Hi, kids! Do you like violence?
It’s that time of year again and the off-season has begun as teams are getting formed and settled for the 10th anniversary season of the SFL with a record-high 18 teams. Being a fan of the SFL, I thought it would be dope to be thrown in the beat writer fire. I wanted to approach this as a “get to know the team” from their history and own prospective. When the teams were assigned, I immediately took a personal interest of the selected teams I was given. It brought back the fond memories of sports entertainment and the process of when I started as a player in this intriguing league.
I started officially in Season 6 and so did the Sioux Falls Sparrows, in what was a great season of optimistic playoff football. In Season 6, we had rookie draft classes for the new expansion teams and the Sparrows in South Dakota were newly formed with owner Jacen at the helm looking to make the the 2nd pick in the 1st round. He chose defensive backfield first and went with a guy by the name of AJ Levye at free safety. In the 3rd round, he drafted a punter that made SFL history for the first star punter to be drafted. Jason created a talented receiving corp and offense along with a core defense minus star linebackers. Sparrows would get a win against the reigning SFL Champion DC Dragons and would beat Queen City in both regular season games! That season, the Sparrows finished 8-4 and lost in the 1st round to QCC 30-28 at home. QCC would go on to win the SFL Championship.
In Season 7, Jacen kept his defense intact and made some tweaks of adding ILB and OLB stars and cutting loose the star punter. They had a RB that lead with a significant amount of receiving yards. Julian Tyree altered his game and had become a little more mobile by running the ball. The defense was starting to take off and fly! They ended their season with a 9-3 overall record, a conference record of 6-2, but lost in the 1st round of the playoffs at home to the Minneapolis Maulers, 35-30. The Maulers ended up winning the Season 7 title. However, mirroring the performance from Season 6, the Sparrows beat the Maulers twice in the regular season.
In Season 8, the Sparrows would make a change again with the defensive and offensive strategies. He was done with the kicker and punter picks and brought in help of veterans from former champions as a result of organizational folds as well as players from other teams that made it to the playoffs. Jacen made AJ Levye Defensive Coordinator in Season 7 and they fought hard, bringing in a defensive end that season which would to the team having several leading tackles and interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Sparrows had a win at home against QCC, later would be given their 4th road loss by QCC. Sparrows would then make it to the 1st round of the playoffs again, only to get beaten by QCC in Liberty Park Stadium. The Sparrows finished 8-4 overall and 6-2 in conference. QCC would end up winning their 4th championship title against Dallas.
Season 9 would see Jason get rid of the star defensive lineman and keep everything simple, reinforcing his squad with star players. Julian Tyree had a career low of 19 TD’s. The defense had several takeaways and a defensive TD, however it wasn’t quite enough for them to get into the playoffs and the Sparrows finished 6-6.
I went ahead and reached out to the team, got them in a corner to discuss this season.
BLACK & YELLOW, BLACK & YELLOW, BLACK & YELLOW, BLACK & YELLOW…
Staff: Jason “JT” McGee- Owner / Head Coach & Offensive Coordinator / AJ Levye- Defensive Coordinator
SEASON 9 RECORD AND FINISH: 6-6
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Kanye Rockafella: “Harrelson, need your thoughts on yesterday and tonight’s reveal?”
Shaun Harrelson: “I’m excited, I think Chicago and Sioux Falls are the most dangerous teams in the central division.”
KR: “How do feel about schedule? Team? Season?”
Robert Redford: “My feelings on the schedule are unforeseen as I am a rookie.The team is very interactive and fun! I cannot wait for the season to start and see how “The Natural” does on the gridiron.”
KR: “Oh hell yeah, can I use these quotes?”
RR: “For sure.”
KR: “Thanks Red. Need those Sundance passes. I know it’s you. The real one.”
RR: “Let me see what I can do, I haven’t gone in years.”
KR: “Welcome to SFL. What are you expecting of the team? How you feel about schedule? Who would you like to play?”
Levant Irvine: “I am expecting some big things out of this team and would like to be a part of a team returning to the playoffs after them missing out last time around. On that note while every team on our schedule is respectable, I think we have a really good shot. Personally, I am looking forward to our games against Chicago as that should be our proving grounds as to whether we can mount a championship run.”
KR: “Brilliant!!! How you coping and/or dealing with the transition? A new team, new league and being a rookie? What’s the record you think?”
LI: “Well, it’s a whole new experience for me. When I heard there wasn’t going to be a draft and it’s pretty much open season I was rather shocked. Didn’t think I’d find a team but the Sparrows have been a home away from home for me and they’ve taken me under their wing pretty quick. I think to at least make the playoffs at least 8-9 wins will do it so I’LL say 10-2 to make sure. I’d say twelve but that’s a tough task of any team in this league.”
KR: “Thanks Lev appreciate it!”
KR: “Money Mike! Your second season, How do you think you guys are going to do this season?”
Michael Moore: “I think we will do well but we got some tough games on schedule.”
KR: “AJ, how you living? What is the deal with this team? How you like it? How do you want to play?”
AJ Warren: “I’m living well. Only so much you can do with a rookie contract, but it’s not about the money. It’s about going out everyday and putting in 100%. Our defense looks tough. Makes getting open in practice hard, but I think that will help our receiving corp in the long run. I like our make up. Defense looks like our main strength but our offense may do some things. I think everyone in the league wants to put up numbers and win awards. I’d just like to do whatever I can to help the team win. The #Flock is coming.”
