In a marquee early season match-up in the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League, the No. 1 Dynasty continued on their early season roll in a 26-23 victory over the formidable Gulf Coast Gators out of Shalimar, Fla.
The Dynasty held on in a tight game to pull out the win in a game headlined by strong defense from both teams. Dynasty Head Coach Mike Lloyd knows that being able to win when the stakes are at their highest is part of his team’s DNA.
“We have played in championship games where we were down going into the second half, so a close game doesn’t scare me,” Lloyd told Developmental Football USA. “Win or lose, it’s about finishing.”
Finish they did, and for the second time this season, the Dynasty came away with a victory in a tight game. They also won a double overtime thriller against the Alabama Blackhawks to open the year. Coming off a 32-0 win against the Georgia Noles, however, the Gators presented a new set of challenges for the defending champs, making many key plays of their own.
Elusive Gators quarterback Tyrone Jones made multiple clutch plays down the stretch, as well as wide receiver Quan Johnson to keep the Gators in the hunt. The Gators had a shot at the end thanks to a forced fumble by defensive end Eugene Robinson, but ultimately the Dynasty defense proved to be up to the challenge.
“Our defense stayed strong all game, and although we made some mental mistakes, we stuck it out as a team,” Lloyd said. “The biggest plays came from defensive tackles Sam Washington, Louis Ellis, and Dustin Evans, they applied constant interior pressure.”
Both teams came into this match-up were undefeated in the APDFL, though the early season results looked somewhat different. While the Dynasty had a close game already against the Blackhawks, the Gators entered the game with a 106-6 margin of victory in their three early season victories, including a 61-0 win over the Alabama Tigers just one week prior.
According to Gulf Coast Gators’ Owner Phil Carver, the loss is a minor setback for a team that has lofty expectations for themselves.
“We had to figure out how to stay together when things weren’t going our way,” Carver told Developmental Football USA. “Once we did that, we felt like we had them on the ropes. We learn from it and move on. Nothing has changed for us.”
Carver also had high praises for not just his defense but his team as a whole. “Our defense continues to not only make plays, but to score points. Free safety Rico Ruffin and cornerback Labarron Mallory both had touchdown returns.”
Up next, the Gators look forward to some home cooking, as they play the Tuskegee Ayrmen back in Shalimar. The Dynasty are on to face the South Alabama Dolphins on the road. Coach Lloyd is just focused on taking this journey one step at a time.
“At this point in the season, we have to focus on fixing mistakes,” Lloyd said. “With the strong coaching core that we have, we try to figure out every player’s strength and hope to maximize that once the playoffs get here in hopes of a three-peat.”
Both teams however don’t expect this to be the last meeting of the year between the two powerhouses. In fact, Dynasty coach Lloyd expects to see the Gators again in the playoffs.
“Of course, they are in the Top 5,” Lloyd said. “They have elite talent and will make a run to the championship.”
As for Carver and the Gators, “We definitely expect to see them again. We’re looking forward to it!”
If both teams do meet again in the playoffs, one can expect it to be another memorable match-up.