Across the landscape of developmental football, you find new teams popping up everywhere every year. However, few have experienced the early success had by the Patterson Lions.
In their inaugural season last year, the Lions ran the table and finished with a perfect 10-0 record and a United Football Alliance Championship.
“It was like playing an eighth grade team,” Lions owner Herb Fullerton told Developmental Football USA. “We beat teams by an average of 40 points per game and our defense allowed 14 points all season.
“After the season there was a split. The guy running the UFA who was a cop for San Jose, was accused of stealing money from a youth organization. He was also fired from the police force for forging his time card. He was just a bad apple. Half the team split off and started the West Coast Football Association, or WCFA, and there were like six or seven teams left that went various places.”
The Lions took a different path and joined the Pacific Coast Football League, and with the core of their team returning, they’ll be looking to make some noise again in Year 2.
“We have several players that couldn’t play this year because of work or life circumstances,” Fullerton said. “We’ve already replaced a number of them though and we still have 15 to 20 players back.”
“We return our quarterback Damian Paulo. He had 1,400 yards and 26 touchdowns passes last year; we’re lucky to have him. We have Nick Ward returning and a new guy named Jamie January. He played upper-echelon arena ball in South Dakota for the Sioux Falls Storm. He’s a heck of a ball player. I also made him my receivers’ coach. Both of them are 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 and should be big-time targets. We also have a really good running back. I don’t even know his name yet though. (Laughs.) Dude just showed up at the scrimmage; he had three touches and got tackled once. He’s definitely going to be an impact player. I’ll learn his name quickly. From what I understand, he played with the Philadelphia Eagles for a year. Defensively we have a kid named Big Ben. He’s Samoan so I can’t pronounce his last name. (Laughs.) It’s Tautolo. He’s a 250-pound monster. Jamani Woods will also be a key member of our defense.”
Entering the PCFL, Fullerton and the Lions know they are entering another level of developmental football and they, like everyone else, are trying to get to the level of the defending league champions, the Capital City Fury.
“We have some other big-time talent we are talking to about joining,” Fullerton said. “The Fury have 10-12 Division 1 players on their team. They’re the real deal and even better this year than they were last year. They had 90 guys on their roster and cut 30 last week. We are sitting at like 53 right now. They have a lot bigger area to draw from though so we are doing everything we can to bring in as much talent as we can.”
Despite the early success of their organization, coach Fullerton and the Lions know that the PCFL is a very different league than the UFA. They are tempering their expectations while still being true to their beliefs on assembling a roster and not getting caught up in the Division 1 hype a lot of teams do.
“We have three to five guys who played Division 1, but I don’t pay much attention to that,” Fullerton said. “I used to coach arena ball and we had a middle linebacker who was 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. He played at Illinois and my semi-pro middle linebacker was better than he was. He was a good tackler, but had horrible hands. I had a running back from Kansas State who set records and I’ve had running backs that are better. A lot of guys just don’t get the opportunity at that level. Unless a guy played in the league or even on a practice squad, I don’t give much thought to the level they played at.”
After a couple rough games against PCFL opponents in their version of the pre-season, Fullerton knows that he needs to be patient.
“We played a couple teams already,” Fullerton said. “We lost both games bad, but the team is still coming together and trying to gel. If we had played them mid-season, I’m not saying we would have won, but they would’ve probably been better games. We did scrimmage a team this last week from outside the PCFL. We scored nine times in 20 minutes. Things are coming together. We will see how it all goes, but I feel confident in our process and direction.”
While the Lions may not find similar success their first year in the PCFL that they had in the UFA, it seems that it’ll only be a matter of time before the Lions are once again the head of the pride.