humility in his assessment of the 2018 Louisiana Lightning, because it wasn’t necessarily a lack of talent that hurt the team — rather a lack of available talent. The Lightning started 2018 with eight offensive lineman on the squad and finished it with just one. Injuries and personal issues hung over the team like a cloud.
“That has been the Achilles heel of our seasons the last two years,” the owner relayed.
The 2019 season promises to be better, though, and that’s because the Lightning do have plenty of talent worth noting.
The newest and biggest additions are running back Kadeem Vance and wide receiver Victor Gaines, who both played college football at Nicholls State.
“They’re both hungry, young guys that have been consistently making it to regional of professional combines, so they are definitely an added dimension of speed, youth and very high football IQs,” Anderson said.
Center Jovani Wood is also a major impact-player for the Lighting. He had shoulder surgery last season after the fifth game of the season, but to his credit he helped the team start off with a 4-1 record.
“He makes all of the offensive line calls so losing him was big,” the owner explained. “Now he’s back, stronger and even more focused and ready to lead the guys deep into the post-season. It all starts with him and his leadership, his ability to make the calls and the way he plays on the offensive line, him being that offensive leader, it’s great to have him back in the fold.”
Defensively, Louisiana looks to be extremely strong with multiple players across the board who boast impressive resumes. Linebacker Trent Mackey was a finalist for the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year award in his last year at Tulane University, and fellow Green Wave alum Leonard Davis checks in at safety. Cornerback Tyrell Shaw is an all-star caliber player and Anthony Matthews is expected to play a big role in the defensive secondary as well.
“We’re coming into this new season with a new team and a new attitude, but the same goal,” Anderson said of his talented squad. “Our goal is to go deep into the playoffs and give ourselves a chance to win the President’s Cup at the end of the season.”
The Lightning will have to contend with a team like the Mississippi Dynasty, who are two-time defending champions and a force to be reckoned with in the APDFL. Anderson also mentioned squads like the Alabama Tigers and Gulf Coast Gators as teams that should be contenders in 2019.
“Our schedule is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. We’re looking at those games as measuring sticks,” he said, specifically of games against the Dynasty, Tigers and Gators.
The Lightning will also look forward to their match up with the Crescent City Kings, a team that usually brings a lot of familiarity with them to the game.
“It is a rivalry game because of the close proximity of the teams,” Anderson explained. “They have guys that have left us and have played for them. We have guys that have come from the Kings that play for us.”
“It’s kind of an in-grown rivalry as well as one on the surface,” Anderson said.
The Lightning will play the Alabama Tigers in Week 1.