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MIFL vs GEFA Wars - Part 3

MIFL vs GEFA Wars - Part 3

January 1, 2024 GEFA Staff

With John Thellion now the Commissioner of the MIFL, it was time to try and rebuild Camelot. But before that they needed to start making sure the league had a strong foundation. To do that the MIFL needed more teams.

"We kicked it around a couple of times on what we needed to do. One of the teams that came to us were the Reading Outlaws. Brandon Gruber had the Outlaws in eleven-man when they were a part of the ECFA. One of the largest leagues in the country but corruption took its toll on the league and it later fell a part. Rio and Brandon came to me about the Outlaws coming to the MIFL and I immediately said yes." - John Thellion

The next season, the Outlaws changed their name back to their old GSFL team name, the Reading Raptors, though problematic at times would become the MIFL's strongest team, winning four straight Independence Bowls from 2015 - 2019.

"My job was almost like a kindergarten teacher that first year as Commissioner. I'd listen to all the whining, the griping, the lobbying. I'd listen, especially if it was a safety issue, but other than that I was doing my best Belichick impression, 'We're on to the next.'" - John Thellion

The MIFL added three other teams that 2013 season, the Dover Breakers, the Garden State Chargers, and the Wilkes-Barre Phantoms.

"2013 was kind of a retooling season. The Hornets changed their name to the Kings and the Phillys became the Jokers. John was in charge of the rules which freed me up to do a lot more with helping teams to get sponsors and help our players get more exposure with professional indoor leagues. One team in particular we created a partnership with was the Trenton Freedom." - Rio Prisco

They also used their old stomping grounds to try and get teams, the Great Eastern Football Association, which now became enemy territory. The MIFL reached out to three teams in the GEFA; the Panther Valley Breaker Boys, the NEPA Shock, and of course the Elizabethtown Mustangs.

"The Elizabethtown Mustangs broke away from the Mount Joy Cyclones and I figured two teams in the same area, maybe they would like to come play in a new league. We weren't trying to steal teams from the GEFA. We were trying to give them an opportunity to succeed long term by giving them an opportunity in a league where their areas weren't so congested." - Rio Prisco

Breaker Boys owner, Scott Reese was approached about the new venture but decided to decline and stay with the GEFA.

"I've been around since 2008, knew John, developed a pretty good friendship with Rio since we had a rivalry with the Broncos but thought though the GEFA had its issues with dysfunction, we lost and gained teams often, it was at least stable. I was still relatively new to this whole being a team owner thing and the last thing I wanted to do was start all over again in a new developmental league." - Scott Reese, Panther Valley Breaker Boys

The Shock didn't feel that same sentiment about starting over. In 2013, the NEPA Shock joined the GEFA with two veterans as owners, Nick Parlanti and Travis Grobes. Nick Parlanti played in the league for the past two seasons with the Wilkes-Barre Vipers. Travis Grobes was a John Thellion guy. Played for him with the Stallions starting in 2006 where he won the first ever Offensive Player of the Year Award and then later started the Back Mountain Mayhem with Martin Evans (Coach). Coach and Travis created the most destructive team in GEFA history winning the Keystone Bowl their very first season.

"That season was a Cinderella story, from nothing to an Undefeated Championship that took grit, blood, sweat and tears to accomplish. Players played hurt, exhausted from working the same day, personal problems and adapting improving and overcoming everything and anything, game by game. We were the doormat of the League and my players were not respected at all and earned it week to week. My staff went through hell with my demands as well as the players all season but we made it work and our players earned that championship." - Coach Evans, Back Mountain Mayhem

But the Mayhem, like the Broncos and Stallions before them, felt the wrath of the Great Eastern Football Association. In 2011, the Mayhem changed their name to the Electric City Mayhem as the team moved from Tunkhannock to Scranton and the plot to foil any kind of repeat for the Mayhem was on.

"The League definitely had it out for the Mayhem. As the Mayhem kept dominating the league some owners were looking to beat them, not on the field, but behind closed doors. It was just a matter of time before they got what they wanted." - Spencer Rappaport, Wilkes-Barre Vipers

The Mayhem were once again the number one seed going through the mountain conference with one game left before they had a showdown with the Tri - Town Braves to crown who would have home field advantage through out the playoffs. But before that could happen they would have to get through Charles Funson and the Marauders. That's when disaster struck. Will "Hitman" Smith from the Mayhem got into an altercation with some players from the Marauders when their dad came onto the field from the stands.

