New England Football League NEFL History - 2000's | New England Football League
New England Football League

NEFL History – 2000’s

1990’s — 2000’s — 2010’s

2000

The dawn of the new millennium brought new challenges and opportunities to the NEFL The North Atlantic Football Federation changed its name to the North American Football Association (N.A.F.A.) and became a member of the National Football Alliance (N.F.A.), which sponsors a national tournament that brings the best teams from the United States and Canada together to determine a national champion. Expansion into Maine and New Hampshire saw the NEFL’s roster of teams grow to fourteen and a second conference, the North Atlantic Conference, was added. The Seacoast Hawks from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Southern Maine Raging Bulls, the York County Warchiefs, the Beachside Tomcats from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, the Granite State Rebels from Manchester, New Hampshire and the Nashua Predators comprised two very strong divisions, the inland and coastal, with the Seacoast Hawks winning the North Atlantic Conference championship. 2000 also brought the merger of the Lawrence Lightning with the Greater Haverhill Highlanders and the Rockingham Cougars with the Eastern Mass Mavericks. The Bellingham Minutemen, headed by former New England Patriots, Steve Grogan, Ronnie Lippett and Mosi Tatupu, also joined the NEFL. The Bay State Bulldogs changed their name to the Commonwealth Cavalry and the Mass Havoc and Quincy Granite dropped out of the league.

The Greater Lowell Nor’easter became the first team in the history of the NEFL to win three consecutive championships by again defeating the Tri-Boro Rhinos in a rematch of the NEFL’s 1998 championship game. Unfortunately, the Nor’easter were unable to defend their N.A.F.A. title when this time, they were defeated by the Buffalo Gladiators, champions of the N.Y.A.F.L., in a rematch of last years Harvest Bowl.

2001

In 2001, the NEFL expanded into Vermont with the Ice Storm and added another team from the state of Maine, the Western Maine Rolling Thunder. The Eastern Mass Mavericks folded due to financial reasons, the Commonwealth Cavalry, under new management, changed its name to the Leominster Razorbacks and the Tri-Boro Rhinos took a one year leave of absence to reorganize to bring the total number of teams in the NEFL to fifteen.

New England Stars 2001 team photo

The Boston Bandits, the league’s oldest member, defeated defending three time league champion, the Greater Lowell Nor’easter, for their first New England Football League title. The Nor’easter would exact their revenge in the first round of the N.A.F.A. playoffs as they rebounded and defeated the Bandits for a return trip to the N.A.F.A. Championship Game. The Nor’easter went on to face the Buffalo Gladiators for the third time in three years, this time traveling to Buffalo for the Harvest Bowl. For the second time in two years, the Nor’easter came up just short as they were once again defeated by the Gladiators. The Southern Maine Raging Bulls became champions of the North Atlantic Conference when they defeated the expansion Vermont Ice Storm, a team that had a very successful first year.

2002

In 2002 the NEFL become the first league in the country to accommodate teams at three different skill levels in three conferences, in addition to adding three new teams: the Monadnock Marauders, the Western Mass Wolverines and the Connecticut Thunder. The Tri-Boro Rhinos made their return to the league and the Western Maine Rolling Thunder, under new management, was now the Notre Dame Cobras, bringing the total number of teams in the NEFL to nineteen, encompassing all six New England states.

Seacoast Hawks vs. Leominster Razorbacks

Our Maritime Conference (A) had the first year Connecticut Thunder win the championship, defeating the York County (Maine) Warchiefs in the new conference’s first ever title game. The North Atlantic Conference (AA) saw the Vermont Ice Storm playing in its second championship game in as many years, defeat the New England Stars for their first championship. The NEFL’s marquee Colonial Conference (AAA) featured the Boston Bandits and the Greater Lowell Nor’easter play in a rematch of the 2001 finals. This time, the Nor’easter defeated the Bandits in the NEFL’s first ever overtime championship game and claim their fourth NEFL title. Greater Lowell then went on to capture its third N.A.F.A. national championship title when they defeated the Brooklyn Mariners in Harvest Bowl IV.

2003

In 2003, the New England Football League undertook its largest expansion since the 1996 season. Four new teams joined the NEFL. The South Shore Outlaws became the newest entry into the (AA) North Atlantic Conference and the Central Maine Shockers, Penobscot Seadragons and Maine Blizzard were placed in the (A) Maritime Conference. The Greater Haverhill Highlanders, under new team management, changed their name to the Merrimack Valley Crush.

The Seacoast Hawks defeated the Maine Tomcats to become NEFL (A) Maritime Conference champions, and the New England Stars defeated the Connecticut Thunder to become champions of the NEFL (AA) North Atlantic Conference. The (AAA) Colonial Conference saw two long time rivals battle it out in the championship game for a third time when the Boston Bandits played the Greater Lowell Nor’easter. The Bandits beat the Nor’easter for their second league title in three years. The Bandits and the Nor’easter, along with the Crush, were all unfortunately defeated in the first round of the N.A.F.A. play-offs with the Bandits losing to the eventual National Champion, Brooklyn Mariners, and the Nor’easter losing to the runner-up, Irondquoit Sting. The Maine Blizzard left the league at the end of the 2003 season.

