By Mighty RX, Ross Napoli, Christian Christiansen, Merrick Itera and Matthew Slinn
Well folks, we’ve officially come to the end of our journey. It was a long, hard, somewhat interrupted road, but we got there. This article will officially wrap up Season 14 – It’s now in the record books to be resisted for entertainment and knowledge, and where better to revisit a season then here. You cannot underestimate how hard this list was to think of, then order. So, with that in mind, I would like to that all that have been a part of this project. You’ve all done a fantastic job. Now, onto our final list. Our ‘Top 10’ players of the SFL: Season 14.
#10 – Zane Doty, Cornerback, Carolina Skyhawks
If you were to look up “Breakout Season” in the dictionary, you’d see a freshly printed copy of Zane Doty’s face right next to it. Prior to Season 14, Zane was averaging 6 PDs and 2 INTs per season…and then, Season 14 happened. Zane had a marginal bump in his pass deflections, but after tallying 11 INTs in his career prior to that point, he blew the doors off the league with 13 INTs in 1 season, setting an SFL record for INTs at his position, and for the SFL in general! Couple that with the fact that he has had a Pick-6 in consecutive seasons and it’s easy to see why Carolina is so excited about their secondary’s chances to match up with any offense in the league. The only question at this point is whether or not Season 15 will be a regression to the mean, or an establishment of new expectations.
#9 – Brett Killian, Wide Receiver, Vancouver Legion
What a difference an off-season makes! In Season 13, Brett Killian had career lows in YDS, TDs, and TGTs. Fast forward to Season 14, and Killian was doing his best to generate some heat up in the frozen hellscape of Vancouver by increasing his previous seasons’ results by 450 yds and 10 TDs, off of an additional 4 measly receptions?!
Now, do me a favor and let that sink in…
… this man averaged a touchdown every 5th catch for the season, not to mention ranking 1st in the League in trips to the endzone by a WR, top 5 in total yds, and top 10 in yds per catch, all while ranking outside of the top 25 in receptions. Brett’s in-game performances turned the lights out on more than 1 squad this season, and if his QB can continue to get him the ball through this upcoming season, I’d expect Killian to be in contention for best WR in the SFL yet again.
#8 – Ken Gossett, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Kings
If anyone deserves to be higher on this list, its Gossett. Arguably the best WR in Season 14, Ken Gossett put on a display for the Jacksonville Kings in every game. Clearly the main target, he led the league in 2 categories with 156 targets and 115 receptions, while coming in 2nd in the league with 1,537 yards receiving. His 9 receiving TDs were good enough for a tie for 5th place. The 6 year pro recorded his 5th straight season with over 100 targets and his 3rd career season with over 100 receptions. He added 6 receptions for 56 yards and 1 TD in the playoffs, bringing his career post season totals to an amazing 100 receptions for 1,321 yards and 11 TDs.
#7 – Colin Hart, Running Back, Sioux Falls Sparrows
Colin Hart had another fantastic year on the field in Season 14. He posted his 3rd career 1,000 yard season, coming in 2nd in the SFL with 1,531 yards rushing. His 16 rushing TDs were also 2nd in the league. His 6.3 yards per carry was good enough for 3rd in the league. He rushed for over 100 yards in 8 of his 12 regular season starts with his best performance coming in Week 7 against the recently sold New Orleans Pharaohs as he carried the ball 25 times for 192 yards and 2 rushing TDs in a win. In his busiest post season to date, he carried the ball 48 times for 219 yards and 2 TDs as the Sparrows went all the way to the SFL Championship game.
#6 – BDG Hollewood, Running Back, Atlanta Swarm
The meat in the sandwich that is our current run on HB’s in this list, is the Atlanta Swarm’s flyer, BDG Hollewood. Master of the spin move, Hollewood has lit up defenses for many seasons now in the SFL – Season 14, however, seemed extra. The 210lb slippery wizard showed unmatched consistency across the board, finding himself populating the top 5 in every important rushing and receiving statistic. From a pure rushing perspective, this season was arguably Hollewood’s best to date, racking up over 1,500 yards for the first time in his long career, also managing to canter to two, 200 yard games during the season. Any season that boasts more than one 200 yard rushing performance is an elite one. The best thing for Atlanta? He probably won’t regress. The 6’0 rusher’s numbers have been remarkably consistent throughout his career, and he only just looks to be warming up. If BDG can continue to light up the stat sheet with spins an ice dancer would be proud of, there is nothing to say that The Swarm can’t repeat on Season 14’s success.
