Around the state of Texas, many of the top developmental football teams are located in cities that have rich traditions of Texas high school football. That being said, it only makes sense for the Stephenville area to have a strong developmental football team.
“I started this team because you have the Stephenville Yellow Jackets – they’ve got several high school state championships,” Coyotes owner Jase Schumacher told Developmental Football USA. “I’m also in the same town as Tarleton State University – they’ve always got outstanding athletes too. There’s a lot of talent around us that doesn’t go anywhere and they still want to play ball.”
In just their first season, the Erath County Coyotes have earned respect in the Texas United Football League on the way to a 7-3 record. Now, on Saturday, the Coyotes (7-3) will host their first-ever playoff game when the DFW Diamondbacks come to town (7-3).
“It’s going to be a defensive war,” Schumacher said. “The Diamondbacks, they’ve played in a very tough division and I’ve heard their defense is phenomenal, so I just hope I can make the adjustments that are needed, move the ball and punch it in a few times.”
As a city, the name Stephenville might not carry the same weight as a Dallas, Houston or Austin, but as a football town in Texas, Stephenville is much higher up the list. However, people that don’t follow Texas high school football probably don’t know that, and for the Coyotes, that’s worked to their advantage.
“Since it was our first year and since Stephenville is kind of out in the county, out in the boondocks, everyone didn’t think we would stand a chance,” Schumacher said. “Our very first game up in Wichita Falls against the Bullsharks was a 46-6 win, so that kind of let everybody know that this is a football community and we know how to play.”
Later on, Erath County turned some heads when they gave the defending champion North Texas Mustangs (10-0) a solid game.
“My favorite was when we played the Mustangs – the defending champs – and we only lost to them by one score, I think eight points,” Schumacher said. “That let me know that I’ve got a good, solid team.”
The Coyotes are led by their defense, which in just their first year has gotten a solid reputation around the league.
“Defense wise, our defense is outstanding,” Schumacher said. “I would truly say that’s why we’re 7-3 is because of our defense. The leader of the defense, I’d have to said is my nose guard Chris Hannon, he’s 6-foot-6, 280-pounds. Then, I’ve got two solid defensive ends and I’ve got six linebackers that are just phenomenal, pretty much just bulldogs on chains waiting to be unleashed.”
Other than the love of the game of football itself, developmental football teams exist to send players to the next level and in just their first season, the Coyotes have gotten to be part of a unique story.
“My strong safety, Blake Watson, just signed paper work and he’s going to be playing at Texas A&M now,” Schumacher said. “He’s going to be a walk-on, from what I know. I had to do an affidavit for him to let the school know we don’t pay our players because that’s against NCAA rules.
“He’s from Tolar, just an astounding athlete, extremely fast and very dedicated. This kid works out in the gym about six days a week. Tolar is maybe 800 people. Small towns don’t get looked at really, so he comprised a bunch of game film from the season and sent it to them and they definitely liked what they saw.”
One standout among the solid group of linebackers is outside linebacker Dylan Turner, who also starts at running back.
“He averages about four or five turnovers per game, that’s pick or forced fumbles,” Schumacher said. “In high school, he was the MVP of the high school bowl game they had as a running back. I had no idea, he never told me. He always said he wanted to play defense and he somehow finds a way to track that ball down and get it.”
Turner also stands out on offense, along with slot receiver John Cherry.
“Six-man legend John Cherry, he’s also the athletic director and head football coach for Calvert,” Schumacher said. “That boy’s got six rings on one hand, ranging from high school himself to six-man semipro to coaching.
“He went to an Austin combine and he was fixing to sign a contract to go to China to play ball, then he got offered that head coach and AD job and had to turn it down.”
Behind center, quarterback Richard Chaney leads the Coyote offense and has been a nice surprise for Erath County as a gunslinger.
“He’s an Army vet that lives in Granbury,” Schumacher said. “He started out at running back and then we moved him to quarterback. That’s when we were 3-3, then we improved to 4-3, 5-3, 6-3. That’s when we went on the winning streak, when we moved him to quarterback and Dylan to running back.”
There’s two teams in particular the confident Coyotes want to face if they can knock off the Diamondbacks on Saturday.
“I really hope we run into the Mustangs again,” Schumacher said. “Each time we’ve played them, it’s gotten closer and closer. This time I think we could get them. I really want to play the DeSoto Tarantulas, they’re an outstanding team and to be the best you’ve got to play the best. Those are really the two teams I’m looking forward to playing.”