Another first-year team that has exceed expectations this year is the Marshall Arch Angels of the Texas United Football League, which are currently ranked third in the league at 7-1.
“With the team and the outlook of what our guys are doing, I’m very, very, very pleased,” Arch Angels owner Dez Andrus told Developmental Football USA. “Pleased wouldn’t even be the word. Those guys have come out and given me everything they’ve had. Everything I’ve asked for, they’ve been able to do it, if not surpass it.”
Marshall’s only regular season loss on the year came 28-26 against the No. 2 team in the league, the Louisiana Lightning.
“The be able to be an owner of a team and be the head of a group of guys who go out and put it all out on the line like they have this year, I’m very privileged to be on the field with those guys,” Andrus said. “Hats off for those guys to go to work, most of them have families, some go to school, to handle business first then come out and give it everything they’ve got on the football field. I’m just privileged to be out there with them.”
The Arch Angels were supposed to get another shot at the Lightning last week, but the game did not take place due to weather. Now, however, Marshall’s focus is fully on this weekend’s game against the East Texas Storm, when the Arch Angels should be in full force.
Having a healthy roster come playoff time is a major strength for a football team and it should help Marshall make a deep run.
“Right now, health is one of them and the Lord has blessed us,” Andrus said. “One of our guys was coming off an ankle injury, Nolan Allen. He’ll be back, he’s coming back about 90 percent for this game, we’re not putting much pressure on him, but we’re going into the playoffs with a healthy team.”
The Arch Angels have been a surprise team in the TUFL, but have quickly gained respect and found their place among the top teams in the league.
“These guys look at themselves like the underdogs,” Andrus said of his players. “No one thought they would make it this far but they’re 7-1 and they’re hungry. The Most High is blessing our team. We have great coaches and a great staff. East Texas is behind the Arch Angels and all of us rolling together will be our strength going into the playoffs.”
Looking back at his team’s success so far, Marshalls win earlier this season against the East Texas Crusaders of Longview has been the most memorable for Andrus.
“That was one of the bigger highlight games this year,” Andrus said. “Those guys come to play. It’s a Marshall versus Longview rivalry. We had a chance to play them in Karnack Stadium. The crowd was amazing, we even had a band come out. One of our coaches brothers got a band to come out and the crowd was amazing. It was jam-packed. The Crusaders brought it, those guys came to play all four quarters, but we ended up pulling it off that game. It was close to the end.”
On the field, the running game has been big all year for the Arch Angels, led be Deondre Osborne and Chavis Mills.
“Those guys seem to find the end zone every game, some kind of way, they find the end zone,” Andrus said. “Dave Smith, our center, he’s big for us too. Without him, we can’t even start the play.”
Defensively, outside linebacker and nickelback Acie Smith and free safety Justin Singleton have held it down on defense for Marshall.
“They lead by example,” Andrus said. “Acie, he’s one of those guys, he can get your guys into the game real quick. He does talk a lot of trash, I’ll give him that, but he’ll back up every little bit that he talks. He’s won us some games in crucial situations on the one or two-yard line. You need a big play from a guy and he’s that guy you look for. He lays the wood when he hits. He’s a football guy, he understands down and distance and what to exepect. He’s like a coach on the field and all of the guys respect him when he speaks.
“Justin, he’s another coach on the field. You throw the ball up in the air, he’s going to come down with it or no one is going to come down with it at all. He’s very fast, he’s a great athlete. He doesn’t say a whole lot. He’s one of those guys when the game is on the line, I can trust him to make the right decision to put us in the position to win the game.”
Let us not forget that football has three phases, and thanks to an elite kicker, special teams is a strength for the Arch Angels.
“His name is Pedro Farnsworth,” Andrus said. “He is our kicker, punter and kickoff specialist. This guy, we’ve seen how dangerous he can be in the Lightning game. They had us down 20-0 at halftime and we came back after halftime, after we got our gameplan together.
“This guy kicked the first kickoff, one of my guys snatched it out of their hands and ran it into the end zone. Then he kicked an onside kick, bounced it off a guy’s helmet, and we got it back and went down and scored. Then he kicked another onside kick, it bounced up and hit a guy in the face, we got it back and scored. He can kick it anywhere you want it. He can kick onsides, field goals, extra points. If you think you’re going to run it back, he’ll stick his head in there and take you down. I’d like to give him a shout out, to let the whole team know we’re proud of him and thankful for him. Without him, we’d be in bad shape. Special teams players don’t get a lot of love, but we’re going to show love to ours, he’s the best kicker, punter in the whole league, Pedro Farnsworth.”
Saturday marks the Arch Angels’ final regular season game before playoffs and right now, Marshall has its eyes on three teams in particular they expect to make a run.
“Of course, we have to give it to the reigning champions right now, the North Texas Mustangs, they are the ones that put us out of the playoffs last year in the first round,” Andrus said. “They’re a great team, well-coached, great owners. Also the Lightning, I think they’re two years undefeated, they were the EFL Champions last year, great guys, great coaching staff. Also, the Paris Stars, we used to play them a lot last year and those guys are handling business this year, we hope to see them in the playoffs this year.”
With a fully healthy roster, don’t count the Arch Angels out of the race, either.
“Those three, I can pretty much vouch those will be some hard teams to beat but I’m looking forward to playing them, because I feel like we’re up to caliber now to get where we want to go.”
It is said that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, and faith is one thing the Arch Angels are not lacking.
“I have another minister on board, he’s one of my players,” Andrus said. “We send a lot of Bible scriptures in our group text and when someone is going through something, we all try to relate with him. I’ve had players come to church with me, most of the guys go to their own churches. We try to keep it where it is about God, but everybody goes to God at their own time, He chooses them on His time. We all need God at our own time, we don’t try to rush anybody. All we try to do right now is give guys the understanding that life can be a heck of a lot easier if we choose God and we can have a lot more understanding of the things we go through in life if we choose God.”
The Arch Angels didn’t just get to 7-1 on talent alone, as several key pieces have worked together to make the organization run.
“Coach Nick Lewis, coach Gary Powell, Coach Clarence Haggerty, coach Philip Campbell, our trainer miss Debra Westerman and our other two trainers, Ashley Jackson and Jasmine Jackson, without them, I don’t know where this organization would be,” Andrus said. “All our auxiliaries, we have a bunch of auxiliaries that come out and help us maintain the games, from security to announcing, to the ladies that do the concession stand.”