by Doug Horning


The first ever and reigning TPFL Champions, the Golden Hawks are looking to continue their success in the upcoming season. Owner Brandon Lackey and his Hawks has been a part of the western Pennsylvania semi-pro scene for the better part of a decade, having served stints in most of the region’s semi-pro leagues. Although the G’Hawks finished the season by hoisting the TPFL Championship Trophy, they entered the playoffs one win short of capturing the Keystone Division Championship. Coach Gardner is bringing back almost their entire talented roster. As one of the flagship inaugural TPFL teams, we are excited to have them back and strong as ever for 2023. Expect to see the G’Hawks competing deep into the playoffs and chasing a repeat.

Ohio Gladiators
HC – Christopher Ballentine
Buckeye Division
Home Field – Marlington High School, Alliance, OH

Ten years ago David George Sr started the Ohio Gladiators with the simple goal of just playing football. Fast-forward to 2022, and the Gladiators were competing in their first ever Championship. Although the Glads fell short of winning the TPFL Trophy, they still finished the season with a myriad of accomplishments.  Having gone undefeated in the regular season, the Glads outscored their opponents with an average point differential of 30 to 7. Leading the charge into 2023 is the first ever TPFL “Coach of the Year”, Chris Ballentine. Building on the success of the ’22 season and going into his 5th year as a head coach, Ballentine is hoping to close the deal in 2023 by holding the TPFL Championship Trophy come late August.

Tri-State Longhorns
HC –Danny Songer
Mountain Division
Hometown – Charleston, WV

Sometimes it takes changes at the top to create a solid foundation. As contradictory as that may sound, that’s what it took to get the Longhorns moving in the right direction. Hard-nosed and with more heart than Rocky Balboa, the Longhorns played admirably in 2022. The Blanchards took over ownership of the organization last spring and got players to buy in on a build that was focused more towards the future than it was towards the now. That includes adding to the ownership with the addition of the featherstones. The Longhorns boast an infusion of new talent while retaining a mostly intact core for 2023. With the rebranding complete, can the Longhorns pull off an upset in ’23 like Rocky did in his sequel?

Pittsburgh Saints
HC – Mel Lewis
Keystone Division
Home Field – UPMC Graham Field, Pittsburgh, PA

The Pittsburgh Saints have been blessing semi-pro for close to a decade now. The Saints Organization is lead by Sandy Tipton, the Reigning Queen of the TPFL. Quietly becoming one of the most respected organizations in the business, the Saints finished the ‘22 regular season by touting the Keystone Division Championship Title. After a promising preseason then a slow start offensively in the early part of the regular season, they shook things up on the offensive side of the ball. Those changes helped the TPFL’s #4 ranked defense finish the season with the third best point differential in the league. Head Coach Mel Lewis lead the Saints to a successful season, but fell short in the TPFL Playoffs in the semifinal round. The Saints go marching into 2023 as one of the favorites to win the TPFL Championship.

Cleveland Cobras
HC – Adam Rogerson
Buckeye Division
Home Field – Lakewood High School, Lakewood, OH

Owner Jessie Caldwell and his Cleveland Cobras can brag about a lot of things that most semi-pro teams cannot. The nearly 20 year old organization has a pedigree of multiple championships and success in leagues all over the region. The Cobras came into the 2022 season with first year head coach, Adam Rogerson. Rogerson took the helm with a mountain of experience as a coach and a reputation as one of the best defensive coaches in the business. Similar to the Saints, the Cobras’ season started off slow on the offensive side of the ball, but picked up the pace after Rogerson took control of the offense himself. The Cobras have been adding plenty of young talent so far this fall, but maybe more important is the influx of experienced players joining the snake pit. Now that the system is in place, can Rogerson charm his roster into a deep playoff run and a chance to add a TPFL Title to the Cobras’ trophy case?