#5 – Zach Sandlin, Running Back, Seattle Tyrants
Despite Seattle having a vastly different season from their previous one, ending on a low, Zach Sandlin’s illustrious career ended on a personal high note. The SFL’s best pure power back, Sandlin led the league’s rushing race by over 300 yards, hit up through the trenches for over 6 yards per carry and also made it (once again) to double figures in TDs. I think it’s fair to say that he was a fairly lone bright spot in an otherwise meek Tyrants offense, delivering game after game through powerful runs and excellent stamina for a big man. Weighing in at 260lbs, Sandlin is larger than most linebackers in the SFL, yet runs like a corner. Another player with multiple 200 plus yard games this season (including a 299 yard effort against the eventual champions, Atlanta) the Sandman earned his way onto this list in Season 14, and it is a shame he has retired as he could well have been the best back this league has ever produced…he was that good.
#4 – Steven Hacker, Wide Receiver, Queen City Corsairs/Fort Worth Toros
It’s hard to believe Season 14 may not have even been Stephen Hacker’s best season. Despite having nearly 1600 receiving yards this past season, Hacker put up 1500 yards and 2 additional touchdowns in his rookie season just two years ago. That just speaks to how impressive Hacker has been over the past several seasons as he comes in as one of the few players unanimously voted to be on this list. Hacker almost certainly had the best single-game performance of any individual player this season in a Week 2 showdown against the Chicago Wildcats. In this game, Queen City’s WR1 recorded 12 catches for 368 yards and 4 touchdowns. This was just 9 yards of DR Sim’s league record for single-game receiving yardage. Perhaps even more impressive, is that this came against Jessie Vick, one of the league’s better corners. This game was no fluke, as Hacker routinely beat up on the league’s best CB talent to the tune of leading the SFL in receiving yards, while finishing second in touchdowns, and tied for fifth in receptions. His spot in the top five is well-deserved as one of the league’s top skill position players.
#3 – Sudo Nakai, Running Back, Vancouver Legion
Perhaps no player in the league outside of Marcus Dunhill was as critical to elevating their team from good to great as Sudo Nakai. Vancouver has had an efficient passing attack now for the past three seasons, but it wasn’t until Nakai’s breakout as a superstar that Vancouver elevated themselves into the playoff picture. The short, trunky two-way threat finished third in total yardage, only behind Zack Sandlin and BDG Hollewood, and second in touchdowns, behind T-Roy Gaines. This performance was the engine of the Vancouver Legion offense, which was the second most unstoppable attack in the SFL last season (only behind the raw efficiency of the Atlanta Swarm; there is a reasonable argument to make that Vancouver had the outright best pure offense). At the end of the day, no skill position player had as well-rounded of an offensive game as Nakai and no one was as critical to his team’s offensive success as he was this past season.
#2 – Jeff Duffy, Defensive End, Queen City Corsairs
Jeff Duffy sacked the quarterback on 24 separate occasions this season. That was 7 more times than the nearest player in the league who is also on this list: William Davidson. What more needs to be said to justify why Duffy is the highest defensive player in the top 20 and #2 overall? The defensive end’s sheer effectiveness in the backfield was unparalleled in Season 14, as Duffy also made 30 total tackles for a loss, showing an ability to seal the edge and get to a ball carrier with aplomb. The man is 6’5 and 300lbs, but moves like a player 30lbs lighter, showing excellent technique and agility when needed. In a win against Chicago, Duffy had 5.5 sacks…5.5! Just let that simmer and resonate for a second. When he played well, QCC played well and they will be hoping that #53 can replicate this sparkling form as he moves into his 6th season.
#1 – Marcus Dunhill, Quarterback, Atlanta Swarm
What can I write to extol the virtues of the current league MVP, reigning champion and #1 player in all the land? Well, he was 1st in yards per attempt, 1st in QB rating, 2nd in touchdowns thrown, threw the 2nd least interceptions and finished 4th in completion percentage. In the championship game, he had 71% completion rate and threw 3 TDs. His best performance came against Carolina in Week 11 as he threw for 360 yards and 5 touchdowns on only 27 passes. Let’s have some views from prominent opponents:
Vancouver Legion owner and HC, Andy Hamilton: “Marcus was a challenge each and every time you faced him. A threat to secondaries everywhere. And the hardest part about Dunhill was year over year he’d improve so much. I remember in Season 12 we picked him off a TON in Week 1. Two seasons later? League MVP. Every rookie should look at Marcus Dunhill as the target for which to strive for in their career.”
Sioux Falls longtime DC, A.J. Levye: “It’s frustrating enough preparing for any team in the SFL, let alone preparing for a Marcus Dunhill led Swarm team. You had to give it your all, and rightfully so. Not only did you have to try and stop him, you had to stop all of the offensive weapons that he had at his disposal.”
There you have it folks! Marcus Dunhill has made it to the pinnacle in every way possible, and now he has reached to summit of our list – the best players in the SFL, currently. What a way to go out and leave your legacy for others to follow. Now, we look forward to Season 15. With all the new rookies and free agents changing hands, I can’t help but wonder what next season’s list will look like. One thing is for certain; we’re going to have a new #1. Could it be you?