Coming into this season, when teams were talking about who was going to make a run and win the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League Championship in 2017, the Mississippi Dynasty wasn’t a team mentioned much.
However, over the next four months, the Dynasty would change that one week at a time.
“We started off low in the rankings, because last year we kind of stunk it up on some games we shouldn’t have lost,” Dynasty head coach Mike Lloyd told Developmental Football USA. “This year, we started off in Oklahoma strong, although we lost that game. The new recruits we had coming in showed a lot of promise that this year would be a good year, but I don’t know that we ever thought it would be as great as it turned out.”
With an 0-1 record and a nine-hour trip back home following the season opening loss to the Bounty Hunters, the Dynasty knew a win the following weekend would be critical. However, righting the ship in a game against the 2014 and 2015 APDFL Champions, the Hiawayi Robinson Falcons, wouldn’t be an easy task.
“Losing to defending champions by seven, then coming home to play the two-time champions, Prichard Falcons, we didn’t want to start off the season 0-2, so we came together,” Dynasty head coach Mike Lloyd told Developmental Football USA. “We had some big wins and some convincing wins this season, but we were never ranked No. 1 all year. We stayed under Prattville and the Chiefs all season, but we knew we had the power to come out and win the championship. We had to come out and do it, not just on paper.”
Looking back now, almost four months later, that season opener loss against the Oklahoma City Bounty Hunters would be the only game the Dynasty lost all season, as they then strung together 11 consecutive wins, capping off their APDFL Championship run with a 40-20 win over the Opelika Chiefs (13-2) on Saturday for the 2017 President’s Cup.
“Now the guys know that all their time they put in in the off-season, it didn’t go in vain,” Lloyd said. “It was a great win for the guys. Also it was good to have some adversity in the championship game and let them know that just because we were up, did not mean the game was over with.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Dynasty running back Jabari Baker broke open a 75-yard run, setting Mississippi up on the five-yard line where they would punch in their first score of the game.
The Dynasty went on to score touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game and of nine total possessions, the Dynasty scored six touchdowns on the night.
However, facing a team like the Opelika Chiefs – who have only lost one game ever that was not a championship game – the game isn’t over until it is over.
“The Chiefs were all Kyle Caldwell and we knew that,” Lloyd said. “When we got to the championship game, it was Kyle. He made great decisions and pretty much kept their offense flowing.”
The Chiefs fought back to make it a 28-20 game in the third quarter, but the Dynasty defense would stand strong as the offense punched in two more scores for 12 more points and a win.
“At the end of the day, our defense had some pretty good players like No. 36 Roy Williams, who ended the season with 25 sacks on the season,” Lloyd said. “We also had the ability in the secondary to play man against their receivers.”
Baker finished with 23 carries for 178 yards and two touchdowns on the day, and quarterback LeSteven Jackson added 155 yards and two more scores on the ground on 13 carries. He also went 7 of 14 passing for 133 yards and two more touchdowns for Mississippi.
“The Chiefs were amazing,” Lloyd said. “They were the team we thought they were. We did great film study and we were prepared. I think we just had a little bit more firepower than they were ready for in Jabari Baker and LeSteven Jackson.”
Defensively, Louis Ellis and Jay Hicks – who finished third in the APDFL National Conference in tackles – were big in the box for the Dynasty defense.
Now with the trophy in hand, the Dynasty has the proverbial target on their backs all the way until next year’s President’s Cup.
“We just have to come back in the offseason and work hard,” Lloyd said. “Some of the new recruits coming in have to understand it’s a long road, but you have to play hard every week because they know coming in, you can lose any game at any time, whether it’s a big game or not.”