It took a huge defensive stand on a two-point attempt with under one minute to go, but the North Texas Stampede defense rose to the occasion when it mattered most to knock off the Central Texas Apaches 19-18 and remain unbeaten in pre-season action.
“It was definitely a Stampede wake-up call,” Stampede head coach Jack Bridges told Developmental Football USA. “The Apaches gave us exactly what we needed going into a very tough MPFL schedule this spring.”
Central Texas began a drive with 1:54 left in the fourth quarter and got in the end zone with 50 seconds left. Instead of kicking an extra point to tie it up, they decided to go for two points and the win.
However, the Apaches were unable to block Brandon Hearne and he would soon bring quarterback Rocc White and the Apaches hopes of winning to the ground, on a game-deciding sack.
“The Stampede aren’t that good yet,” Bridges said. “We haven’t proven anything other than we got a little talent on paper. Our Stampede team has a whole entirely new coaching staff and lots of new faces on the team and we aren’t going to see the full potential of this Stampede team probably until mid-way through the MPFL season. We aren’t nowhere close to where we need to be and three pre-season games aren’t going to get us there. Although it has helped us with evaluating our players.
“We are still trying to find ourselves. We are still trying to find our team identity and still trying to get a lot of our players to buy in and believe in our system. So with that being said, the Stampede have tons of work to do before we become a good team or great team. Did we play anything close to our best game tonight? Hell no, and that’s from top to bottom, coaching staff included.”
North Texas got on the scoreboard first to open up the second quarter when Brandon Noohi found Lenny Williams for a touchdown strike. A missed extra point kept the score 6-0.
The Apaches would respond with an offensive drive capped off with a touchdown as Rocc White found wide receiver Rod Anderson on a slant route on the goalline to tie it up 6-6.
“I honestly can’t tell you how good or great they are, but what I can tell you about those guys is that they came to play last night,” Bridges said. “They were hyped and full of energy from the start of the game. They came with a sense of urgency, they traveled well and came to play.”
The Stampede answered as Grant Pierce punched in his first field goal of the night to regain the lead 9-6. North Texas extended the lead and got a little bit of breathing room when running back Keith Davis found space on an outside run for another Stampede touchdown to take a 16-6 lead into halftime.
Getting down by two scores early to a team like the Stampede, isn’t normally something that teams handle too well and it usually doesn’t make for a pretty second half. However, the Apaches weren’t about to throw in the towel on Saturday.
“They did not have an ounce of quit in them, not an ounce,” Apaches defensive coordinator Dale Oliver told Developmental Football USA. “After this game, which I firmly believed this too before this game, but I believe in every single one of these guys.”
Pierce added his second field goal of the night for the Stampede as North Texas pushed the lead to 19-6 in the third quarter, but the game was still far from over.
In the fourth and final quarter, the Apaches fought back as Mike Walker scored to cut the lead to 19-12 and then Rocc White scored with 50 seconds to go to set them up for the two-point attempt.
“After this, we keep our heads high, and play our last pre-season game next week against a good looking first year team DeSoto Golden Eagles,” Oliver said. “Our first regular season game is against the DeSoto Tarantulas, they were on the sideline tonight, about 10-15 of them, they were watching. They know now that we are not a force to be reckoned with, but a force to be feared.”
This was the first pre-season loss of the year for the Apaches, who shutout the Lonestar Pitbulls 41-0 one week ago, and edged out the Lonestar Rangers 14-12 in January.
“They will definitely and should have a sound season this year in the TUFL,” Bridges said. “Coach Keith Russ has a very good group of men over there and he should be proud and looking forward to a very successful TUFL season. The Apaches have a good team they are putting together and should have, barring injuries, an eye-opening season. We wish those guys well.”
L.J. Holmes finished with 125 rushing yards as the offensive line did exceptionally well opening up the running lances for the Apache running back.
“I’ve coached many teams,” Oliver said. “I’ve coached many, many teams, but I’ve never coached a team like I’ve coached last night. I definitely believe we have a chance to chase that ring this year. We have the talent. We have the drive and we have the want to. Practice makes perfect, all we have to do is get better.”