The Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League will kick off its 2018 season in eight weeks as teams begin to battle it out every Saturday with the ultimate goal of bringing home the Commissioner’s Cup at season’s end.
This year’s slate of teams features many new faces, including several first-year programs with everything to prove. One of these is the South Carolina Mustangs, which come in ranked No. 27 out of 29 teams in the league’s pre-season poll.
“With us being a first-year team, we have a lot to prove,” Mustangs owner Brian Saunders told Developmental Football USA. “We know that, the guys know that and the coaches know that and we’re just up for the challenges.”
Before the Mustangs were founded in 2017, several key players from the area were traveling to cities a few hours away to be part of other teams and so was Saunders, until an injury led him to hanging up his cleats.
“I got hurt and wasn’t able to play anymore, so I came up with the idea of starting a team here,” Saunders said.
Once the team was in the works, it didn’t take long for Saunders to learn the APDFL was the right league for his squad.
“Conversing with a good bit of team owners and guys of that nature, they led me to the league and by me doing the research, I learned that this is the league that puts the guys in a better position to better themselves and get where they need to be.”
South Carolina had its first tryout on August 5 of last year, so everything is still relatively fresh for the Mustangs. However, a few players have emerged on both sides of the ball that now have Saunders expecting big things out of them.
“On offense, we’ve got a quarterback, Will Ward, and we have a wide receiver, Lennel Elmore,” Saunders said. “Will is a great athlete, he’s pretty good on defense as well. He’s agressive and pretty smart as a quarterback. He knows every position and he can put our guys in a better position to win games.
“Lenell, he’s a great athlete and he pretty much knows every position on the offense and defense. He’s played at the collegiate level. He’s a pretty great guy and he’s also a coach at the high school level, so he does pretty good there.”
Defensively, the Mustangs will look for cornerback Marquez Kelly to have a big year.
“He’s also played on the collegiate level,” Saunder said. “He’s a pretty good ballhawk. If the ball is thrown his way or in the area, he’s going to get it, no doubt about it. He’s a team player as well, helps his teammates and brings them up.”
Up front for the Mustangs, look for nose guard K’Oshae McMillin to make some noise.
“He’s a pretty aggressive guy with a low center of gravity and he’s got a lot of heart,” Saunders said.
In a tough league where a win is a win, the Mustangs aren’t looking ahead to any particular game, rather they are simply preparing to give each one their best shot as they build their program from the ground up.
“We’re just looking at all the teams and none of them really stand out,” Saunders said. “We expect good competition from every team in the league.”
Considered one of the most competitive leagues of its kind at this level, the APDFL is never lacking excitement. The Mississippi Dynasty will set out to defend their title, but Saunders feels some experienced teams that are new to the APDFL in 2018 could shake things up.
“I can honestly say maybe the Atlanta Venom or the Augusta Ducks,” Saunders said. “To be honest, they are pretty well-known teams around here. A lot of guys around here were looking to play for those teams.
“We have to show those teams there is a lot of talent here around in the small towns that can really take those guys out.”
A championship is every team’s ultimate goal, but in their first year, the Mustangs are simply looking to establish themselves in the league.
“It will take a lot of consistency,” Saunder said. “The guys, the coaches, everybody has to be consistent with everything. We’ve got to stay on the right track. Everybody has to have their mind on what they need to do to make this first year successful and we stress that every day.
“Let em know, Stangs on top!”