The spring season is just around the corner for many developmental teams and some are still shuffling around their plans to ensure their team has found the best fit. For the Ocala Panthers, this meant returning to their roots and making the decision to go back to the Universal Football League over the weekend.
“Adrienne Diaz and the entire UFL would like to welcome home Jason Evans and the Ocala Panthers,” Diaz told Developmental Football USA.
The UFL is where it all started for the Panthers, which went on to win the league title in their inaugural season in 2016.
“We made the decision to return to the UFL because we feel it’s the right choice for the team,” Panthers owner Jason Evans told Developmental Football USA. “The main factor is that we have unfinished business in the UFL.”
Last year, the Panthers competed in the now-defunct United Football Federation of America before unforeseen circumstances brought a solid season to an abrupt end.
“We were ranked third in our division before having to fold due to injuries and only 13 players left on our roster,” Evans said.
With plenty of time to regroup and add to their core, the Panthers now have a contagious confidence within their organization heading into 2019. Despite having three league foes ranked above them, the Panthers feel equipped to make a run at some hardware.
“We definitely have the pieces in place to win it again,” Evans said. “We are in pretty good shape. I have a very big offensive line full of veterans and a 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback that has a cannon for an arm. All we have to do is play together and we’ll be fine.”
Ocala is ranked No. 18 in the Florida Pre-Season Top 20 and is joined by fellow UFL teams, the defending UFL Champions, No. 13 Jacksonville Blackhawks, the No. 14 Tri-County Steelers, and No. 17 Lake County Storm.
“There aren’t expectations in a brotherhood,” Evans said. “There are goals to be met, bonds to be formed, so we don’t put expectations on ourselves. We just push each other to our goals and one of our goals is to win a championship.”
Following the holiday season, the Panthers are tentatively planning to return to action in a pre-season game on Jan. 12.
“We hope this happens,” Evans said. “We have two brothers whose wives are battling cancer so we are fighting with them and supporting the cause.”
The Panthers are one of more than 700 active teams across America that exist with the intentions of providing players a platform to advance to a higher level, while doing what they love with a group of brothers to pass the time in between.
“We have scouted for our players and have in fact sent several on to the next level which is the reason for our ownership,” Evans said. “We pride ourselves in discipline on and off the field and being extremely organized. We look forward to entering the 2019 season in the UFL.”