The Lubbock Liberty Eagles played their first ever game on Saturday against the West Texas Pride at Lena Stephens Field in Lubbock and lost 34-10, but they got a good grasp of where they stand one month out from the beginning of league play.
“We played a decent game,” Eagles head coach Charles Luster told Developmental Football USA. “It wasn’t bad, given for what it was, pre-season, it wasn’t bad. We’re pretty much a young team, we have a few veterans, but we’re mostly young team and the guys played good and never gave up.”
Cornerback Brandon Taylor, a seasoned veteran who lives in Lubbock but travels to Midland to play with the Pride, welcomed the new team to town by returning an interception for a touchdown to give the Pride the first score of the game with 7:48 left in the first quarter.
“Brandon Taylor means a lot to our team,” Pride owner Harold Fuller told Developmental Football USA. “The thing about that play I like, he actually dropped an interception a few plays before, earlier in the game. To come back and put that play behind him and take it to the house meant a lot. B.T. is obviously a leader for us and one of the best defensive backs in all of semi-pro football, if not the best.”
Lubbock Liberty responded when quarterback Zach Walls found wide receiver Dontae Walker on a 10-yard touchdown strike to tie it up at 7-7, midway through the first quarter.
“My quarterback coming out of retirement showed me a lot of guts,” Luster said.
Those two, along with Anthony Martin, Aaron Paulhill and Steven Longstreth impressed Luster in the Eagles’ debut and Rich Garrett, also pictured above, impressed Fuller in the secondary in his Pride debut with multiple, very physical hits.
The Pride regained the lead on a Chris Hogan field goal to go up 10-7 with 4:53 left in the first quarter and they would extend that lead even more on a 15-yard, Chris Ware to Andres Baskin touchdown just before halftime.
“Chris Ware is obviously a solid quarterback and we’re lucky to have him on the team,” Fuller said. “Even the PA announcer talked about how great he played tonight and he’s a force to be reckoned with when he’s on the field. The score could have been more lopsided than it was, but we had some receivers drop some passes that could have been touchdowns.”
Baskin and the Pride left a bad taste in the Eagles’ mouths scoring before the half, and the taste got even worse for Lubbock Liberty when Baskin returned the opening kickoff of the second half back for another West Texas touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
“That’s a great way to start the second half,” Fuller said. “When your kick returner can take the kickoff back to the house, right off the bat, to be up seven more points, that was big.”
Longstreth booted a field goal through the uprights for the Eagles to cut the down to 24-10, but the Pride weren’t finished yet.
Hogan kicked his second field goal for West Texas to go up 27-10 at the end of the third quarter. Less than five minutes into the fourth quarter, the Pride roared again as Jose Tapia returned an interception 94 yards for another touchdown to go up 34-10.
“Tonight we learned we need to be more fundamentally sound,” Luster said. “We’ve got good talent and I learned a lot about the guys that we haven’t seen at practice as much. We got exposed on some things, but it was our first game against strangers, so to speak. We mainly just need to work more on the fundamentals.”
The two teams meet again Feb. 18 at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland before the Eagles head into Rio Grande Football League play.
“We’re playing this same team and we’ll see how well they’ve improved,” Fuller said. “With this being their first game, then having a few weeks to regroup and communicate, I think they will come out stronger against us when we play them at home. I think the Lubbock Liberty Eagles are going to do big things, not only this year, but in the future as well. I was really impressed with the way they ran their organization and we look forward to hopefully seeing them for several years to come.”
After one more pre-season tune-up game against Lubbock Liberty, the Pride will head into their Minor Professional Football League schedule, when every game counts.
“The Lubbock Liberty Eagles are going to get better in the next few weeks before they play us and we’ve got to get better, because the MPFL is no joke and we’re happy to be part of it. It’s great to be part of the MPFL, there’s a lot of great franchises in it. We’re going to have to step up and be more ready than we were tonight to play the competition in that league.”