Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pennsylvania A11FL team will shoot for the Stars

If the Pennsylvania A11 Football League franchise can get close to the success of its outdoor alternative professional football forerunners three decades ago, the state’s gridiron fans will be very pleased.

Pennsylvania has had a successful outdoor alternative pro football history, led by the United States Football League’s Philadelphia Stars (1983-84). Easily the top franchise in the USFL’s brief history, the Stars went 15-3 in 1983 and lost in the first league championship game, then went 16-2 in 1984 and cruised to their first USFL title.

In the 1983 USFL semifinals, Philadelphia was down 38-17 in the fourth quarter to the Chicago Blitz, then scored 21 consecutive points to force an overtime. They then scored in overtime to win 44-38.

The USFL squad that featured such future National Football League stars as inside linebacker Sam Mills and defensive end William Fuller played its home games at Veterans Stadium before being forced to move to Baltimore, Maryland, for the 1985 season due to the league’s ill-fated decision to move to the fall in 1986.

-       The USFL also had a Pittsburgh-based team for one season -- the Maulers in 1984. Like the NFL’s Steelers, the Maulers played at Three Rivers Stadium. Unlike the Steelers, the Maulers weren’t any good – 3-15 despite the presence of rookie running back Mike Rozier, the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner.

-       A decade earlier, Philadelphia had a World Football League entry, the Bell. Playing in old JFK Stadium, the Bell went 9-11 in 1974 despite finishing first in the Eastern Division and third in the entire league in points scored (493). In the first round of the playoffs, Philadelphia lost to eventual-league champion Florida, 18-3. In 1975, the Bell finished in last place in the Eastern Division at 4-7 before the entire WFL folded in mid-season.

While Pennsylvania hasn’t had an outdoor alternative pro football team in three decades, its new A11FL team will have an impressive championship legacy to live up to.

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