"Man, (laughing) Hitmen was getting into it with this dude and his brother. Next minute you know, dude's father came out onto the field wanting to fight Hitmen. Hitmen told him to get away from him and go back to the stands because if he touched him Hitmen was going to knock him out but the guy kept coming. So the guy pushed Hitmen and he knocked him out. One punch, folded the dude. Then the cops showed up." - Andre Chollette, Back Mountain Mayhem

The GEFA board led by new President Mark Whitney of the Tri - Town Braves asked for an immediate meeting about the incident with his board. Only a few were allowed in that meeting and the Mayhem were removed from the league.

"After our first season in the GEFA, John came to us about joining the MIFL. He wanted to expand the MIFL with some solid groups. I spoke to Travis about it and he said it was a good idea so in 2014 we joined the MIFL." - Nick Parlanti, NEPA Shock

Now, the Mustangs leaving were a completely different story. The Mustangs started from two brothers, Jeff and Darren Winters, once coaches with the Mount Joy Cyclones who wanted to be owners but were turned down.

"Jeff and his brother wanted to be owners with us. Jim Bob and I weren't sure how to feel about it so we said let us think about it. That wasn't the answer they were looking for so when they persisted, we said no." - Mark Myers, Mount Joy Cyclones

In 2010, Jeff and Darren broke away from the Cyclones and started the Elizabethtown Mustangs and by the end of 2012, they built the Mustangs into a contender losing in the Valley Conference Championship against the Harrisburg Sharks.

"We wanted to prove to everyone that we were the best team in Lancaster County and I think we did that." - Jeff Winters, Elizabethtown Mustangs

Everything was going great for the Mustangs in the GEFA then Jeff Winters received a call out of the blue from John Thellion.

"John called me and he had Rio Prisco on the phone and they asked me if I'd like to be a part of the MIFL. I asked what makes you think I'd want to come over to there. What could you offer me to make the jump. They said in their league, I'd be the only one who could call Lancaster County home something which the GEFA would not permit because the Cyclones were there first. Mount Joy and Elizabethtown were literally neighbors and it didn't make sense to risk a potential boarder war within the same county. So we left." - Jeff Winters, Elizabethtown Mustangs

In January of 2014, Winters announced to the league that the Mustangs were going over to the new league to the dismay of many.

"I told the board I was going over to the MIFL and they said they were charging me a forfeit fee for the ten games that season since I was already on the schedule. I think there was a combination of rightful frustration there by the way we were leaving. Certain owners were definitely not happy about us leaving especially when we tried to come back and they told us they were going to charge us four times what all the other teams were being charged to come back." - Jeff Winters, Elizabethtown Mustangs

At the end of the 2014 season, the MIFL had twelve teams; the Bucks County Broncos, the Elizabethtown Mustangs, NEPA Shock, Port Richmond Jokers, North Philly Kings, Del Marva Bayriders, the Wilkes-Barre Phantoms, the Garden State Chargers, the Reading Raptors, the Dover Breakers, the Philadelphia Hurricanes, and the Steel City Stampede. That's when the first shot took place.

"We felt we were strong enough by the end of that season to say hey, let's take our shot. Let's play a cross league all-star clash against the GEFA. I sent Zane Simpson an email and put it all out there about getting the game together and how we could raise money for a charity of his choice but more importantly just have fun, play good football, and maybe rekindle some old friendships." - John Thellion

John Thellion and the MIFL were the last thing on Zane Simpson's mind. In August of 2014, Zane was once again voted in as the President of the GEFA.

"I had absolutely zero interest in playing against the MIFL. I didn't think it was in the best interest of the league either. We had nothing to prove playing in that game. I felt like at that point they were trying to bait us into a game. We were our own product and we didn't need them." - Zane Simpson

Instead of letting that discourage John, he brought back some faces of the past to play in an old heads (PFL/6) vs MIFL All-Star game. John, who suited up for the PFL/6 himself, brought some old familiar faces back to play in the game like Frank Susino. The MIFL All-Stars won the game 42-0 but that wouldn't be the last time the MIFL would try to play the GEFA.