Last season, the DeSoto Tarantulas showed themselves as arguably the most improved developmental football team in the Texas United Football League, if not the entire Lone Star State. Don’t look for them to tap the brakes any in 2017 either.
“This is probably the most talented bunch I’ve ever been around in semipro and I’ve been in semipro for ten years now,” Tarantulas head coach Giorgio Bostice told Developmental Football USA. “This is my third year coaching and this is by far the most talented team I’ve been around.”
Last year the Tarantulas finished 10-2 and so far in 2017 they have breezed through their pre-season schedule against some middle-of-the-road type teams in the Dallas Vikings and Garland Aztecs of the Minor Professional Football League, as well as the Oklahoma Chargers of the Xtreme Football League of Oklahoma.
This weekend, the developmental football world will learn a lot more about the Tarantulas as they face the Dallas Panthers, which looks to be a way-ahead-of-schedule first-year team. Saturday marks their final tune-up game before they crawl out of their web and into their TUFL schedule to begin their title hunt.
Could this be the year of the Tarantula? Does DeSoto have the right pieces in place to win their first ever league championship?
“I believe we do, but at the same time, I try not to think ahead like that,” Bostice said. “We literally try to take everything one game at a time. We’ve got a pre-season game this weekend against the Panthers, then we open up the season Feb. 25 against the Central Texas Apaches. I’d like to see us in the championship, that’s where we should be, talent wise. As long as everything gels together and everybody plays their part, then we’ll be fine.”
While the Tarantulas should do very well this season, they’ll also have to knock out some other very good teams if they hope to bring home some hardware.
“There’s the returning champs, the North Texas Mustangs of Wichita Falls,” Bostice said. “They’re a very good team, deep on offense, deep on defense, very talented. They’ll definitely be back. We don’t play them in the regular season, we won’t see them until the playoffs and hopefully, if everybody does everything right will be in the championship game.
“Another team is the DFW Diamondbacks. We split with them last year 1-1, I want to say both games were decided by seven points or less. They’re a talented bunch and they play well together.”
A vital part of the Tarantulas making a championship a reality is keeping their players healthy through the long season. The prolific DeSoto offense has several stars, but three standouts are the lifeblood of their success, the silk of their web.
“Delenzia Turner-Green, he is my joker,” Bostice said. “He literally does everything, from receiver to running back, kick returner, punt returner, the kid is literally special. Anywhere on the field he can impact the game.
“Our running back Julius Wiliams, he’s a veteran. He’s been around for, I think, 12 seasons. He’s kind of like Turner-Green minus the returner aspect. He can play slot, catch it and turn up the middle or he can run it inside or outside. He knows everything, in any situation in football.”
The numbers these two and the rest of the Tarantulas offense put up will largely depend on how well the offensive line plays and that unit is led by center Justin Eudy.
“He’s a captain on the team,” Bostice said. “He literally controls everything up front. He knows every part of the offense, he controls the run game, he controls the passing game. He’s a huge piece of our offense.”
On the defensive side of the ball, several veterans return from last year’s TUFL Semifinalist squad and the Tarantulas should shut down many offenses they go up again.
Up front on the defensive line, big things are expected out of 2016 sack leader (16 ½ sacks), defensive end Timothy Crownover.
“He plays with a high motor, with good hands,” Bostice said. “He’s a smart kid. He’s young, though, but he plays that way too. He plays full of emotion and he’s a good kid.”
At the next level, look for middle linebacker and 2016 tackles leader (90 tackles) Larrie Moore to have another big season for DeSoto.
“He controls everything up front on our defense,” Bostice said. “He does everything. He covers well, he plays the run well and he can get after the quarterback.”
Lastly, on the secondary, 2016 interceptions leader (eight interceptions) Marty Barnett returns from last year and looks to surpass his mark from one year ago.
“He’s a smart corner and he’s aggressive,” Bostice said. “He’s a little undersized for a corner but he plays very well.”
With the leaders from 2016 returning at each unit, look for many ball-carriers to get stuck in the Tarantulas web as the defense preys on them.
These six standouts are just a few of the many talented athletes DeSoto has to work with and the depth of this team will be vital in making it to the TUFL Championship.
If you know anything about Texas high school football or if you follow college football recruiting, then you should be familiar with DeSoto High School, where the Eagles are always a topic of conversation for producing college athletes.
Having this local powerhouse program is also a major reason the Tarantulas have been able to make leaps and bounds forward in their short history.
“We have 25 guys on our team that actually graduated from DeSoto High School,” Bostice said. “With DeSoto being so good, they had like 26 guys get a scholarship offer. We have a couple of guys that have gotten scholarship offers that have gone to DeSoto, but our ultimate goal is to get the rest of these guys an opportunity to play somewhere.
“We try to get them to another level as fast as possible,” Bostice said. “There are guys that went to Desoto that have the talent, that should be somewhere else and that’s our goal to push them to that next level as soon as possible.”
Since last year, two Tarantulas have already moved up in their football careers. The first one to get a shot at the next level was former Baylor and West Texas A&M cornerback Braelon Davis.
“Braelon left last year in the middle of our season to play for the Green Bay Blizzard (of the Indoor Football League),” Bostice said. “They signed him in the middle of our season last year. Eric Harper, he’s currently on the Texas Revolution (of Champions Indoor Football). The year before was Braelon, this year was Eric Harper, he just joined the Revolution.”
Harper played linebacker collegiately for Grambling State University.
While these two had prior college football backgrounds, it’s just a matter of time before the Tarantulas help some talented young men get their first opportunity and right now there are several candidates.
“Delenzia Turner-Green, Chris Atchison-Lee, Dwaine Guyton, Timothy Crownover and JaQuan Mills all should be going to another level, they are that talented,” Bostice said. “Atchison-Lee had a tryout with the Dallas Marshals and he’ll probably get signed by the Revolution mid-season.”
In addition to helping young football players advance their careers, the Tarantulas also make a local impact in their community in various ways.
“We do benefit games, so far we did the Turkey Bowl where we donated everything that came in, canned goods, turkey and we donated to a couple shelters,” Bostice said. “We also did a Toys for Tots Bowl, we donated the proceed from that one to DeSoto High School along with Dallas Children’s Medical Center and that’s our third year doing that.
“We also hold a youth football camp during the summer time with people in DeSoto.”