The Lubbock Liberty Eagles have come onto the scene and impressed tremendously in their first-ever season on their way to a 7-1 record. Even though the Eagles have already clinched a Rio Grande Football League playoff berth, there is still much left to play for this year.
In fact, Saturday is their biggest game yet, and a win over the West Texas Scorpions in their regular season finale would crown Lubbock Liberty as RGFL East Division Champions.
“That’s why our game is so important,” Eagles owner Brylon Bradford told Developmental Football USA. “If we win this home game, we lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs and I feel like that’s a very, very important thing to have if we want to see ourselves in the RGFL Championship Game.”
The Scorpions are the only RGFL team that has beaten Lubbock – a tough 44-42 road battle in Novice, Texas.
“One thing we try to stress is the fact that we have to travel as well as we are when we are at home,” Bradford said. “Depending on who the team is, it may feel like they’ve got a home-field advantage, but we feel like we’re good at home and the road.”
Now the Eagles get to have the luxury of being the home team for the rematch, where they will look to return the favor and regain more than just bragging rights.
“To be honest, the Scorpions probably feel like they hurt us by beating us that first time, but they actually helped us out,” Bradford said. “It was much better for us to find out we were self-destructive four weeks ago instead of this week. It makes us that more dangerous.”
For the past several seasons – way before the Eagles were even an idea in the back of Bradford’s mind – a group of players from Lubbock have traveled to Novice to be part of the Scorpions. That alone has created a bit of a rivalry between the Scorpions and any team from the Lubbock area since.
“This game is for our fans,” Bradford said. “This rivalry has built itself up as high-scoring, blow-for-blow. The first game, it was one play after the other, vroom, touchdown. It was a big, explosive, exciting football game, down to the last second and our fans deserve to see a game of that quality.”
A Scorpions win would keep them in the hunt to win the East Division as they would then own the tie-breaker with the Eagles in the divisional standings at that point. However, they would also have to beat the West Texas Drillers in their final regular season game to solidify first place.
“We know they’re going to bring everything they’ve got,” Bradford said. “This game has big playoff implications for both teams. This game is going to be the statement. The thought of beating the Lubbock Liberty Eagles twice in one season would be pretty doggone satisfying for that team, with players and coaches from Lubbock on their team. There’s going to be some bad blood. From whistle to whistle, for four quarters, that was one of the most exciting games we’ve played, so I know it’s going to be exciting when they come here.”
Early in the season, the Eagles became the first team to ever shutout the Drillers – which have never missed the playoffs in their history. Following their loss to the Scorpions, Lubbock regained some momentum on their season by defeating the Drillers again to sweep the two-game series.
“The reason the Drillers game was so important is what it showed us as a team,” Bradford said. “It showed growth. When we went down and played the Scorpions the first time we were up 22-6 in the first quarter, then we got into some dysfunction on our own sideline, arguing with each other and so on and so forth. We believe that was the downfall of us, not necessarily getting beat by them, but in other words we beat ourselves.”
“We made that a big emphasis and a standing point. We can’t allow that to happen ever again.”
While either the Scorpions or the Drillers will get another shot at Lubbock to advance to the RGFL Championship game next month, the RGFL West Division is no less interesting with the Otero Desert Dawgs already in the playoff picture, while the Las Cruces Kings and El Paso Armor are looking to snag the other spot.
“I’m very excited about the Kings,” Bradford said. “Richard Brown is really, really good, I like him and to be honest, I hope they pull it out. That’s who I picked to win out of the West this season. To be honest, it’s probably going to be the Dawgs, they’ve got home field advantage. I don’t see any way they lose it besides losing their final home game. Those guys are very, very strong at home and I don’t see that happening. Playoffs are going to go through Otero and whether they represent the West or not, playing at home is a big advantage.
“I hope the Dawgs and the Kings are the two teams from the West Division because I get along with Mr. Brown a lot and I just like the Dawgs. They’re very cordial and I want to see their running back in person, I hear he’s nice.”
Right now Otero and Lubbock each have a target on their backs and time will tell if they will get a shot at each other for some hardware.
“If we do manage to make it to the championship game, whatever team is across from us is going to see the best Lubbock Liberty team we’ve been all season,” Bradford said.