Seacoast Hawks, 2003 Maritime Champions

2004

The 2004 season saw four more new teams enter the league, the Worcester County Wildcats, and the Massachusetts State Warriors, based out of Holyoke, Massachusetts, became the two latest (AA) entries into the North Atlantic Conference, and the Mid Coast Chaos from Maine and the Southern Rhode Island Raptors were the two newest entries into our (A) Maritime Conference. The New England Stars with new management changed their name to the New England Bolts.

Once again the Greater Lowell Nor’easter took home the championship trophy in the Colonial Conference making it number five, defeating the Leominster Razorbacks. In the North Atlantic Conference, the Connecticut Thunder beat the Vermont Ice Storm for their first (AA) title. The Maritime Conference, in a game for the ages, saw the Hampton Hurricanes defeat the Central Maine Shockers in overtime for Hampton’s first championship.

The Greater Lowell Nor’easter and the Connecticut Thunder both advanced to the semi-final and quarter final rounds of the N.A.F.A. tournament respectively, but unfortunately, both teams came up just short in those regional play-off games. This was a tremendous accomplishment for both teams, considering the fierce competition in the Harvest Bowl tournament, particularly for Connecticut, a (AA) team playing in a (AAA) tournament.

2005

The 2005 season was a record setting one for the NEFL in terms of expansion. For the first time in our history, we had five new teams enter the league. The Ocean State Vipers from Rhode Island were added to our Colonial Conference, the Whaling City Clippers out of New Bedford, Massachusetts became the latest entry into our North Atlantic Conference, and the Hillsboro County Devils from Manchester, New Hampshire, the Southern New England Rage of Mansfield, Massachusetts, and the Connecticut Storm, a (A) affiliate of the (AAA) Connecticut Thunder, all joined our Maritime Conference. The Tri-Boro Rhinos were granted a one year leave of absence before the start of the season. The Vermont Ice Storm and the Bay State Rolling Thunder left the league at the conclusion of the 2005 season.

Connecticut Thunder 2005 team photo

The three champions that were crowned were the Boston Bandits who won their third NEFL title defeating the 2004 defending champion Greater Lowell Nor’easter in the Colonial Conference, the Seacoast Hawks defeated the South Shore Outlaws to claim their first North Atlantic Conference title to go along with their two Maritime Conference championships, and the Southern Rhode Island Raptors beat the Penobscot Seadragons to win their first Maritime Conference championship.

Boston Bandits, 2005 Colonial Conference Champions

The NEFL sent five of its teams to the 2005 N.A.F.A. tournament. The Greater Lowell Nor’easter, the Merrimack Valley Crush, the Seacoast Hawks, and the South Shore Outlaws all played well, but were eliminated in first round games. The Boston Bandits made it to the N.A.F.A. semi-final game where they were narrowly defeated by the Buffalo Gladiators.

2006

In 2006, the NEFL added six new teams. The Medford Mighty Mustangs and the North Shore Generals joined our Colonial Conference, the Eastern Maine Fighting Warriors and the Mill City Maulers joined our North Atlantic Conference, and the Granite State Demons and Southern New Hampshire Beavers joined our Maritime Conference.

The Notre Dame Cobras went undefeated during the regular season and went on to claim their first ever Maritime Conference Championship with a win over the Southern New England Rage. The North Attleboro Renegades defeated the expansion Mill City Maulers in the North Atlantic Conference Championship game to give the Renegades their first ever championship. In the Colonial Conference, the Boston Bandits won their fourth league title by once again beating the Greater Lowell Nor’easter who was their opponent in five NEFL title games.

North Attleboro Renegades, 2006 North Atlantic Champions

The Boston Bandits did not go on to play in the 2006 Harvest Bowl tournament because of a schedule conflict and the Greater Lowell Nor’easter lost in the first round to the eventual champion Brooklyn Mariners.

2007

The 2007 season saw eight new teams enter the NEFL, the largest expansion the league has ever undertaken. The Middleboro Cobras, one of the oldest and most successful semi-professional, minor league football teams in the country, with numerous championships, joined our “AAA” Colonial Conference, along with the Quincy/Weymouth Sharks. The Middlesex Mayhem and Northeastern Knights were placed in our “AA” North Atlantic Conference, and the Southern Vermont Storm, the Middletown Connecticut Spartans, the Kennebec Valley Tigers and the Tri-City Charge became the newest members of our “A” Maritime Conference. 2007 also saw the Pennobscot Seadragons merge with the Eastern Maine Fighting Warriors, the Medford Mustangs merge with the North Shore Generals, and the Seacoast Hawks merge with the Merrimack Valley Crush who changed their name to the New England Hawks.

