Last weekend’s Amateur to Professional Developmental Football League Game of the Week went down to the end and this weekend’s could very well play out the same way between two teams that have been destined to meet each other for awhile in the Georgia Cobras and the Orlando Phantoms.
“I have a level of respect for them and I’m excited to play them,” Phantoms owner Michael Torres told The Gridiron Grind.
The Phantoms have consistently been one of The Sunshine State’s top teams for several years now and are widely known at this level from coast to coast. In recent years, the Georgia Cobras have made a name for themselves as well.
“I’ve known about the Phantoms for awhile,” Cobras owner Antonio Ivey told The Gridiron Grind. “Being that we’re in the South Georgia and North Florida area, you tend to keep up with the talented teams in your state or neighboring state. I know they are a well run organization by Michael Torres. Year after year he continues to put good quality teams on the field and he’s definitely put his mark on the semi pro world in the state of Florida.”
After winning several championships in different Florida leagues, the Phantoms decided to broaden their horizons this off-season and join the APDFL which spans all along the Gulf Coast.
“The transition has been just fine,” Torres said. “We are excited to play in a league like the APDFL. The only thing that’s been tough to get used to is the long travel. It can wear on the guys, due to not being used to it, but it’s all about challenges and the Phantoms love challenges.”
Travel isn’t the only new challenge for the Phantoms. They’ve also got 30 new players on their roster.
“Every one of my players are key to the success of our organization,” Torres said. “It’s always hard to get them all on the same page this early in the season.”
Winning just one good game won’t get you very far in this league, rather a team can expect to be tested a minimum of seven times on its way to the championship. In any case, the Cobras got off to a good start by knocked off a perennial Top 5 APDFL power in the Gulf Coast Gators, 26-20, Week 1.
“This past weekend we were open but I’m hoping to keep the momentum from our victory in Week 1 into this week’s game,” Ivey said.
“I think the key to winning this game will be the big guys up front. If we can control their defensive line, I think we’ll put ourselves in a good position to win this game.”
For both teams, and several others around the league, the ultimate goal is always to win The President’s Cup.
“It will take everyone of our veterans and a lot of new guys to gel together by the second half of the season, all the way into the playoffs, to make our ultimate goal happen,” Torres said.
The progression of the Cobras goals are to first win their division, get home field advantage in the playoffs and then ultimately get back to The President’s Cup.
“We can achieve this goal by playing the best ball we can play every week,” Ivey said. “Not to get too high on the highs and not too low on the lows and I think we’ll be ok. I feel I have enough talent on my team to run through the gauntlet of the season and make it back to The Cup.”
You rarely see any champions at any level that lack strong quarterback play, and the Cobras are not lacking in that department either, with veteran Marcus Brooks.
“He is a very smart quarterback, bringing tons of football experience from a lot of different levels and a wealth of knowledge to a team,” Ivey said.
Brooks has plenty of weapons at his disposal to put up some big numbers offensively this season.
“We return last year’s league-leading wide receiver duo in Lavon Downs and Javier McGriff,” Ivey said. “They have big-play capability every time they touch the ball. Also, Johnathan Deberry made the move back to wide receiver from defensive back this year and he also has that big-play ability.”
Defensively, it starts up front with a stout Cobra defensive line that is ready to strike in Quinn Timmons, Chandler Sumlin, William Sweet, Alex Williams and Keith McCaskill.
“They can all dominate at their position and make it hard on offensive lines on run or pass plays,” Ivey said.
Iquan Deed leads the linebackers and Jarrod Marable leads the secondary.
“Deed is probably the most gifted player on the team who can play just about any position on the field,” Ivey said. “Marable is our best lockdown defensive back. He has the speed to cover any receiver, but also has enough grit to come up and make tackles.”
Big goals such as championships are really the combination of many small and medium-sized daily victories strung together well, so the Cobras aren’t looking beyond the Phantoms at this point.
“Every game on our schedule is key,” Ivey said. “I know its an old cliché coaches use but it still holds true. We have to take it one game at a time. Our schedule doesn’t allow or give us time to pat ourselves on the back over one particular victory because that’s what I expect my team to do, every week go out and win, so when you get that mindset as a team, you enjoy the moment of the victory.
“I see it as ‘business as usual,’ so come Sunday night, Monday morning it’s on to the next opponent. Any given Saturday in the APDFL, you can get knocked off if you’re not focused and ready.”
Both teams are certainly battle tested, and if they’re accomplishments over the past few years are any indication – they will both be ready.“I know that they’re a proven football team,” Torres said. “They’re battle-tested. To beat teams like the Cobras, the Alabama Blackhawks, the Mississippi Dynasty, or the Gulf Coast Gators is simple: limit mistakes, execute when opportunities arise and never panic. I’m sure they will do the same.”.