The Central Texas Apaches suffered a close, emotional 19-18 loss on Saturday to the North Texas Stampede, but the good news is, it’s only pre-season and the Apaches should still be very, very good this year.
“These guys have a genuine love for the game, so we’re going to be fine, absolutely fine” Apaches defensive coordinator Dale Oliver told Developmental Football USA. “We just have to continue to get practice in, keep our heads high and we’ll be fine.”
Quarterback Rocc White and running back L.J. Holmes showed last night why big things are expected out of them on the field this year for Central Texas.
“Rocc White, he is the offensive captain,” Oliver said. “He commanded the field and moved the ball around, even when plays looked like they were going to shut down, he made due with what he had and he placed the ball very well.
“I have to tip my hat off to our running back No. 1, L.J Holmes. He put the offense on his back, made that run in the fourth quarter of 60-plus yards to move us down within scoring range. I looked at him before that offensive drive, when we were going to the huddle, all we had to do was look at each other and he knew what he had to do.”
Holmes finished with 125 yards on the ground last night against a very good North Texas Stampede defense that had pitched two consecutive shut outs going into Saturday.
“I firmly believe he is one of the best backs in this league,” Oliver said. “He moved around, in between the tackles, outside, he was breaking tackles, making people miss.”
In the passing game, the Apaches will look for Rod Anderson to continue to have the type of games like he had on Saturday.
“He made a couple of premiere catches, especially the touchdown,” Oliver said. “There in the fourth quarter, he made a very vital catch that took us from about the 25-yard line to from within 10 yards of the pylon.”
Defensively, Central Texas has a very solid secondary, led by free safety Marcus McNeil, who also had a big game against the Stampede.
“He came out and he led the team in tackles last night, which normally we don’t see that,” Oliver said. “He also had an interception in the first quarter that changed the pace of the game. Whether it was in the first quarter or the fourth, that was a complete eye-opener for the Stampede.
“He plays both ways, he caught a couple of passes tonight on fourth down and third down situations and he made key blocks outside to spring L.J. loose.”
Strong side linebacker Eric Reaves is another force on defense for the Apaches and he finished No. 2 in tackles on Saturday against North Texas.
“The man is a hammer,” Oliver said. “Whenever he’s coming downhill, if your head is not on a swivel, it’s going to get knocked off. I’d somewhat compare it to a freight train, possibly hitting a Styrofoam wall. He played very well, kept contain and in coverage, he was great.”
On the defensive line, it looks like a star could be emerging before our eyes and he wasn’t even a starter going into Saturday night’s game.
“Another core guy that kind of stepped up to the plate was Pete Sosa,” Oliver said. “He’s a young cat that we brought on. He’s definitely learning, but that boy, we had our starting defensive end go down with a neck injury and he came in and had five tackles. He definitely gave the Stampede a run for their money. He did exactly what he was told, which was be coachable, learn and get better. He played his heart out tonight. At the end of the game, he only had one thing to say to me and it was: ‘That’s all I needed coach, was a chance.’”
Another key player for the Apaches defensively is Buddy Love, who Oliver considers one of his captains.
“He has more heart and more drive,” Oliver said. “He did not come off the field last night. He played every defensive down, because he has no quit, not even an ounce. He puts himself on the line for his team and makes sure that his team stays up, does not get down on themselves and everybody stays with the best mind frame possible. Not to mention, he’s a tremendous athlete, with size, strength and mobility to boot.”
Central Texas is amped up for their season-opener in two weeks against the DeSoto Tarantulas.
“They were on the sidelines last night, about 10-15 of them, they were watching,” Oliver said. “They know now that we are not a force to be reckoned with, but a force to be feared.”
Oliver believes the Tarantulas are one of the main teams they will need to get through if they’re going to finish this season off with a championship ring.
“Looking at it right now, I believe we’ve got the DFW Diamondbacks, who are a very formidable opponent,” Oliver said. “Other than that, I really think the Tarantulas. You ask any player for the Central Texas Apaches, and they want the DeSoto Tarantulas more than anybody and that’s why they showed up today. They want them bad and the 25th could not come any sooner for the Apaches.”