The Hudson Valley Mountaineers are striving to be the standard of professionalism at the developmental level, and winning the Empire Football League this past season was just the beginning for the new franchise.
The Mountaineers were founded in early 2018 with the goal of being a brand and product that can rise above some of the typical pitfalls football franchises typically experience at this level.
“Our goal was two-fold: to create a fun, family friendly product for the fans to enjoy, and to create an immensely competitive team which will give our players the platform to get picked up professionally at the pro level, arena or otherwise,” President of Football Operations Mike Liverani told Developmental Football USA.
He also mentioned that a few of their players may even have another chance at playing college ball, so the importance of success for the Mountaineers in 2019 and beyond can’t be understated.
Winning any league, especially in the first season of franchise existence, is always impressive. With that said, Liverani feels the level of competition in the EFL could match up with any developmental league across the country. This, despite the fact that the EFL boasted a handful of brand new teams.
“A few of the teams we played, namely the Tri-City Spartans, the Utica Yard Dogs, and the Plattsburgh North Stars — who we played in the league championship — we feel would have been highly competitive in any league,” he said. “The Spartans, in particular, always seemed to give our offense fits and all three of our games with them this year seemed to come down to the final possession.”
As far as the players who got the job done for the Mountaineers, Liverani was clear that just about everybody stepped up for the team in one way or another this past season. That’s not atypical for a championship team at any level, but it just points to the overall depth that is needed to make a run to the top.
Still, there were a few players who the President of Football Operations did mention, starting with quarterback Al Dockery. Quarterback play is the key for any football team, but specifically, Liverani praised Dockery for his leadership.
“This young man is literally everything you want in a field general,” he said. At only 21 years old, he has a very bright future ahead, and I hope to see him on a college roster next year.”
Speaking of leadership, linebacker Brandon Easter was mentioned as the emotional leader of the team. That’s half the battle at linebacker, but Easter had a great season displaying his physical abilities as well as his nose for the football as well.
Wideout Andre Jamison led the EFL in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns, and protecting the quarterback and allowing him to get those passes up in the air for Jamison to grab was center Dave Baloy.
“[He’s] just a mean, nasty offensive lineman and the leader of the line group that kept Al upright all year,” Liverani explained.
Jovan Wilkins was a big-time play-maker for the Mountaineers and strong safety Shawn Doxey was important enough for the defense to be described as as the team’s “defensive quarterback” and coach on the field.
Last but not least was defensive end Tyre Coleman, who earned high praise from Leverani.
“Probably the most dominant end I’ve seen at this level,” he said of Coleman.
The championship was a huge moment for Hudson Valley, and though continued championships will be expected, the franchise is dedicated to becoming an attraction for the local community that offers low cost, quality, sports entertainment.
“I feel many teams are missing out on an opportunity to provide something beautiful for their communities to enjoy, and too many teams don’t focus on professionalism and image, and even social media presence,” Leverani mused. “Just as minor league baseball can provide a form of entertainment for a couple thousand families by being an amateur version of the professional sport it is modeled after, so too can semipro football.”
“The difference between watching pro and semipro football is often indiscernible. I think if teams learn to work together better and help each other, this can become a profitable venture for owners, and players can benefit greatly from the increased exposure.”