PHILIPSBURG — Are you ready for some football?
If you are, you are in luck because the semi-pro Moshannon Valley Vikings team of the Great Eastern Football Association is set to begin the 2021 season on April 3 at Memorial Stadium in Philipsburg.
The Vikings, owned and coached by State College native Thor Marlow, are about to begin their 6th season in the GEFA and will be lining up against The Colombia County Maniacs on April 3 with high hopes for the new season.
Last year, the Vikings finished second overall in their conference and were just a game away from the league championship contest.
This year, according to Marlow, is, “Championship or bust.”
The GEFA is a 17-team semi-pro spring football league consisting of a Mountain and a Valley Conference.
Mo Valley, along with teams from Punxsutawney, Lewistown, Upper Dauphin, Mifflin County, Williamsport and Johnstown is part of the Mountain Conference. The Valley Conference plays in places like Lehighton, Wilkes Barre, York, Stroudsburg and there is even a team in New Jersey — The Monmouth Rage.
The games are played on an arena-sized field with 8-man teams, but the players are in full equipment and there is otherwise little difference between the GEFA and college or pro football.
The games are hotly contested and entertaining, and, according to Marlow, “These guys play all-out.”
Teams in the GEFA play a 10-game regular season followed by an eight-team playoffs and an all-star game.
Last season, which was really the 2019 season because of COVID-19 in 2020, The Lancaster County Cyclones defeated Upper Dauphin, 63-51, and were considered to be one of the best teams in the GEFA’s 15-year history.
“The guys who play in this league are great athletes,” Marlow said. “A lot of them played in college or in the military or had some other serious athletic background. So it’s full pads, full contact and the speed of the games and aggression in an 8-man game can be much more than in an 11-man game.”
The Vikings finished in second place behind Upper Dauphin in 2019 and made it to the Conference Championship before losing to UD.
This season, Marlow says, the Vikings will be primed to challenge for the conference title and beyond.
“We’re blessed to have a very deep roster,” he said, “and we have guys from all over the place. Lots of teams like to talk about their skill people, but I’m a hog lover and we have some very big players up front on our defense and offense.
“Some teams have players go both ways, but with us, because of our size, we typically have guys play one-way,” Marlow said. “We do have some skill-position guys who can play both ways, but they don’t have to because we have other guys who can play those positions.”
Rob Albro, from State College, will return at quarterback with and defensive back along with Billy Thompson, and Malik Breon, from Bellefonte, will return at running back for the Vikings.
Breon has won the GEFA Offensive Player of the Year four times.
Sean Steave, out of Altoona, will return as a wide receiver with Sheldon Jones, Justin Alvarez and Khalil Bell.
Up front, Nick Soto (6-3, 310), Kaine Gofor (6-7, 370), and Scott Bailey (6-4,
320) will anchor the offensive line while BEA’s Stevie Eisenhuth (6-4, 310), Matt Shuey (6-3, 320), and Eddie Walters (6-3,
300) will be on the defensive side.
“I feel an energy on this team that hasn’t been there since the year we played for the championship,” Marlow said. “We have leaders stepping up, and we have talent at every position. Some of our No. 2’s would easily start for some other teams.
“I feel like there should be no reason for us to not be there. I mean there are other teams that will have great talent, but if my guys come together and play the way we expect them to, we should be in the championship.”
The Maniacs finished fourth last season and were a playoff team last year, but, according to Marlow, “There are a lot of teams closely surrounding them, so there is a lot of competition for talent. Players tend to switch around a lot more and try other programs, unlike here.”
After the Maniac game on April 3 at 1 PM, the Vikings will play three straight away games at Mifflin County (April 10), Shippensburg (April 17), and Johnstown (May 1). The next home game will be against the Williamsport Wildcats on May 8 at 1 p.m.
Adult admission is $5 and fans under 18 are admitted free.