With their extremely talented roster, their well-decorated history and their new coaching staff, we knew the North Texas Stampede were going to be a force this season. On Saturday, the Stampede showed that, by shutting out the San Antonio Warriors 19-0 in a pre-season match-up.
“Our defensive coordinator, Dee Burleson, kind of spear-headed our defense (on Saturday) and got those guys rolling,” Stampede head coach Jack Bridges told Developmental Football USA. “They followed his lead. He had the guys ready to go. It could have easily jumped up to probably a 35 or 40 point score if you take away those bonehead mistakes we had when we scored touchdowns. We’re feeling pretty good where we’re at.”
The Stampede had three touchdowns called back and still managed to pull out a very convincing win against another tradition-rich Minor Professional Football League foe.
“As head coach, I’m extremely proud of my guys,” Bridges said. “I’m extremely proud of the fight they showed. We’re ok, we’re going to be where we need to be here in a few weeks. We had some red zone mistakes. We were actually inside the red zone probably 3-4 times and didn’t muster anything.
“We had signs of good stuff, we need to clean up the discipline and making bonehead mistakes at crucial times, but we’re going to be something to reckon with in the MPFL this spring.”
Both defenses handed the other offense a three-and-out to start the game. Then, on the Stampede’s second possession, quarterback Brandon Noohi found Davon Sneed on a 65-yard touchdown strike.
“It was early in the game, so the momentum was kind of juicy,” Bridges said. “It was energetic, that touchdown strike was early, so it gave us a spark of energy early.”
The extra point was good and North Texas got out to an early 7-0 lead. In the second quarter, the Stampede put together a long, gutty drive, which began on their own 10-yard line and ended with fullback Vern Higgins punching it in from one yard out. A missed extra point sent the Stampede into halftime up 13-0.
“That’s something we wanted to see as a coaching staff, to be able to sustain a long drive like that,” Bridges said.
Both defenses stood their ground in the third quarter, then, in the fourth quarter, Stampede running back Zay Griff scored to extend the lead 19-0.
“It was kind of a defensive battle one way or the other,” Bridges said. “We couldn’t get the offensive rhythm going like we wanted to. One of our guys we’re expecting big things out of, Zay Griff, he led us in rushing. He had six carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. He did a good job, he’s a change of pace, real shifty, quick guy, runs a 4.2 or 4.3 40, he came in and gave us a huge spark in the second half, the dude is a lightning bolt.”
With six weeks until the MPFL season begins, both teams are far from polished, and far from what they have the potential to become.
“As expected, the first preseason game, with an entirely new coaching staff and half of the guys on the team are new guys to the team,” Bridges said. “As expected, the offense kind of sputtered a little bit, just with timing, rhythm, chemistry, things like that.
“We’re still in our evaluation mode, we substituted a lot. We wanted to play everybody and see what everybody could do and we were actually able to do that. It’s headed in the right direction.”
Pre-season or not, a win against the Warriors – and a shutout at that – is a big confidence builder for what’s ahead.
“The Warriors came in here loaded with 50 to 55 guys,” Bridges said. “They had more guys on the sideline than we had. They traveled extremely well. They’ve got a successful program, a very successful program. They gave us everything they got. They weren’t missing much, if anything at all. When you travel 55 guys, you’ve got what you need.
“I was proud of our guys pitching the shutout, even though the score was only 19-0. Our defense played lights out. They played with some passion for what we had. We’re talking about a team that’s trying to gel together. We’ve got a whole new coaching staff trying to learn the players, the players are trying to learn the coaches. Our first pre-season game, I was really impressed with the direction our defense started us out on and I look for our defense to have a great year.”
The Stampede has another pre-season game against the Dallas Trojans on Feb. 4 and Central Texas Apaches on Feb. 11
“We’re trying to work our way through those growing pains in these next few preseason games we have,” Bridges said. “We still feel confident and have the keys and personnel to be very explosive and we got the potential to put up a lot of points this year. By March 5, when we play the Lonestar Rangers, we will be clicking on enough cylinders to get us rolling.”