Last year, the Gulf Coast Gators quickly introduced themselves to the Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League by putting together a 9-1 regular season and avenging that one loss in the first round of the playoffs before getting throttled by the eventual champion Mississippi Dynasty in the second round.
“Last season, we were really right where we expected to be, until the end,” Gators owner Phil Carver told Developmental Football USA. “I think we all learned a little bit from that loss to Mississippi. Hopefully that translates to this field this year.”
No longer an unknown, the Gators enter the 2019 season ranked No. 3 in the APDFL and No. 5 in the state of Florida.
“That’s probably about right,” Carver said of the ranking. “That’s for ya’ll to decide. We just focus on doing what we can to be No. 1 at the end. Our goal is to compete. My expectation of the team is for them to compete. If we do that every week with focus and passion, we like our chances.”
Opinions vary around the league. Some feel that every team is a contender, while others feel that seven, five, or even three teams have a shot at winning it all. One thing, however, is consistent across the board.
“It all goes through Pearl, Mississippi,” Carver said.
That would be the home of the No. 1 Dynasty, which blanked the Gators 38-0 in the second round last year before repeating as APDFL Champions.
“I don’t have any games circled, but I’ve heard some teams have us circled, so we expect everyone’s best shot,” Carver said.
The Gators will be led offensively by quarterback Tyrone Jones.
“He should have a big year,” Carver said. “He’s done a great job this off-season learning a new offense and leading this team.”
Jones in joined in the backfield by the one-two punch at running back in Jamarius Green and Orlando Meeks, while left tackle Savon Morris anchors a much improved offensive line.
Defensively, Gulf Coast returns 2018 sack leader at end, Eugene Robinson, who registered 16 sacks for the season. APDFL All-Star defensive end Desmond Warren joins him on the line to give what Carver feels should be “an elite edge rush.”
And the secondary, well that isn’t anything Carver is losing sleep over.
“Newcomer Rico Ruffin has been a leader from Day 1 and cornerback Dee Garrett may be the best in the league,” Carver said.
While the Gators are just entering their second year, their roots can be traced back to the Okaloosa Strykers and the Northwest Florida Nightmare.
“Former players from those teams make up the majority of our roster, with the addition of some former Prichard Falcons this season,” Carver said. “It’s awesome to see the following we’ve gotten on social media and in our communities.”
Their location gives the Gators several options to choose from as far as which league to compete in, but don’t expect them to be a team to league hop anytime soon.
“Guys want to play against the best talent and the APDFL has the best talent,” Carver said. “We’ve got players with XSFL rings and they are Gulf Coast Gators because winning the APDFL just means more.”