EAST LAKE — Football season is steadily rampant throughout the youth and high school circuits in the East Lake-Tarpon Springs areas, but there’s a team on the adult level not many have heard much about and will be heading into their third season.
The East Lake War Eagles, a semi-pro team run by Gulf High School graduate Jason Nielsen, have reached the postseason in its first two seasons of existence. Now heading into their third campaign and joining a new league, the Florida Football Alliance, the War Eagles are soaring towards high expectations this winter.
Based in Boynton Beach, the FFA is the oldest semi-pro football league in the state.
“Expectations are higher than ever, each of the last two seasons we have expanded our talent base tremendously and our brand has followed suit,” War Eagles LLC CEO Nielsen said. “This year especially we are more proud of the staff that we have put together than anything. Interviewing more than 20 coaches this summer was not a particularly fun process but necessary to ensure we put the best product on the field as possible.”
The War Eagles play their home games at the East Lake Sports Complex, off Keystone Road, and have played all their home contests there the last couple of seasons.
East Lake has several former prep standouts dotted along its roster, including former Gulf High players J.D. Ramirez, Chris Mauritzen, David Williams and Austin Jackson.
Another familiar area local who helps with the team is former NFL’er Leon Orr, who is the defensive line coach for the War Eagles.
Orr, another former Gulf Buccaneer, played for the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins during his time in the NFL. Nielsen says the former University of Florida standout has been a welcoming addition to the program. The War Eagles’ head coach is Scott Mirto, who was the team’s defensive coordinator last year.
“Leon has been a great addition,” Nielsen said of Orr. “So, recently removed from the NFL and with his dream still alive, he's been able to provide a unique perspective for the players. At one hand he's in a position they inspire to be, and he does the drills with the players so they feel a level of inclusion that otherwise wouldn't be present. Leon is very particular with hand placement, footwork, and technique as it's been his main focus while working on his own game.”.