As the 2017 regular season winds down, the First City Cavalry of Leavenworth, Kan., is sitting in good shape at 4-2 in just their second season. However, they will have their work cut out for them when they host the top team in the league this Saturday as the Metro Militia comes down from Omaha, Neb., ranked No.1 in the American Conference at 5-0.
“We expect a hard-hitting chess match,” Cavalry general manager and head coach Thomas Cottingham told Developmental Football USA. “Both teams are coached very well and we really look forward to competing at a very high level Saturday.”
Despite not having the best record, First City is atop the standings in their conference because the Central Plains Football League bases its standings off of point differential. While the Cavalry is much improved from one year ago – when they finished 5-5 and snuck into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth – they still haven’t reached their full potential.
However, it’s obvious they have made strides from last year and that solid turnaround can be credited to the team’s off-season recruiting efforts, headed up by Cottingham.
“I’ve been recruiting for seven or eight months leading up to our season,” Cottingham told Developmental Football USA. “We’re only allowed to dress 32 players per game, that’s we’re limited to have on our roster. We have about 36 guys that are with the team and we work guys in and out. If we have a game we know is going to be a blowout game then we’ll dress guys that wouldn’t normally play and get them in.
“As far as talent goes, we made a big step this off-season, we upgraded our uniforms and that brought in more talent. If they look good they’ll play good.”
Quarterback Trent Thompson has been a big part of First City’s success as the leader of the offense, averaging more than 120 passing yards per game and completing roughly 70 percent of passes, which is good for the eight-man game.
“He’s from Sacramento, Calif.,” Cottingham said. “He moved out here a couple of years ago. He’s a pretty big quarterback, like a Big Ben style, tall and heavyset. He’s a great quarterback, very smart. He went three games in a row with five touchdowns and no picks.”
Thompson’s primary go-to guy has been wide receiver Avery Washington, who has a background in the arena game.
“He’s also on the Nike Olympic track tryout team for the 2020 Olympics,” Cottingham said. “He’s pretty fast and he averages two or three of those touchdowns each week and averages 80 or 90 of the yards from our quarterback. If they put a safety over the corner to lock down Avery, we’ll just dump it down to somebody else.”
Thompson and center Michael Scranton are the two offensive captains for the Cavalry.
“Scranton is undersized for a center, but he’s got spot-on snaps,” Cottingham said. “He’s about 220-230 pounds, but he’ll handle any tackle or defensive end that gets in his way or any linebacker that comes through the hole. He handles the line really well, so we gave him a captain patch this year.”
The Cavalry’s defense starts up front with end Denzell Rimpson and linebacker Nathan Wessel.
“Rimpson holds down the defensive line pretty well,” Cottingham said. “He has a defensive touchdowns this year on fumble recoveries and I think he’s intercepted two pitches too.
“Our linebacker could play in the NFL, he’s a local guy. All he does is eat, sleep and breathe football in the gym. He’s our steak in the middle of our defense, everything goes off of him. He’s everywhere on every play, he’s so fast and so strong. Before anyone else gets a chance to make a play, he’s already made it.”
Nose tackle Jermaine Holloway and safety Max Stidham are also integral parts of First City’s defense, Cottingham said.
The Cavalry have four regular season games remaining and then the playoffs. Right now, they’re hoping to hang on to that No. 1 seed so they can host a playoff game against the defending champion, 4-State Fusion.
“As far as winning a championship, everything goes through Joplin, Missouri, and has for five years now,” Cottingham said. “To win the championship, you’re going to have to beat them. They’re just so good. Whatever they call, they’re running it and there’s no stopping them, so it’s just bend and not break. Do we think we can beat them? We think we can. If we can get that No. 1 seed and have the playoffs stay at our house, we feel like we can definitely make it to the championship game.”
In their match-up earlier this season, Cavalry came within 14 points of knocking off the Fusion, who recently had a 44-game winning streak snapped.
“Since we’re in first place, they’re hungry,” Cottingham said. “We know we can beat them. The thing about the Fusion, the reason they won 44 games in a row is that they play perfect fundamental football from the first snap to the last snap.”