OWNER & COACH SPEAK
KR: “Your teams have always been good.How do you feel about the season and the schedule? The names you have are named after filmmakers. Are ya’ll making movies on your way to the championship? Filming brutal beatdowns and taking names! What do you hope to accomplish this season?”
Jacen: “I’m good with the schedule. I think we have a chance to take the division. One things for sure; the teams in our division will keep us honest and flexible because they don’t all play the same style of ball that so many other teams try to cookie cutter themselves into.No filmmakers here.Just ballers that are confident, active, and want to get better each week.
We danced around with team builds each season to add unique challenges to our franchise. We know what works and what doesn’t work and we’re gonna take that knowledge and get that championship.”
KR: “Man,I got my popcorn right now! Are you a one man band, being an owner, a coach, offense and defense calling and scouting? Who are they? What would you like to tell the SFL Nation and what record do you think you guys are going to have?”
JT: “AJ Levye runs the defense and I run the offense and we’re looking to get some of our players involved in the ins and outs of scouting and the whole overall SFL process. As for the record we expect to win every game. But, you take one game at a time and regardless of what happens you learn from the results each week. I wish the other owners and coaches the best this season and I hope the players stay active each week and enjoy the ride.”
KR: “Man, you killing it! Thanks for getting back, we really wanted this feed from ya.Good Luck this season and thank you for your services!”
KR: “Any team you looking forward to facing?”
AJ Levye: “I’m intrigued by the match up against OKC. For the simple fact that this will be the first time that we’ll be facing the Renegades without “The Old Man” Bruschi. Also, Chicago ought to be a good match up as well!”
Julian Tyree is a decent quarterback with a QB rating of the mid 70’s. His best body of work was in Season 7 where he had the most TD’s of his career (40) and he also had a rushing TD. Tyree being a high value of 90.98 should revive this offense. He is the 2nd highest valued QB in the Central Conference. The run game has been part of the teams repertoire in the past by bringing in RB’s with the ability to run hard and catch passes. Redford will try and carry on the Sparrows’ tradition. They have brought in WR Shaun Harrelson from Carolina, who had his best season of his career! He will lead and assist Moore, and show rookie AJ Warren some steps on how to get better in SFL.
#loadinglegends- Julian Tyree has over 100 career TD’s (112)
AJ Levye has been with the team since its inception and is keeping the defense tight and solid. They got rid of the defensive lineman and choose to give the offense some flying targets. This defense is pretty good at causing turnovers and taking them back for 6 points. The LB’s Parker and Fargo each had multiple sacks while the secondary has been consistently growing and gelling together.
#loadinglegends- AJ Levye has accumulated at least 300 career tackles
SCHEDULE OPPONENTS AND RECORD AGAINST
OKLAHOMA CITY 3-1
ST. LOUIS 2-0
This schedule is blue collar teams and as Chris Curtis stated, “this is the most repeat schedule I have seen.” and I couldn’t agree more. They have faced some really heavy hitters throughout their existence.
FINISH UP ALREADY
Jacen is a leader that likes to take chances and expects to obtain significant results.His style of coaching may be a little unorthodox, but it has worked. He treats his seasons as if they are assignments.
The Sparrows have shown us that Julian Tyree is their quarterback and when you have an arm like that, he needs weapons of impact to help them make a deep run and get out past the 1st round. JT’s experience deserves to have a trio of good wide receivers to accompany him similar to what he had getting those career high scoring TD’s.
Free agent Shaun Harrelson had his highest career total for receiving yards last season with 1440 to go along with 10 touchdowns. I think establishing the run early, combined with the mobility of Tyree, will open the passing game and would keep the opposing defenses on their heels.
The Sparrows defense have five of its seven star players returning from a season ago. Their secondary remained intact, led by All-Pro SS A.J. Levye, who’s back for his 5th season as a player and 4th season as Defensive Coordinator. FS Chris Dodd completes the safety tandem. Not to mention the CB duo of Adam Okoye & Nick Popp.
With the loss of a pair linebackers in the off-season, the Sparrows acquired the services of former Carolina Skyhawks DE Nick Fargo to fill in the vacancy at the OLB spot. Veteran LB Alex Parker, will be leading the linebacker corps from the ILB position this season. To round out the corps, the team brought in rookie OLB Levant Irvine (no relation to Cameron Irvine).
I think the Sparrows will have an interesting season, given how they are used to diversified team builds, if they establish who they are and bring back some of the swing pass option that caused a slight controversy. Keep the defense finely tuned, active, and keep themselves from being bored while playing games. The Sparrows have had the tendency to start the first half of games slow and then compete better during the 2nd half, depending on what team they’re playing or how they are feeling. Player progression may be a walk in the park for them or that may be another learning curve that Jacen, AJ, and the rest of the team will have to face, just like the rest of the league.
Anyway, I like the foundation that has kept personnel consistent in establishing its core values. That is how you should build a team. AJ Levye is for real about winning. He was working out, shoveling the snow, and doing the interview. That is professionalism. Sparrows have huge commitment and loyalty in the nest and they are there singing and getting hype: Black & Yellow…Fear the Yellow…KaPow
Shout out to the Sparrows and special thanks to Jacen and AJ Levye for helping out.