The Fayetteville Commandos take what they do seriously, and that showed up on the field this past weekend against the North Carolina Seminoles. Led by quarterback Ryan Bach and an extremely opportunistic defense, Fayetteville started the 2017 season strong with a 44-0 win.
Bach threw five touchdowns for the Commandos and running back Nate Williams punched in two on the ground. Of course, the goose egg the defense put up really stands out, especially when considering the fact that it was the first game of the season, and Fayetteville’s first year in a new league: the United Independent Football League.
The Commando defense forced five turnovers, and it’s a unit that owner and coach Alan Caudell is very excited about this season. Two-time all-star, safety Chris Cooper, is expected to play a huge role.
“He’s one of those guys, he just has a natural head for the football,” Caudell explained. “He came to us having never played high school football and he just naturally has a nose for the ball. He’s very coachable and listens to everything we teach him, whether it’s taking a punt back or taking off a receivers head, he’s there.”
The Commandos also rely on converted wideout Greg Hardy at outside linebacker. He’s another defender Caudell spoke highly of.
“He has a little bit of a learning curve having never played much defense, but he’s been a very hard hitter and he’s done a great job setting the edge for us so far.”
Rounding out the superstars on the defensive side of the ball for Fayetteville is cornerback Branton Heard, who’s one of the team’s veterans. “He doesn’t get tested a lot because they usually try to go to the other side of the field, but when they do test him, more times than not, he’s going to come away with the football,” Caudell explained.
But don’t forget about the offense…
Obviously, Bach is expected to be a big-time player for the Commandos at quarterback, and if game one’s production was any indication, there’s a good chance he could be one of the best players in the league by the time all is said and one. Last season, in the United Carolina/Coastal Football League, Bach — who’s an active soldier in the U.S. Army — threw 35 touchdowns, and keep in mind he only played three complete games because Fayetteville was on the winning end of a number of blowouts.
Wideout Christo Rogers was a major part of Bach’s production last season, catching over 100 passes. He entered this season as the returning catch, touchdown and yards leader for the Commandoes.
“He’s one of those guys that will go up and get the ball regardless of what kind of coverage we’re in,” Caudell said.
Frankie Will-El, a slot receiver, is another player the Commandoes are really excited about in 2017. He’s moved from defense to offense, which is a more natural fit for him, and he’s expected to have a huge year.
A unique mission
The Commandos, as you’ve probably guessed, have a strong military presence. Fort Bragg is a mere 20 minutes up the road from Fayetteville, and about half of the team are active duty military or military veterans. That presents a unique problem for Caudell and the Commandos, in that there’s always some turnover because of military duty. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.
“Every year we have to reload certain positions and that also gives us the ability to have players that have that experience,” he explained.
Because of that, over the years the Commandos have been lucky to land some players who have played big-time college football. Of course, the leadership experience of being in the military is invaluable as well.
The team also believes in giving back to the military community.
“We go visit the VA around veterans day and hang out with the guys that are in long-term care,” the owner explained. The team has also taken part in a fundraiser game for a local autism society, a breast awareness game and this season they’re going to be hosting a 5K on the morning of the game. The local children’s home is also positively impacted by the team, and a group called the “Bicycle Man Foundation”, which donates bikes for Christmas, also has a working relationship with the organization.
Faith, Family, Football
That’s the motto the Commandos hold on to off the field — and on the field as well — and it’s something that Caudell feels very passionate about as the owner.
“We know everyone playing has a love for this game, but we want to make sure we all keep our priorities straight,” he explained. “Faith first, so that everything will be good with God. Then your family must be taken care of and finally football. Lastly, we explain our mantra with not only is it faith in God, but faith in your brothers and coaches, which is your family in football.”