The Florida Football Alliance (FFA) opened its eighth regular season on January 31st, 2015. The season began with 16 member teams, and expectations of it's most competitive season in league history. The pre-season hype would prove to be legit, and by season's end, a most unlikely team would claim the title of FFA Champions. Of the sixteen member teams, seven were welcomed as new members, while six organizations from the previous season of 2013 left the league and/or ceased operations altogether.
New members included the 2014 UFF Champion Orlando Phantoms, 2014 SEFL Champion Key West Sun Devils, Tampa Bay Patriots, Gainesville Gators, South Florida 49'ers, Brooksville Ballers, and the Flagler Knights. Both the 49'ers and Ballers had been champions of their respective leagues in 2013. The Niners while in the SEFL, and the Ballers as members of the UFF. The addition of such highly competitive teams allowed the FFA to become the only league in the state of Florida with multiple teams that had been champions from at least two leagues apart from the FFA. Our league quickly became a true "League of Champions".
Two veteran member teams from 2014 would change their team names, one with a complete makeover, and the other in very small fashion.
The South Florida Storm ownership decided to change their team name to the South Florida Vikings and traded their team colors from orange and green to yellow and purple.
The Bradenton Gladiators, a well known organization in Florida Minor League football for ten years, transferred control and operation of the team to new ownership during the off-season. One of the stipulations of the deal between the former and new owners was that the team location name be changed. The new owners decided the team would become the Southwest Florida Gladiators and the team colors would remain the same with only a change in the helmet and organization logo.
The departed teams from the pervious season included a pair of veteran league members. The Sarasota Millionaires decided after eight seasons to suspend operations, while the Daytona Beach Wildcats folded their tent after six seasons. Others that found the exit door were the South Florida Seahawks, South Dade Shockers, Southwest Florida Panthers, and Duval Vipers.
Of the new teams added, the Patriots, Phantoms, Knights, Gators, and Sun Devils all qualified for post-season competition. The Knights became only the second team in league history to qualify for the FFA post-season playoffs with a 3-7 record, and the 13th overall with a non-winning record. The 2012 Broward County Bears hold the infamous distinction of having the worst record for post-season playoff qualification with a 2-7-1 mark.
The post-season started off with a bang as the highly favored Key West Sun Devils were upset on their home turf in the Wildcard round, 28-25, by the Tri-County Soldiers. The upset bug continued further north in Miami Gardens when the Miami Spartans came from behind to defeat the favored South Florida Vikings, 25-16, scoring the last 22 points of the game...all in the fourth and final quarter.
The AFC Divisional round saw the Spartans jump out to a huge early lead and hold off a late rally by the Makos to secure a 33-20 victory over the AFC East Division Champions. The upset over the Makos allowed the Spartans to move on to play the Miami "Magic City" Bulls in the conference championship on May 16th.
The NFC Divisional round included two action packed, but very close contests between the Gladiators and Patriots, as well as the Rage and the Phantoms. The Gladiators came from behind to claim victory over the Patriots, 23-21, while the Rage grinded-out a victory over their crosstown rival Phantoms, 21-7. It would set up a rematch of the 2014 NFC Championship Game in Bradenton, however this matchup would take place on the Rage home field in Lake Mary.
The AFC Championship would see the end of the "Cinderella Run" by the Spartans as they would fall to the Bulls, 33-20. The victory would earn the Bulls their 7th trip in eight seasons to the Alliance Bowl Championship Game on May 30th.
In the NFC Championship it would come down to a late fourth quarter rally by the Gladiators who scored a touchdown with 14 seconds remaining to claim a 22-14 win over the Rage, for a second consecutive season. It was also the second straight come from behind victory for the Gladiators who would now move on to a rematch with the highly favored Bulls in Alliance Bowl-VIII.
FFA Championship weekend returned to the familiar confines of Daytona Beach and Municipal Stadium for a fifth time in eight years. Despite the familiar surroundings, the final outcome of Alliance Bowl-VIII would not be as most everyone had expected. The Gladiators, who had struggled to fight through injuries at the end of the regular season, had snatched victory from their opponents in the late moments of both playoff games in order to advance to the league title game, jumped out to a huge 34-0 lead to eventually claim a 51-27 trouncing of the defending FFA Champion Bulls.
The Alliance Bowl victory would end several years of frustration for an organization that had failed in four previous championship game appearances, three in the FFA, and one in the SSFL (2006).
Posted below are the post-season results and page link to the regular season scores, standings, and stats of 2015.
Wildcard Playoffs ... 05/02/15
Miami Spartans 25, South Florida Vikings 16
Tri-County Soldiers 28, Key West Sun Devils 25
Tampa Bay 30, Flagler Knights 12
Orlando Phantoms 6, Gainesville Gators 0 (F)
Divisional Playoffs ... 05/09/15
Southwest Florida Gladiators 23, Tampa Bay Patriots 21
Miami Magic City Bulls 44, Tri-County Soldiers 30
Orlando Rage 21, Orlando Phantoms 7
Miami Spartans 33, Palm Beach Makos 20
Conference Championships ... 05/16/15
Miami Magic City Bulls 34, Miami Spartans 20
Southwest Florida Gladiators 22, Orlando Rage 14
Alliance Bowl-VIII Championship ... 05/30/15
Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium
Daytona Beach, FL
Southwest Florida Gladiators 51, Miami Magic City Bulls 27
2015 FFA Scores
2015 FFA Standings
2015 FFA Stats