As the most northern and most western team in the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League, the Oklahoma City Bounty Hunters travel more than any other organization in their league and more than most organizations anywhere at the developmental level.
If they want to successfully defend last season’s APDFL National Championship, the Bounty Hunters still have quite a bit of traveling ahead of them.
On Saturday, the Bounty Hunters (7-2) travel to Jackson, Mississippi, for a rematch against the APDFL National Conference No. 1 seed Mississippi Dynasty (8-1).
“Our league is basically SEC country and there are tons of athletes down there,” Bounty Hunters wide receiver and kicker Zak Frederick told Developmental Football USA. “I really feel a lot more confident about this game and my teammates do too. Our goal is to go back-to-back.”
The Bounty Hunters handed Mississippi its only loss of the year, 21-14, on opening weekend.
“They’re a good team,” Frederick said. “Their quarterback was the league MVP last year and their run game is pretty solid. Their passing defense, they’re good, but we’ve seen a lot better. Their run defense is pretty good, but at the same time our offensive line is huge. We have Reggie Arnold, who was a very accomplished running back at Arkansas State. His nickname is ‘Monster’ and he suits that name pretty well.”
Every team in the APDFL came into this season gunning for the 2016 National Champions, the Bounty Hunters, and two were able to squeak out upsets on the road. The Greater New Orleans Jaguars pulled out a 14-13 win over Oklahoma City and the Hiawayi Robinson Falcons defended their home field, 26-15.
With the playoffs underway, records don’t matter as every teams needs to play its best football to keep the season alive.
“The regular season and the playoffs is too different worlds,” Frederick said. “Once the playoffs come, it’s all gas, no brakes. We’re all hungry and we want to get back to that national championship. Our travel squad we’re taking, we’re traveling down pretty strong with over 40 guys. I don’t think we had that many when we played them at home the first game. I think it’ll be a good game, but we’ll come out on top.”
Oklahoma City, which has won 90 percent of its games since 2013 with an impressive 69-8 record, picked up some valuable newcomers this season to add to the core of returners from last year’s championship team that is still mostly intact.
“We’ve brought in a kid named Devion Smith,” Frederick said. “He played at NEO. He’s a good fast kid at receiver and he plays corner sometimes if need be. We’ve got the same quarterbacks and our running backs are the same. We’ve got a couple of new receivers, a guy named Mike Hall, he’s about 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. He’s a great athlete, strong and fast with huge hands.
“Our defense, we’ve added Jarvis Webb, I believe he played at Arkansas Pine-Bluff and we’ve added a few others.”
The core of the Bounty Hunters defense – which has only given up more than 20 points in one game in two years – remains the same.
“We still have Lionel ‘Bruiser’ Bibbons at defensive end,” Frederick said. “He is one of the most feared and respected players in the league, he also fills in at tight end at certain times. Another returner is Twon Moore at linebacker. His blitz timing is insane, and whether you’re caught off guard or not, he’ll knock your top off, completely.”
Vincent Pinniy continues to be big for the Bounty Hunters in multiple phases of the game as a wide receiver and return specialist.
“He’s very electric and shifty,” Frederick said. “If he catches a pass or kick with room, he;s gone.
“All the new guys picked up on everything quick – our offensive scheme and defensive scheme isn’t too complex. We basically run a high school or college system, huddle sometimes, no huddle sometimes and try to keep the tempo up.”
Oklahoma City was scheduled to host a first round playoff game and a chance at redemption against New Orleans last weekend, however, the Jaguars were unable to travel all the way to Oklahoma City, thus forfeiting their chances to advance.
“The other game going on tomorrow is the Mobile Generals and the Prichard Falcons,” Frederick said. “A player had lost a daughter, so they renamed the team the Hiawayi Robinson Falcons, after his daughter. They’re both from Mobile, so either way we’ll have to go to Mobile if win this.”
If the Bounty Hunters bring back a win from their nine-hour, each way, road trip on Saturday, they will have a 12-hour, each way, trip the following weekend.
“We’d like to play the Falcons again because the anticipation for that game – they had won this league three or four times in a row – then when we came to this league, they went to another league, we won the National Championship, then they came back to the league,” Frederick said. “The whole off-season and the season leading up to play them, our two teams were going back and forth all season. Their sideline was full, we went with maybe 22-25 players.”
The Falcons hold the No. 2 seed in the National Conference, with the Generals holding the No. 3 seed and the Bounty Hunters holding the No. 4 seed.
In the American Conference, four very good teams are still in the mix – the No. 1 seed Prattville Patriots, the No. 2 seed Opelika Chiefs, the No. 3 seed Georgia Cardinals and the No. 5 seed Capital City Cobras
The last team standing from each conference will meet each other in the APDFL National Championship Game in New Orleans on June 24.
“I know the Opelika Chiefs, they’re from somewhere in Alabama,” Frederick said. “That’s who we played in the national championship last year. We were down all game until that field goal. They’re a pretty solid team. Their best player went to the Rivals Football League, so he can’t play. In our league, if you don’t play at least three games during the regular season you can’t play in playoffs. Their quarterback is nice, their defense is nice. They have a good possibility of getting back. The Patriots are nice and the Cardinals, those are all going to be some good games.”
While you never want to look beyond your next opponent, especially in the playoffs, the Bounty Hunters could have a lot of miles ahead of them: 596 miles to Jackson on Saturday, win that and travel 781 miles to Mobile the next weekend, win that and travel 693 miles to New Orleans for the championship.
If the Bounty Hunters can bring the 2017 APDFL Championship Trophy home to Oklahoma City, they will have to travel 4,140 miles in the next 15 days to do so.