There is an undeniable connection at the developmental level of football between winning and team longevity as the majority of teams throw in the towel in less than three years after realizing that building a championship organization isn’t as easy to do as first thought.
So, generally speaking, when a team has been around awhile at this level, they are probably pretty good and for a program with a decorated history like the Des Moines Blaze, a championship is a possibility even on what they may consider a down year.
“For me, I expect to get to a championship and I expect to win a championship regardless of what players are here,” Blaze owner Tyrone Tyler told Developmental Football USA.
In the final month of the regular season in 2017, missing the playoffs was a real scenario for the Blaze at one point. However, they dug deep and did more than just make it to the playoffs. The Blaze made it all the way to the Midwest Football Alliance Championship Game, before falling to the Sioux City Stampede.
“Making it to the championship was good for us,” Tyler said. “Recruiting has gone well this year and the goal is to get the guys up to speed. I showed up to practice one Saturday with no returning receivers, go figure, so we had to start slow and go with what we’ve got.”
Every year, teams at this level witness structure and organization triumphing over talent and, while not lacking in talent, that is one reason Des Moines finds itself in the hunt for hardware more often than not.
“The last three or four years, slowly, but surely older guys have been leaving and we’ve been getting new guys up to speed,” Tyler said. “The last few years, there’s been more turnover for whatever reason. We have a good 25 to 30 new guys that will be joining the team this year and just 15 to 20 returning from last year.”
Despite the large number of new players this season, several key pieces remain in place for the coaches to build around.
“Offensively, Jeremy Batiste, our running back is returning and Tommy Nachitigal, one of our guards is coming back as well,” Tyler said. “I’m looking to bring in three or four new receivers and I have a couple of quarterbacks in camp that we’re looking at. It’s really a rebuilding year for us.
“Defensively, we’ve got a lot of our linebackers coming back. I know Mike Liggins is returning, defensive tackle Jordan Smith has been there several years, T.J. Simmons is back at defensive back as well as Antonio Alexander. Our defense has been solid the last few years. When you lose a quarterback, that changes your whole demographic of things.”
Regardless of who’s making the plays for the Blaze, they’re expecting another solid season, but they know that nothing will be handed to them in the quality-over-quantity MFA.
“You’ve always got the Kansas City Bulldogs who are always going to be a contender,” Tyler said. The Omaha Stockmen beat us once last year and we don’t really know a whole lot about the Missouri Valley Pitbulls. At this level, every team is just one no call no show from missing key people, on any given day, anybody can take you down, so to speak.”