Eight teams remain in the Minor Professional Football League playoff race and once Saturday’s games are in the books, the winners will advance to The Standing Four.
The West Texas Lions are hoping to claw their way in to The Standing Four, but it would take their biggest win ever to do that as they travel to Midland on Saturday to play the undefeated West Texas Pride.
“The fans should expect nothing less than a knock out, drag out, battle of the titans,” Lions general manager Derek Smith told Developmental Football USA. “We have many players that will be out this game, but we are not going to use that as an excuse. The ones who show up will ball out to the fullest. I feel sorry for the teams in front of us once we start rolling. We have a group of guys that are ready to strike and this battle of the beasts is going to take on a whole new level.”
The Pride have been off the last two weeks with a first-round bye, being the No. 1 seed in the Plains Division, while the Lions knocked off the El Paso Seminoles, 12-8, last weekend in the first round to advance.
“We could have played a lot better, but overall we pulled through with teamwork,” Lions owner Stephanie Rose told Developmental Football USA. “Our two quarterbacks came together, one switched to wide receiver and our backup came in and delivered our first touchdown. Special teams is always our strong point and defense held it down for most of the game, delivering a shocking performance even with having main key players out.”
The win gave the Lions a three-game sweep over the Seminoles this season, but the tables are turned Saturday as the Pride is looking for a three-game sweep of their own over the Lions.
Last time the Lions traveled to play at Grande Communications Stadium in April, the Pride sent them home with a 35-20 loss. When the Pride traveled to El Paso back in March, the game was one point closer, 54-40.
“What makes this game different is the fact that we have grown as a team and as a unit,” Rose said. “We have come together as a family. This team is stronger and more on point than the team they encountered before. We also had a shortfall on attendance with key players before and this time we will be coming with full force.”
The consistent margin of victory indicates that game location wasn’t much of a factor when these two teams met before, but generally at the developmental level, the visiting team is at a disadvantage, having to weave work schedules in with travel plans.
“I don’t believe they will have home advantage,” Rose said. “We have a thirst for victory and have proven that we are not to be underestimated. Even though we are a first-year team, we have what it takes to come in and upset the Pride in their own backyard. We will definitely come in with winning on our mind.”
It’ll take every player wearing black, white and gold playing their best football on Saturday to keep the Pride from representing the Plains Division in the MPFL’s Standing Four, but the Lions are certainly up to the test.
“We need a big game from everyone this week,” Smith said. “From the offense, to the defense to the coaches and staff. We all need to be on our ‘A’ game to win this week. I think the major focus will be on special teams, that is what is going to make or break this game. Both squads are ready for battle. We need to come in with our minds focused and need to be positive.”
Grande Communications Stadium is among the best football venues used by developmental teams anywhere in the country and is a stadium the Lions always look forward to playing in. No player for the Lions has ever traveled back to El Paso from Grande with a win, but they look to change that on Saturday.
“One thing I do want to say is that the Lions and I love coming to Midland,” Smith said. “They are always a class-act organization, who have done nothing but encourage us and help us out. We do appreciate their hospitality and look forward to the free ice cream after we go in and take that win.”