After suffering consecutive losses against the Midwest Football Alliance’s top two teams, the Omaha Stockmen are now in a must-win situation going into Saturday’s regular season finale, on the road against the Des Moines Blaze.
The Stockmen upset the Blaze earlier this season in the program’s biggest ever win, 19-14 in Omaha. Now, what is considered the league’s most-improved team needs history to repeat itself as they take on a team with a well-decorated history in the Blaze.
A win this weekend would earn the Stockmen a spot in the playoffs and a road game against the league’s No. 1 team, the Sioux City Stampede.
However, right now, 100 percent of the team’s focus rests on the upcoming road rematch in Des Moines, where they will need a top-notch performance by all three phases of the game.
Offensively, it starts up front for Omaha, where team captain, 6-foot-4, 275-pound left tackle Tony Cabrera anchors the offensive line. The former Midland University player has never allowed a sack in three seasons with the Stockmen and his experience helps the rest of the line learn.
“Our offense needs him or the whole game plan changes, because he helps make a lot of calls on the field,” Stockmen head coach Andrew Mather said. “He’s the kind of player that will never get too down or get too high and won’t allow his teammates to do the same. He’s a great teammate and I can’t remember a time he didn’t enjoy playing the game.”
Joining Cabrera on offense is athlete Al German, who was the team’s starting quarterback last season before moving to wide receiver this year. German still sees sometime leading the charge when the Stockmen need a dual-threat playing behind center.
“There’s not a more passionate player on offense and the kid has a ton of potential to play anywhere on the field,” Mather said. “The only thing that could stop him from success is himself.”
Captain and middle linebacker Eric Hackler leads the charge on defense. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has been a two-time MFA All-Star and could be named one again this year.
“He’s clearly one of the best linebackers in the league,” Stockmen co-owner Adam Plageman told Developmental Football USA.
Hackler averaged 69 tackles over the past two seasons, but those numbers have experienced a slight decline as other teams have made him a focal point of their blocking schemes.
“You can’t replace a player like him,” Stockmen defensive coordinator Dontae Allen said. “He brings leadership, dedication and great character to the whole team. He’s smart and can make a big play at any time.”
Defensive end Curly Charles has also been big for the Stockmen and, prior to this past game led the MFA in sacks with 6 ½.
“He’s dedicated, consistent and a great teammate,” Allen said.
Wins and losses aren’t the only area where Omaha has seen improvement as the Stockmen are steadily solidifying their place in a community that had a bad taste in its mouth from prior developmental teams.
“Minor League Football has been a complete failure, until recently,” Plagemen said. “Other teams have failed to complete seasons, have gotten kicked out of leagues, forfeited games, and kicked out of stadiums. The Omaha Stockmen owners saw the opportunity and the failures, then set out to change the landscape in Omaha towards the end of 2014.”
Broken promises and past poor products from other teams made local organizations hesitant to sponsor or even acknowledge the Stockmen at first, but over the past three years they have proven they’re not like the others.
“The biggest push back has been the failed operations of other teams,” Plagemen said. “Omaha corporations backed these teams and they failed to finish seasons which would burn those businesses financially. It created a rough road for the Stockmen to gain support and traction because fans have felt let down and don’t want to get behind another team only for them to leave.
“The Stockmen stuck with their plan; providing a competitive, professional, and fun environment to the community and facilitating a path for players to reach the next level. In their third season, the team has built a reputation for improving every season and the fan base is growing. A team that used to be looked at as a good team that is like the ‘others’ that came before it is now a team that gets picked by opponents to win against anybody.”
Home to the College World Series, Warren Buffet and The Old Market – the farm team of the Kansas City Royals – a winning tradition and eventual championships look to finally be in the works in Omaha thanks to the progress made by the Stockmen.