Middlesex Mayhem

The Maritime Conference Championship was won by longtime NEFL member Leominster Razorbacks by defeating the upstart Kennebec Valley Tigers in one of the best Maritime Conference championship games in recent league history. The Whaling City Clippers defeated the Mill City Maulers for the “AA” North Atlantic Conference Title in a thrilling game that was won by the Clippers in the first NEFL championship game to ever be decided in overtime. The Middleboro Cobras and Greater Lowell Nor’easter played for the “AAA” Colonial Conference championship with the Cobras defeating the Nor’easter in a game that saw two of the best semi-professional, minor football league teams in the Northeastern region of the United States, playing down to the final minutes to determine a champion.

The Middleboro Cobras elected to forego their seed in the Harvest Bowl Tournament because of travel and instead played the Brockton Buccaneers in a Massachusetts regional game that the Cobras won handedly. The Greater Lowell Nor’easter defeated the Charlestown Townies in the first round of the Harvest Bowl Tournament, but unfortunately lost in a close game the next week to the Brooklyn Mariners, who then went on to win the Harvest Bowl Championship.

2008

2008 saw many changes for the New England Football League. The Northeast Hurricanes, the Northeastern Knights, the Middlesex Mayhem, the Eastern Maine Fighting Warriors and the Southern Rhode Island Raptors all merged with various teams within the NEFL The league also added nine new teams. The Connecticut Bearcats, the Connecticut Gamblers and the Central Mass Fury were added to the “AA” North Atlantic Conference. The Northern Berkshire Kings, the New Hampshire Wolfpack, the Vermont Ravens, the Central Vermont Rampage and the Green Mountain Mud Dogs were all added to the “A” Maritime Conference. The Pioneer Valley Demons from Ware, Massachusetts were placed in the new NEFL2, which was introduced in 2008 as the NEFL developmental league designed to be a cost-effective way to develop teams and/or players for the NEFL

All three conferences were extremely competitive all season long, but in the end the three league champions for 2008 were the Middleboro Cobras once again defeating the Greater Lowell Nor’easter in a very close Colonial Conference “AAA” championship game, giving the Cobras back to back titles; the Whaling City Clippers also winning their second consecutive “AA” North Atlantic Conference championship, defeating the Bay State Renegades in a game that came down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter; and the Tri-City Charge in our “A” Maritime Conference defeated the Connecticut Spartans for their first NEFL title. The Charge became the first team in NEFL history to go from a 0-8 season one year to an 11-0 season the following year.

Tri-City Charge, 2008 Maritime Champions

The Greater Lowell Nor’easter, the Colonial Conference runner-up, accepted an invitation by the U.S.F.A. and N.F.E. to play in the Florida Bowl on National Bowl Weekend in Deland, Florida on January 17-18, 2009 where they defeated the Hardin County Wolverines from Kentucky of the Mid-Continental Football League (M.C.F.L.) 20-16.

2009

The 2009 season had the NEFL add four new teams to the league. The Ocean State Vipers from Rhode Island returned to the league after two years and made their presence felt in the “AAA” Colonial Conference. The Metro-West Colonials from the Framingham/Natick area were added to our “AA” North Atlantic Conference, solidifying the NEFL’s presence in central Massachusetts. The Tri-County Fightin’ Sprites from Woodstock, Connecticut and the Southern Connecticut Sting from New London, an affiliate of the Connecticut Thunder, were placed in our “A” Maritime Conference, along with the Pioneer Valley Indians, who moved up from our development league, the NEFL2. The Green Mountain Mud Dogs and the Mid Coast Chaos folded before the season, and the Kennebec Valley Tigers had their membership revoked midway through the season by the NEFL Board of Directors.

North Shore Generals vs Connecticut Gamblers

The “AAA” Championship was won by the Greater Lowell Nor’easter who defeated the Connecticut Bearcats that had moved up from our “AA” North Atlantic Conference. This victory gave the Nor’easter an unprecedented sixth league title. The NEFL’s “AA” Championship Game had the North Shore Generals pitted against the Tri-City Charge in their first year of “AA” play. Tri-City defeated North Shore to claim a North Atlantic Conference Championship to go along with their “A” Maritime Championship from the previous season. The Maritime Conference title game was played between the New Hampshire Wolfpack of Concord and the Vermont Ravens of Barre and saw the Wolfpack win their first “A” championship title. In the first ever NEFL2 championship game, the Connecticut Spartans developmental team defeated the Woonsocket Wardogs to cap off a very successful first season.

New Hampshire Wolfpack, 2009 Maritime Champions

The NEFL was once again represented very well at both the regional and national level by the Greater Lowell Nor’easter. The Nor’easter claimed their fourth Harvest Bowl regional championship by defeating the Albany, NY Metro Maulers and then once again ventured down to Deland, Florida to play in the National Championship Florida Bowl on National Bowl Weekend. Although being the #1 ranked “AAA” level team in the nation by the Minor League Football News, the Nor’easter were defeated by the New Jersey Buccaneers by a score of 32-13. The Nor’easter was deemed runner up in the National Football Events Championship for 2009.