Saturday morning at 7 a.m., the West Texas Outlaws will depart from Lubbock and head 292 miles west as they open up the Rio Grande Football League regular season on the road against the Alamogordo Desert Dawgs.
After practicing multiple times a week for the past five months, the Outlaws couldn’t be more ready to kick things off.
“We should travel very well,” Outlaws head coach Shannon Cross told DFUSA. “I have a group of young men that are very excited and pumped up about it. They are ready to go.”
The Outlaws, which were established in 2003 and have made the playoffs in 11 of the past 13 seasons, have been known over the years more for their defense. Based on how they performed in a recent intersquad scrimmage, this looks to also be the case for 2016.
“The things that caught my eye were pretty much our defense,” Cross said. “I think our defense is going to be a powerhouse defense. We got some key guys that came back from last year and some new guys we picked up that I think are going to be a great asset to our team and our defense for sure.
“I saw a lot of positive things that I liked and a lot of stuff that needs to be worked on. Routes need to be crisper, a couple more linemen need to get the blocking scheme down. Some rust here and there, but for a lot of these guys it was the first time playing together.”
An already-strong defense got even better one month ago when 6-foot-2, 235-pound veteran linebacker Brandon Brooks returned to the team.
“He’s played with us years back and he’s joined us again and he’s going to be a great x-factor for us on the defense,” Cross said. “He’s also going to play some tight end for us and some goal line plays I have for him. We’re glad to have him back.”
Another player that should be a factor defensively for the Outlaws is 6-foot, 212-pound safety Kendrick Williams.
“This is his second year with us,” Cross said. “He’s played linebacker in the past and this year he’s playing safety. He can also play slot, running back or wide receiver if needed and he’s a special teams specialist also.”
Offensively, the Outlaws could have one of the deeper backfields in the RGFL. Five-foot-11, 205-pound veteran running back Waxie Homer returns this season and two newcomers also look to play major roles.
“Waxie is one of our workhorses for sure,” Cross said. “He’s a veteran that knows the game and he brings it. He gives us 100 percent every time he carries the ball and his work ethic out there is just awesome.
“We also have a gentleman, Anthony Martin. He is going to be probably our breakout wide receiver, slot, running back, he can play it all. He’s a talented kid. He’s going to be a great asset to this team.”
The Outlaws have also recently added Alonzo Evans who played at San Diego State University.
“He’s a talented back,” Cross said. “From what he’s showed us out there at practice, he’s going to be an x-factor also.”
At the wide receiver position the Outlaws return veterans Charles Planks, Dee Allen and Jovon Anderson in what looks to be a deep receiving corps. Big things are expected from Planks, a 14-year veteran with both college and arena experience.
“Charles Planks is a true, true athlete,” Cross said. “He still has it. As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the best at this level that I’ve been around and will be for a long time, until he hangs it up. He’s never lost a step. He will be a key factor and play a big role in what we’re trying to do on offense and defense as well.”
Rookie Clifton Collins, a 6-foot-4, 208 pound receiver could also provide the Outlaws offense with some serious mismatches over the top or on the outside.
“He’s a young kid that’s going to learn a lot and do a whole lot for this team,” Cross said. “He can play multiple positions and I think he’s going to be an asset to this team.”
When looking at the Outlaws roster, it may first seem like a typo, but it’s not. 6-foot-4, 400-pound lineman Terry Evans should be a force for the Outlaws in the trenches.
“He’s a big guy and he can really move to be that size,” Cross said. “He’s going to be a great lineman for us this year. I think he’s going to do offensive line for us the majority of the time and defense as needed.”
More questions will be answered for both teams tomorrow in Alamogordo, New Mexico, once the game kicks off at 1 p.m. Mountain Time, but the Outlaws already have an idea of what to expect out of the Desert Dawgs.
“We saw a couple of films on them last year,” Cross said. “They have two quarterbacks they like to use. One likes to sit in the pocket and throw and the other one, if he don’t have no one open, he’ll take off with it. They play a lot of cover 2, cover 3 type situations, they don’t blitz a lot. I think we’ll be able to run a little bit until they man up on us then we’ll go to the pass.”
The winner of Saturday’s match-up will improve to 1-0 in the RGFL and for the Outlaws, a four-and-a-half hour drive would be sweeter coming out on top.
“I feel right now we can pretty much match up with anybody and hold our own,” Cross said.