Mountain State Outlawz
HC – Billy Cole
Mountain Division
Home Field – Calvert Field, East Bank, WV

Saying the Outlawz head coach is a semi-pro legend may not be conjecture. Most recently Billy Cole led his team to a win in the 2019 National Championship Bowl and has years of success under his belt. The Outlawz may feel a bit familiar to those who remember the West Virginia Storm, but while we may see some familiar faces… This is essentially a first year team. The core of former Storm players will provide a strong base for the Outlawz coming into 2023. One thing is for certain, the Outlawz intend to put a saddle on their Clydesdale Running Backs and ride a hard charging ground-game this season. The Outlawz may have us feeling a bit of déjà vu, but will the rust from playing one complete season in the last three years have those familiar faces grimacing?

Steel Valley Truth
Keystone Division
Home Field – Graham Field, Cranberry Township, PA

The Steel Valley Truth should be one of the teams on the rise this season. The Truth organization is lead by longtime and still current player, Juan Williams. The Truth’s final record in 2022 may not show it, but they are only a couple pieces away from making a huge leap forward in 2023. Last season the Steel Valley defense showed flashes of dominance while holding teams to less than two scores in 5 of their 8 regular season games. Unfortunately their offense struggled to light up the scoreboard consistently. The truth about Steel Valley is that as long as their defense stays intact or on par with what they did last season… then it will only take a couple new pieces on offense to make them a legitimate favorite for a deep playoff run.

Mahoning Valley Ruff Ryderz
Buckeye Division
Home Field – Boardman High School, Boardman, OH

Two seasons ago the Ryderz rebranded to become the Phoenix. Ultimately the last two years the Phoenix struggled and owner Isaac Griffin has decided to return the team to its roots. The Mahoning Valley Ruff Ryderz will be opening up shop at a new stadium this season and adding a fresh influx of new faces combined with veterans returning for a piece of nostalgia. The one high point for the organization’s 2022 season is that they showed us that they could field a stingy defense in the first half of the season. The defense allowed less than a two score per game average through the end of week four. Unfortunately the offense fizzled and failed to put points on the board. That won’t be the case coming into 2023. This organization can only go up from here and we all know how fast things can change at this level. The Ruff Ryderz will roll into the upcoming season looking to prove themselves to the TPFL.

Ohio Bears
HC – Ira Trent
Mountain Division
Home Field – Westerville High School, Westerville, OH

The Ohio Bears came into the 2022 TPFL season as a first year team but they sure didn’t act like one. They were one of the toughest teams in the league last year. The Bears took almost every game against the league’s top teams right down to the wire. They finished the regular season as the #2 offense in the TPFL scoring over 22 points per game. Also, no one can forget that they may have had the most exciting special teams unit in the region. Additionally, the Bears made it to the semifinal round of the playoffs. All of the above stated are huge accomplishments for a first year team, but the Bears roster was built right with a good mix of talented veterans and young newcomers. New head coach Ira Trent will take control and will assuredly bring grit to the position.

Steel City Kingz
Keystone Division
Home Field – Ambridge High School, Ambridge, PA

Owned by the Montanez Family, the Steel City Kingz came into the last season with “playing football” as their primary goal. Owner and offensive coordinator Eric Montanez may be the most enthusiastic owner in the TPFL and he makes sure that it’s apparent that he loves his team. You can expect coming into year two that his enthusiasm will be carried into his recruiting. Similar to the Truth, you can expect Steel City to show progress this upcoming season. Especially in the trenches where he has already been adding talent so far this offseason. The organization made strides as the season went along and showed signs of a bright future, even if last season’s record doesn’t show it. Look for the Kingz to come in under the radar and take a lot of teams by surprise in 2023.

Canton Hurricanes
HC – Ronald McEwen
Buckeye Division
Home Field – Staudt Field at Walsh University, Canton, OH

While it has been a few years since anyone has dawned the orange and green in Canton, make no mistake that the frame work has been there and waiting. The timing may be perfect for owner and head coach Ronald McEwen to resurrect the long-time semi pro organization. Other area teams showed a lot of success in 2022 and that could help to provide a young and enthusiastic crop of talent looking to get into this level of football. To help mentor and lead these new young men will be plenty of veteran players looking for a fresh start.  The Canes will also garner some returning vets who are looking for a nostalgic atmosphere. The HOF City needs a team and the Hurricanes are more than happy to fill that role.

