Marshall, Texas, looks to make some noise on the developmental football level this season as the Arch Angels begin their first ever season in the Texas United Football League.
Last year, the city of roughly 25,000 was home to the Marshall Rattlesnakes, which went 5-6 in 2016 as members of the the TUFL, but closed doors following the season. On that Rattlesnakes staff was Dez Andrus, who saw a world of potential in the type of team Marshall could field and he wasn’t ready to hang it up just yet.
Now owner and head coach of the Arch Angels, Andrus and his team look to start a new chapter and raise the standard set by the Rattlesnakes one year ago.
“Our main goal this year is to step it up from last year,” Andrus told Developmental Football USA. “Right now, we’re trying to get the chemistry together as far as getting everybody out, getting them serious about what we’re doing, and getting them to buy into the philosophy we’re preaching on the field.”
Andrus has put together a coaching staff, which includes offensive coordinator Nick Lewis, offensive assistant Garry Powell, special teams coordinator and defensive assistant Clarence Haggerty and defensive assistant Philip Campbell. The team is helped out by trainers Jasmine and Ashley Jackson and treasurer Samantha Andrus.
“Nicholas Lewis, he’s a great offensive coordinator and he’s making a big difference with what we’re doing,” Andrus said. “We’re trying to build from what the Rattlesnakes did last year.”
The Rattlesnakes lost in the first round of the TUFL 2016 playoffs, 35-13, to the North Texas Mustangs.
“Last year, they kind of got their feet wet,” Andrus said. “They did a phenomenal job playing ball and sticking together. We made the playoffs, but got put out in the first round. This year, we feel with what we have, we can take the whole thing this year.
“All we’ve got to do is stay dedicated to the game, put the work in and be real tedious about what we do. These guys are real dedicated in what they do. They trust me, I trust them, they trust my coaching staff and we’re banking on God, that’s why we’re the Arch Angels, there’s no better place to stand on than the Most High.”
The Arch Angels offensive attack starts at quarterback, where they are fortunate enough to have a TUFL All-Star leading the charge.
“Right now, we have our quarterback-slash-receiver Alandric Tutt,” Andrus said. “He’s a second-year player. He made it to the TUFL all-star game last year. He’s a very dynamic guy with speed, he can jump, he can throw, he’s good guy head wise, and he understands the game real well.”
Joining Tutt in the backfield is another play maker, running back Nolan Allen.
“Nolan might be 5-foot-2, if not shorter, but he’s real strong and real quick,” Andrus said. “He gets four or five yards per carry. He’s a real smart guy, dedicated, and just a really good player.”
How prolific Tutt, Allen and company are offensively will rely heavily on the level of push and protection the offensive line can provide and that unit is headed up by Jason Franklin.
“He’s a real good guy, very dedicated,” Andrus said. “He plays left tackle and right tackle. He’s awesome and understands how to break down the d-line and the linebackers, making calls and just being a leader on our offense.”
Those three and the rest of the offense look to rack up points on the scoreboard in Mavericks Stadium at Marshall High School, which will be their home field.
Defensively, end Darius Brightman looks to lead the charge on the defensive line and build on what he did one year ago.
“He had a bunch of sacks last year,” Andrus said. “He’s a leader. He’s the first one on the field and the last one off the field. He’s level-headed as far as listening to what needs to be done. He picks up on what we want to do as far as our stunts and he also plays tight end on our offense.”
The linebacker unit is led by one of the Arch Angels’ best athletes, Brandon Richardson, who Coach Andrus believes has next level potential.
“He plays outside linebacker and sometimes nickelback in certain defenses,” Andrus said. “He also plays fullback and running back as well. He’s a real athletic young man, real stout muscle wise. He’s a big hitter. Some of these guys I believe have futures at the next level, like arena league or CFL or maybe the NFL if someone works with them and helps them hone their talent. They already have the skills.”
Last, but not least, look for strong safety Rapheal Hendrix to lead the defensive backfield for Marshall, alongside free safety Justin Singleton – who had 12 interceptions and returned three for touchdowns, as well as three punts, last season.
“We run a lot of Cover 2 defense, so he’s playing up top,” Andrus said. “He’s super aggressive. He ran a good 40 time this year. He’s super aggressive, smart, understands coverages and has great technique with tackling and great character. He’s one of my player representatives.”
While the Arch Angels exist primarily for the love of the game, Andrus also hopes his team will help young men continue their football careers. One player he feels has a great chance to do so is former Marshall High School standout running back Chavis Mills.
“The dude is in good shape and has great health,” Andrus said. “He’s a very coachable kid. I told him if nothing else works out, we would love to have him, but I really feel like he can come somewhere else for school and play, if not start, for some school.
“I believe he has all of his eligibility. He’s a great kid. Don’t get me wrong, semipro is great, we have a lot of fun, but this kid has a future ahead of him and I know it. I would love to see him go out and perform and have the opportunity to do what he needs to do.”