Several first-year teams will be making their debuts when the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League 2018 season kicks off next month, looking to make their climb up from the bottom of the league rankings.
One of these teams is the Mid-State Vikings, of the Montgomery, Ala., area, which enter the season ranked No. 26 of 29 teams.
“There are a couple of new teams that I think will make a splash,” Vikings owner Chuck Morgan told Developmental Football USA. “I’m not saying we will make it to the championship, but we will turn a few heads before it’s all said and done.”
In a league as competitive as the APDFL, first-year teams typically fall short of making a serious championship push. With that in mind, Morgan knows it may be a process to get his team in contention for a President’s Cup.
“We’re basically hoping for a winning season,” Morgan said. “My dream is to make the playoffs, but to be in a winning season or finish close to making a playoff run, or even being in the first round of the playoffs, as a first-year team would be outstanding. That would give us something to build on in the area. That and having some players in the running for All-Stars or individual awards at the end of the year. That would be great.”
The Vikings will look to their ground game to get things rolling for them offensively.
“We’re a new team, so starting off we’re going with an old school mindset,” Morgan said. “Run first, run second, and continue to run until we can be stopped.
“We have a few really good running backs. One would be Octavius Smith. He’s just a powerful back, short yardage, a north-and-south runner that is very powerful and very decisive in what he’s going to do. He will put you in the mindset of a Leonard Fournette type – a poor man’s Leonard Fournette.”
Several other playmakers will help Mid-State get its offense in rhythm.
“We’ve got a couple of receivers that will definitely step up to the plate and make noise,” Morgan said. “Demarcus Purnell and DeAndre Bibb are a couple of guys that will stand out and make noise. We also have one of the premier tight ends in the league in Aaryon Island.”
The Vikings defense could prove to be their strength and will be leaned upon early, as the offense learns to gel.
“Right now we are, I’m not going to say, ‘stacked,’ but we’re looking to have some premier young guys at every level,” Morgan said. “Starting in our secondary. I think it’s going to be one of our key points. Our secondary is led by Jemase Leonard. He’s a safety with full range. He’s pretty much a second coach on the field.
“Another guy on defense is going to be in my front line. I’m thinking he’s going to be one of the premier linemen in the league and give them a run for their money. That’s Akua Young, he’s an end but he can play tackle or nose or stand up in a 3-4 if need be.”
The defending league champion, the Mississippi Dynasty, is the pre-season favorite to repeat. However, as fans have seen the last few years, that’s not always the way things shake out in this league.
“I would be foolish to come into the league to not pay homage to the league champions,” Morgan said. “The Mississippi Dynasty, in my mind, is top tier.
“Another team that teams need to watch out for is the Tuskegee Ayrmen, a two-time champion in the XSFL.”
The Ayrmen, along with the Louisiana Lightning, are two games the Vikings have circled on their schedule.
“We play the Louisiana Lightning at thome the second game of the season,” Morgan said. “They are a returning team from last year and made the playoffs last year in a hard Western Division. They are a formidable opponent that should really tell us where we’re at as a team.
“Some of our guys have played against some of the guys from Tuskegee since they were little kids, and growing up, so that looks to be a rivalry game for us.”
With the desire to promote his players and help them advance, applying for membership in the APDFL was a no-brainer for the Vikings, when they assembled their team in 2017.
“Being a player and coach on another team in the area and being around the APDFL teams and knowing some of the different owners from around the area, just seeing the different things the league does for the teams and for the players, I thought it was a no-brainer to start out in the league,” Vikings owner Chuck Morgan told Developmental Football USA.
“It’s very competitive top to bottom and gives young men a chance to make All-Star games and be seen and gives young men a chance to move on to the college level, if they can, and for some even the pro level.”