The Xtreme Football League of Oklahoma regular season is winding down and with the playoffs approaching, it looks like the eventual champion will be one of three teams – the defending champion Oklahoma Monarchs, the Oklahoma City Elite, or the 2015 Champion Kansas Cougars – but there’s still plenty of football left to be played.
Since 2014, the Kansas Cougars (8-1, 5-1 in XFL) have posted an extremely impressive 37-6 record, but they’re not too much concerned about the past now as their eyes are focused on stalking the 2017 championship trophy and bringing it back to Rose Hill.
“We’re having a solid season,” Cougars head coach Darrell Nave told Developmental Football USA. “I think we can go deep in the playoffs and hopefully have another shot at the championship game.”
Last year, the Monarchs ruined the Cougars’ undefeated season in the championship game after Kansas had defeated them during league play. However, earlier this season, the Cougars got a bit of redemption.
“I would say one of our biggest highlights this year was beating the defending champions, the Oklahoma Monarchs,” Nave said. “They have one of the all-time great coaches in coach Gary Joice. Being able to beat them, after losing in the championship last year was a huge relief for the morale of our team.”
That’s just part of the reason this year’s XFL Playoffs will be very interesting. The Cougars have beaten the Monarchs, the Monarchs have beaten the Elite, and the Elite have beaten the Cougars.
“When we lost to the Elite, we traveled very late up there and we were missing about 15 guys,” Nave said. “We were missing three starting linebackers and two starting offensive linemen, but we put up a pretty good fight and ended up losing by five points. It was a game the guys keep in the back of their minds. The Elite is a really good team, so we don’t want to take it from them, but we were out-numbered and they have a lot of talent at the same time.”
Based on records alone, there’s a three-way tie for first place.
“You can’t really say whose number one,” Nave said. “Right now, I’d say the Monarchs, because they put up a ton of points. Then, the Elite because they’re a game above us, then ourselves, with the Red Wolves at four and the Yukon Bobcats at five.”
While the playoff race will not be lacking in excitement, the Cougars still have to finish out the regular season with a game against the Red Wolves and make-up games against the Oklahoma Nightmare and the Bobcats.
“There’s still a lot of football left in the regular season for us,” Nave said. “We anticipate the Red Wolves game being a good game and we definitely anticipate the Bobcats being tough. Their record is deceiving, they have a tremendous amount of talent on that team. We’re not going to overlook any team, but we think those two will be the toughest challenges for the remainder of the season.”
Veteran quarterback Orlandus William is still leading the charge offensively for the Cougars, and he is joined by other talented playmakers that make the Kansas offense dangerous.
“We’ve added a lot of new talent,” Nave said. “We added a guy named Anthony Carter who has really changed a lot of our running game. He’s very explosive, very elusive, not very fast, but he doesn’t get taken down with one tackle. Also, Lee Stewart came back, he’s probably our most depend receiver. Throw the ball anywhere and he’ll catch it.”
The offense has had to adjust to new coaching and a new scheme, but things have started to click in recent weeks.
“We had an offensive coordinator change with Loren Williams coming in,” Nave said. “Coach Animal stepped in and has done a great job teaching his philosophy, his scheme, players are starting to pick it up, it’s def diff from last year, as we get deeper into the playoffs I think our offense is going to see explosion, hopefully doing very well going into the championship game.
Nearly every play is decided by who wins the battle and the line of scrimmage and defensively the Cougars have one of the most tenacious lines in the league.
“We have four outstanding d-linemen,” Nave said. “Logan Duff and Preston Spencer at defensive tackle, Delando Henderson at defensive end, then our other defensive end is Fred Brown. Those four are, if not the best, one of the best defensive lines in the XFL.”
“One standout in the secondary would be a second-year player named Nick Bacon who was not really on our radar to be a starter when he came in because he’s undersized,” Nave said. “His heart made him a big player on our team. Then, our shutdown corner, Markus Warner. He’s definitely shut-down, not taking anything away from (Monarchs wide receiver) Danny Knight, he went off against us, but when Markus was covering him, he did amazing things to cover him.
“Danny is one of best wide receivers in XFL and all of developmental football. He’s very fast, tracks the ball very well, Marcus was able to get him out of his game until they moved him around, then he got his numbers.”