Port City Spartans
HC – Datoine Robinson
Mountain Division
Home Field – Spartan Municipal Stadium, Portsmouth, OH

If you’ve played semi-pro anywhere along the Ohio River, then you know about the Port City Spartans. The Spartans are possibly the longest tenured semi-pro organization in Ohio. Port City joins the TPFL after several years of being one of the BCFL’s most consistent and stronger teams. Head coach Datoine Robinson has already been adding talented free agents along with the return of several vets that helped propel them into consistent playoff berths recently. The ownership and staff of the Spartans has not only set a standard on the field, but have been working to set an example off the field as well. Port City has a history of being active in their communities and with youth sports in their area. Their addition to the TPFL should be considered one of the “big gets” for the league this offseason and their talent could make for an interesting playoff bracket come August.

Beaver County Arctic Bengals
HC – Blake Lewis
Keystone Division
Home Field – Quaker Valley, Leetsdale, PA

A lot of eyes will be watching the Arctic Bengals this season as they return to the field after a brief hiatus. This time around the team will be infused with youth from the top to the bottom. At the top will be co-owners Dante Marsick Sr and Trewon Marshall. The young energy this team hopes to utilize could make them a wildcard in the Keystone Division. Getting off to a fast start this fall, the Bengals have started indoor workouts already by mid October. This could prove to be a smart and effective recruiting tool for them early on in this offseason. BCAB likes to hold their cards close to their chest and have been operating quietly, like a big cat hiding in the tall grass. Expect to see them moving fast as they burst onto the scene in 2023.

West Virginia Leviathan
HC – Christopher Simpson
Mountain Division
Home Field – Cebe Ross Field at WVWC, Buckhannon, WV

What is a Leviathan? A serpent symbolizing “a great and mysterious dark power”, the Leviathan can be found in mythology from the Greeks to the Bible. Owner Derrick VIllarico feels that the name will symbolize his team perfectly. Starting with the “great power” angle, the Leviathan looks to boast one of the largest and most cohesive coaching staffs in the league. Many of the coaches have worked together in the past or have been vetted for experience. The “mystery” angle will be attributed to a dynamic roster of “team first” and “wherever I fit” type of players. Focusing on versatile players who excel at multiple positions will help them take the “next man up” approach to its most efficient level. As a first year team they are like many of the other newbies and could end up being a dark horse favorite in the Mountain Division.

Flood City Thunder
HC – TBA              
Keystone Division
Hometown – Johnstown, PA

The Flood City Thunder is making the leap to 11-man football after playing three years in the GEFA 8-man football league. Owner Georgianne Matava has retained nearly all of her roster during their transition to 11-man. With the group being understandably heavy with skill position players, her recruiting focus has been aimed at the big guys for the trenches. Don’t think for a minute that the Thunder’s 8-man roots means there will be a talent gap for them here in the TPFL. Look for highlight plays from athletes wearing  #5, #21, and #23. Organizationally, Flood City has an established relationship and familiarity within their community. A successful season for the Thunder in the TPFL could lead to more 8-man teams making the change in the future.

Ashland Blazers
Buckeye Division
Hometown – Ashland, OH

The Ashland Blazers will be coming into the TPFL as a first year team with a plan in place. Owner Robert Humburg has adopted a methodical approach to building his organization by emphasizing the importance of building a strong front office staff first. The Blazers are also reaping the benefits of support from their community, including working towards their own practice field and possibly their own home in the future. The coaching staff should be strong at the top with a competition of experienced coaches vying for the head spot. Another advantage they have is that the area around the Blazers may be an untapped gold mine. They are surrounded by colleges like Ashland CC, College of Wooster, Oberlin, and North Central State. Each could potentially provide a direct line for players who want to continue playing football.