For a team that’s had a winning record for 12 consecutive seasons, multiple deep playoff runs and a recent league championship, expectations are always high.
Prior to this season, the North Texas Stampede were considered one of the top two or three teams in the Minor Professional Football League, but a few hiccups this year has moved them away from the center of the radar. However, at 8-3 (5-3 in MPFL), the Stampede are by no means out of the race.
“With us having a few losses, not many people are paying too much attention to us right now and that’s kind of where I want to be,” Stampede head coach Jack Bridges told Developmental Football USA. “That’s a good thing.”
Two of the Stampede’s three regular season losses have come against the defending MPFL Champions, Texas Bullets – who haven’t lost a regular season game in four years – and the Lonestar Rangers upset North Texas at home for their third league loss.
“I’m putting all the pressure on us,” Bridges said. “I think the only team that really scares me is the Stampede, my own team. We’re in this situation because of us. We haven’t played consistent football all season long and we took some Ls and that’s hurting us now with seeding, but I don’t fault anybody but myself and my team. We made this bed with three losses and now we have to go lie in it. It’s nobody’s fault but our own. I told our guys I don’t want to hear no lips, no backtalk, we’re in this situation because of us and we’ve got to dig ourselves out.”
With two league games left, the Stampede can make a case for a better playoff seed and build up some needed momentum heading into the playoffs.
“We’re trying to win out and finish the season 7-3, if at all possible, and go to the playoffs on a good note,” Bridges said. “I still think we’ve got one of the best teams out there and I feel like when the playoffs start, the North Texas Stampede will probably be one of the most feared teams out there that teams don’t want to play. We haven’t played up to par all season long. These last few weeks, we’ve just been working on playing as a team and getting some things rolling and getting ready for this playoff run. When we play to our potential and play our style of football we can play with anybody.”
North Texas will play a solid Denton Rhinos team next weekend, before closing out with a should-win game against the Garland Aztecs.
“We know what we’re capable of and what we can do,” Bridges said. “It’s a matter of going out and executing, playing Stampede football and playing as a team. Once we figure that out, we will be something serious to deal with come playoff time. We look to finish these next two weeks on a high note.”
The Stampede were originally scheduled to play the Bullets at home following their bye week, but a bad weather day early in the year caused the Rangers game to be moved to that bye week, letting Lonestar catch them at the right time.
“Lonestar Rangers was more of a trap game because we had the Bullets again the next week and I think a lot of our guys were looking past that game to the Bullets game and we ended up paying for it, literally, with the loss,” Bridges.
“They came here and stunned us, then later they had to come back again and we put a nice little spanking on them, 65-12, I believe the score was.”
In the end, that redemptive win against the Rangers could prove to be the turning point that helped the Stampede play to the level they’re capable of.
“That’s been our biggest thing, coming together, being unified, being brothers and playing as a team,” Bridges said. “I think we started that a little bit last week when we played the second game against the Lonestar Rangers. We put up some points and played like a team again.
“It was a sign, this is what we can have if we play like this every week. That’s what keeps me going and gives me energy, gives me confidence in our guys and our team. I think we’re one of those teams that people don’t want to play come playoff time, whether on the road or at home, we’re going to be tough to deal with.”
While Bridges and the Stampede have been looking to find their rhythm as a team, several position groups have been consistent.
“Offensively, I have to give credit to our offensive line,” Bridges said. “Our offensive line has been tremendous the last month. We’ve been so consistent, we’ve been dominant up front. Our running game has took off over the last month and that’s nothing but praises to the big guys up front. We’ve had some good consistent running games from Zay Griff and Keith Davis, it’s been consistent running from both of our running backs.
“Receiving wise, it’s been kind of average, kind of steady. It was good to have one of our guys back who was out the first part of our season, Dwaine Guyton. He’s been a tremendous help in the receiving game since he’s been back. Davon Sneed, he’s been pretty consistent and steady. So has Nick Morrow and of course one of our receiving veterans, Michael Newhouse and Lenny Williams has been consistent the last month or so. I haven’t had any one stand out every single game, we’ve been pretty equal across the board and I’m good with that.”
Defensively, several players have been solid all year.
“Defensive end Brandon Hearne has been playing lights out on the defensive line, and Chris Hays, he’s been playing really well,” Bridges said. “Cornelius Houston, Dennis Hollis and Mike Clayton have been playing really well. From a secondary standpoint, our shutdown, lock-down cornerback Stu Glenn, Jaycee Childers and Jeremy Calton.”
With two weeks to go and then playoffs, the MPFL should have no shortage of excitement as the stronger teams thin each other out on their way to the Shanklin Bowl.
“Our new motto in the Stampede room is, ‘We ain’t taking no more Ls, period,’” Bridges said. “People can take that how they want to take it, but that’s the saying in our room. The guys believe what they are saying and we’re going to get out there and show it. The most important thing is, don’t lose that last game. If we don’t lose that last game, that means nothing but good news, that means we won the whole thing.”