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MIFL vs GEFA Wars - Part 2

MIFL vs GEFA Wars - Part 2

December 30, 2023 GEFA Staff

After the success of the 2012 season Rio Prisco decided it was time to bring in a Commissioner. Someone who knew the 8-man semi-pro game, someone who had experience running a league. Someone who could come in right out the gate and help take some of the work load away from Rio who was running a team and the league at the same time. Enter John Thellion.

"When John was no longer a part of the GEFA he came to me trying to find a home for his Stallions team. We were going to bring him on board that first season but then he had family issues and backed out. So going into that second season, 2013, I reached out to him and asked him if he wouldn't mind being the Commissioner. " - Rio Prisco

John Thellion, like Rio, had dreams of starting an eleven-man team. He got with some old friends, Bill Smith and Travis Wrobble and the three of them started working out what they believed to be an eleven-man team. "Travis was going to get us into this new league but by mid-June we still didn't hear anything from this new league, so we decided to go elsewhere." - John Thellion

Around that same time, a new league out of Texas ran by Jim Chambers was forming. The league itself was unique to Texas. They ran a five-man league with traditional football rules.

"I had a conversation with Jim in regard to the league and things just seemed off. But the idea of six-man arena style was interesting so we (North Penn Energy) played a preseason game vs the Aberdeen Celtics in the EIFL (Eastern Indoor Football League) to see how it'd look for ourselves." - Bill Smith, North Penn Energy

By the Summer of 2005, the trio met at Susquehanna State Park and mapped out on a legal pad what would be a new league. The new league would be called the PFL/6 and would have two teams, the North Penn Energy and the Susquehanna Valley Stallions. They would also have a non-league team; the Mount Gretna Mountaineers as fill in games.

"The league was drafted one day on a picnic bench. Knowing that we were trying to have an eleven-man team we knew if we split the team up since it was going to be six-man we'd have enough to fill each team's roster." - Travis Wrobble, North Penn Energy

That first season they played six games, playing each team twice including the Mountaineers. The inaugural game would be played in Millersville and saw the Stallions defeat the Energy, 35-14. The game was rough but it was fun. The two teams capped off their first season by playing in the Keystone Bowl. This time the game was played in Bloomsburg as the Stallions finished their undefeated season, winning 35-7.

"We called that championship the Keystone Bowl because felt like this was just the beginning of something much bigger. We wanted our style of football to be the Keystone of the east coast." - John Thellion

By 2006, the PFL/6 added four more teams. More spin offs from the Energy and Stallions. The Middleton Maniax, Williamsport Wildcats, and Lykens Thunder joined. The team the Energy played a preseason game against in the EIFL? They joined as well as the Bayshore Celtics. Things were now starting to come together for the new upstart league.

"I strongly believe we were creating, dare I say, Football Camelot. We created a board of commissioners that included myself, Travis Wrobbel, and Bill Smith. Once Travis stepped away we brought in Frank Susino and Jim Gibson. Everything worked." - John Thellion

The Board of Commissioners would work together on things such as the schedule before presenting it to the owners. Each Commissioner having their own role with John Thellion acting as the benevolent dictator.

"It wasn't that we didn't want the owners' input, we did, but it was more about letting the leaders lead and everyone else? Run and/or play on your teams. Too many chiefs always led to chaos." - John Thellion

In 2007, the league played in their first international all-star game as Team USA (PFL/6 All Stars) played against Team Canada in Aberdeen, New Jersey. Team USA won the game 26-24 when Vincent Skoff hit Marques Haynes for the go-ahead touchdown as time expired.

"We weren't supposed to win that game. I remember that Canadian team went undefeated for like three years in a row and here we were smoking cigarettes at half time as Michael Roush and I were drawing up plays. We were just a bunch of guys coming together to play football and have fun." - William Smith, Bayshore Brawlers

By the start of the 2008 season, the PFL/6 was no longer a six-man league as they moved up to seven-man. The Williamsport Wildcats defeated the Lykens Thunder in Keystone Bowl IV, 64-24 but by the end of that 2008 season cracks began forming in Camelot.

Bill Smith, one of the original founding fathers announced his retirement which caused the Board of Commissioners to look for a new member. That member was Zane Simpson. Zane started his career with the league as a spectator and moved up the ranks very quickly.

"I heard there was a new football team down by where I used to live in Sunbury so I went down and watched a game and thought I could get into this. I spoke to the owner and next thing I knew I was the head coach of the Sunbury Devils. A year later, they offered me the team and I took them up on it." - Zane Simpson

Zane was twenty-three years old when he took over as the Sunbury Devils owner. As a coach he led the Devils to the West Division Championship, losing to the eventual Keystone Bowl champions, Williamsport and at the start of the 2009 season was voted in to take Bill Smith's Board of Commissioners seat.

"I had to step away due to my cancer and he (Zane) lobbied to the owners on what he could bring to the table to help the league so when election time came, he was voted in." - Frank Susino, Bayshore Brawlers

Season five was a great year for the Stallions, the team was undefeated leading up to the last game of the season but a promotional appearance that they had weeks prior would come back to haunt them and cost them their season.

"We had two players from the Stallions show up to a promotional event at Whistles Bar in Scranton to help promote a new eleven-man team, the NEPA Miners. Some former, disgruntled Stallions, now playing for the new Millville Marauders saw that segment on TV and ran to the others on the board saying this was a violation of the rules." - John Thellion

Zane and the other board members gave John Thellion the ultimatum; either keep your record intact and no playoffs or forfeit the games up to the point of the violation.

"The move was done because the Stallions were dominating everyone that season and by us taking those two or three losses, that gave Charles Funson enough to propel his Marauders past us." - John Thellion

Charles Funson played for John and the Stallions that inaugural season but by 2009 he wanted to try it on his own and started the Millville Marauders.

"I called John in the off-season of '08 and I asked him about putting in a team and that's how the Marauders came to be a part of the GEFA. I truly loved the league, starting as a player, becoming an owner, and then league treasurer, I only wanted the best for this league and for it to succeed." - Charles Funson, Millville Marauders

After the Stallions weren't allowed into the playoffs, many of the Stallions didn't play in that last game against the Braves and the Stallions lost. After the season, John Thellion made the decision to step down from the Board of Commissioners. Once news got out that Thellion had stepped down, the rumors started, 'John Thellion was using league funds for his own personal use'. Charles Funson used that to fuel a mutiny that tore down the Board of Commissioners that the Benevolent Dictator built.

"It was time to start letting the owners make the decisions rather than a Board of Commissioners and a power hungry dictator. We ended up having a meeting with the owners and we abolished the commission and set up our own board where the President didn't have all the power, the owners did." - Zane Simpson

After the 2010 season that saw John Thellion and the Stallions play every game on the road because the owners wouldn't approve his relocation to Pittston, the once great founding father bowed out from the GEFA and retired.

"At that point, I just felt it was time. My time there ran its course and something I help build started to become something I hated. So I moved on." - John Thellion

John leaving the GEFA left a bitter taste in his mouth. It was an end of an era but a new era for John was just beginning, and this wouldn't be the last time the Great Eastern Football Association would hear the name, John Thellion.