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MIFL vs GEFA Wars - Part 1

MIFL vs GEFA Wars - Part 1

December 28, 2023 GEFA Staff

On July 15, 2017 the greatest All-Star game between two rival leagues took place in Whitehall, Pennsylvania. The game named the Flight 21 All-Star Clash was between the Great Eastern Football Association and the Major Indoor Football League. Flight 21 being the nickname of Bayshore Brawlers great and GEFA Hall of Famer, JJ Morgans, who tragically passed away years prior. Two leagues with a lot of history but they weren't always two.

In 2008, a lot of changes were happening to the newly named Great Eastern Football Association. Fresh off their dominant win over the 11-man, Jersey Bull Sharks, 40-19 in seven man. The GEFA set their eyes on expansion. The league once again changed. After starting as a six man league, it now became an eight-man league. With the change to eight man, the league saw seven new teams join. The largest expansion in GEFA history. One of those new teams were owned by a young dreamer named Rio Prisco.

At just twenty years old, Rio Prisco had dreams of starting an 11-man team. Much like the founding fathers but due to time restraints weren't able to get a team in on time with one of the local leagues. Not wanting to give up on that dream yet, Rio's Head Coach, Duke Mitchell started talking to some players from the Bayshore Brawlers and they got him in touch with founding father, John Thellion. Soon after that the Bucks County Broncos were born.

"Duke and I went back and forth on what we should name the team. We already had our colors, navy blue and white because Duke was a huge Penn State fan. We just liked the way the Bucks County Broncos sounded. Also, by using Bucks County we weren't roped into any specific area in case we had to move." - Rio Prisco

That first season in the GEFA was not kind to the Broncos as they struggled to adapt to the smaller, quicker game. The Broncos finished that first season 0-8.

"My head coach, Duke Mitchell and I just wanted to get some football in until we were able to go eleven man next season. We knew we were going to take our lumps but after that first season we kind of felt maybe we should stay. We knew we were going to have a better second season. We enjoyed the style. We had a great relationship with John Thellion, and we were loyal to the league because they did us a favor by letting us play so we stayed." - Rio Prisco

That second season Rio was right. The Broncos managed to finish the season 7-3, winning their division, and clinching a first round bye in the playoffs. Their first opponent was a former Keystone Bowl contender in the Middleton Maniax.

"We played them during the regular season and shut them down pretty early in the first half up 30-6. Going into the second half we got cocky and they came back to beat us on the last play of the game, 36-30." - Rio Prisco

At one time the Maniax were one of the most feared teams in league history but as the league grew so did the amount of players who left the team. The Broncos won the game and advanced to the Valley Conference Championship to play the Schuylkill County Wolfpack. The Wolfpack won and advanced to the Keystone Bowl but that didn't stop the Broncos from seeing what they built.

"I remember Duke telling me we had 72 players coming out for the team in year two so it got me thinking, instead of cutting all of them, why not start an arena team? We could have two teams and not have to cut anyone." - Rio Prisco

By 2011, a lot of changes were beginning to happen in the Great Eastern Football Association. John Thellion and Frank Susino (Bayshore Brawlers owner) were gone and new up and comer Zane Simpson was President and the owners were now in full control of the league. Though the 2011 season was rough for the Broncos, it didn't stop Rio from thinking about his next big move.

Rio Prisco got with Matt Santiago, a player he played with during his Colt years, and they discussed forming a new arena team. The two came up with the Steel City Stampede.

"We were going to come up with a logo for the Stampede but I was tired of using a horse for everything so Santiago said, why don't we use a bull? I thought that was great and that became the logo." - Rio Prisco

As Rio was working on a way to not have to cut players, the GEFA was working on ways to keep their teams intact. The owners created a contract that said any players who played in the GEFA were not allowed to play on any other team during that GEFA season. It was believed that owners were bringing in ringers from 11 man teams to gain an advance.

"I don't feel like we were the target for this. I felt like they were trying to get rid of the previous year's undefeated champs but in order to toss them they would have to toss us too. I told my player's to not sign the contracts because I didn't feel it was right making players sign a contract that they could only play in the GEFA. It wasn't like they were getting paid, in fact they were paying to play in the league. Next thing I knew no one was getting back to me and we were suspended from the GEFA. So Matt and I moved on with our plan for a tournament. That's what we were working towards anyway, a regional tournament so everyone from Connecticut down to North Carolina can see what eight man football was about." - Rio Prisco

A couple of months later, Rio's dream of a tournament came to fruition with the Bucks County Broncos winning the first ever tournament. Soon after that the Major Indoor Football League was founded.

"We thought we were going to have a lot more teams from the tournament return but that didn't happened. So the extra players we had along with the Stampede we started forming more teams and instead of being a tournament, it became a league. And the MIFL wasn't my idea for the record. That's how it was advertised but to me it sounded too much like MILF. Just wanted to put that out there." - Rio Prisco

But Rio didn't get to celebrate that first tournament too long. His long time Head Coach, the Miracle Man, Duke Mitchell passed away a month later to pancreatic and lung cancer. Duke was an all star cornerback at Bensalem High School and was heavily recruited. Instead of going to college Duke decided to join the military. After serving three tours in Vietnam, one just so he's younger brother wouldn't be alone, Duke came back home to football.