Leader Blues

Friday, May 02, 2008

SPORTS>>Jacksonville, Cabot will field teams in NDFL this summer

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

For those disappointed by the false start from the newly formed All-American Football League this summer, there is another option in town. The eight-team National Developmental Football League will be centered in the central Arkansas area, with teams representing Cabot, Jacksonville, North Little Rock, Conway and Pine Bluff.

The league is being put together by longtime football coach and New York transplant Michael Merritt. Merritt is CEO and President of the NDFL, but will also serve as head coach of the Arkansas Golden Knights, which are based out of North Little Rock.

“This is going to be a different style of football from what people around here are used to seeing,” Merritt told the Leader.

“We’re going to be playing that East-coast style football. We use the Delaware offense, and spread it out also.”

Arkansas football fans should be familiar with the spread offense, but the Delaware set is most comparable to a double-wing or wishbone, with two offset backs set up for misdirection snaps.

The NDFL will consist of eight teams, grouped into two conferences. The Independent Division will consist of the Golden Knights, Pine Bluff Cobras, Central Arkansas Generals and Texas Outlaws, one of two out-of-state teams in the league.

The Pioneers Division will feature the Jacksonville Golden Eagles, Memphis Panthers, Cabot Silver Lions and Conway Red Bears.

Each team will play a 10-game schedule starting June 7 and ending in late August. The top six teams will then begin playoff games, with the No. 1 seed from each conference taking a first-round bye while the second and third place teams will play a wildcard game to determine who will meet to decide the division crown.

The two division winners will then play to determine the overall NDFL champion. The NDFL champ also gets to play a challenge game against the champion from the Premiere Football League in Texas.

The format for the NDFL is as follows: Players hoping to go pro can earn money by selling tickets for each of the games, but those still looking to grab a scholarship can play in the league without compensation and still maintain amateur status.

Bryant graduate Robert Wheeler played for the Golden Knights last season, and will move up to the coaching ranks in the new league as head coach of the Cabot Silver Lions.

Wheeler, 20, says that despite his prime playing age, he is happy to stay on the sidelines.

Among notable names for the Cabot team will be Chaz Robinson and current track standout Will Paschel.

Although it is an upstart team, the Silver Lions have already acquired 46 players on their roster. The Silver Lions will use
Panther Stadium as their home field when the season starts on June 7.