The Texas United Football Association kicks off its season next month and, like many teams, the Sharyland Sting are looking to make a run at the title.
“I think we’re going to make a deeper run this year,” Sting assistant head coach Richard VanNest told Developmental Football USA. “With more teams now we have in our division, it will help us out a little bit more. Last year, we traveled a lot more. Now with some more teams south of Corpus, it will help us out a little bit, to stay within our division a little bit. I think we have the tools to get to the third round or perhaps the semifinals and hopefully inch it out and win the whole thing.”
Last season, the Sting finished 7-5 and lost in the second round of the playoffs to the 3rd Coast Hard Hittaz, which ended up losing in the league championship game.
“This will be our second year in the TUFA,” VanNest said. “Right now, we’re in a good place. We finished 7-5 last year, but we had some weeks where we could have taken forfeit wins, but we took some games to replace those games and ended up getting two losses out of it, but we wanted to play.”
The Sting made a key change offensively last year that should pay off on the field in 2017.
“Last year, we struggled at the beginning,” VanNest said. “We had another guy calling the offense and struggled about game five and Bob took back over and we got back to what we were known for. The previous year, we led the CRAFL in offense, so it was a big drop-off from what we had, to what we ended up with the following year.
“Right now, I think we’re going to end up scoring a lot of points. We’ve just got to make sure we play a lot of defense and keep the other team from scoring more. Our defense used to be good too, but it kind of dropped off some last year, switching leagues and playing different competition could have something to do with it too.”
The Sting have already played two pre-season games, which resulted in a 50-33 win over the Texas Thunderducks and a 24-0 loss to the Victoria Hurricanes. They could still add one more pre-season game before kicking off their TUFA schedule Feb. 18 when they host the San Antonio Gators.
The offense, which looks to be the strength of the Sting for 2017, is led by several key players in each position group.
“Our line and our run game are probably going to be our strongest points, with the return of Luis Castaneda at quarterback,” VanNest said. “We have three good quarterbacks and a good offensive line. With Albert Rodriguez, Gabriel Mares, Saul Hinojosa, Frank “Tank” Ganez, and Homer Mendiola. Those guys know the line, they can block and they hustle.
“As far as receivers, Jacob Rodriguez, we have two Hs, our two slots we call the Hs, Brian Takovich and Jacob Rodriguez and Treveon Hawkins, Casey Martinez, Jacob Cura and Christian Salas. We’ve got a lot of guys that should be there on offense. That’s our big-name area, our whole offense will be our strongest point.”
Defensively, the Sting is planning to make the most of this final month of pre-season to answer some questions before TUFA play starts.
“Our defense is still real shaky, hopefully we can get that straightened out before the start of the season,” VanNest said.
“On defense, we have Marco Garcia, he started out at safety about eight years ago, now he’s playing linebacker, he’s gotten a little bit bigger, and a little bit slower, but he packs a punch, still hits. He has been playing the right outside backer. What we’re going to probably do is move him inside and that will help us out in the box. The two guys that were playing inside backer, I’m going to move them back to the line, so we can get the pressure that we’re used to getting. I think putting them back on the line will give us that pressure back.”
The Sting also expects big things out of safety Sam Castillo, as well as two-way player Edgar Moreno, who joins Castillo in the defensive secondary.
The Sting were founded in 2009 and joined the TUFA last season, after spending multiple seasons in the Crossroads Amateur Football League as well as the South Texas Amateur Football League.