When expansion teams are started, there are always visions of championships and titles, and the Yukon Bobcats in the Xtreme Football League of Oklahoma are no different. However, their inaugural season in 2016 didn’t exactly go as planned.
“Our first year wasn’t so good,” Yukon-native and owner-player Dillon Louk told Developmental Football USA. “We went 0-8 and had to forfeit our last two games because we didn’t have enough healthy players to continue. We had 27 players and then we’d have 19 the next game. We didn’t have a coach for the first two games. We just had a playbook and an injured player calling plays. It was a downhill spiral from there. We couldn’t get back on our feet and couldn’t get things put back together. The last two games we played with 11 people.”
While that type of start and season may have discouraged some and made them reconsider having a team, that wasn’t the case with Louk.
“We were pretty vocal about what we were going to do in the off-season,” Louk stated. “Now we have 6 coaches and 50 players compared to the 11 we ended the year with. We also have about 15 guys on our practice squad, so we’ve done a complete turnaround since last year.”
For any developmental football team, community support is essential for longevity and that’s something that has been instrumental for the Bobcats in their apparent turnaround.
“We didn’t have any sponsorships last year,” Louk said. “Now we have five local businesses sponsoring us. JoJo’s Sports Bar, it’s a really iconic sports bar in Yukon, FitWorks, Gatlin Brothers Heat & Air out of El Reno, Tommy Sides with Sides Screen Printing and More, and A to Z Towing, probably Yukon’s most well-known towing service. We’re just excited to have all of these guys on board. Coming from last year where we had nothing and getting turned down every time to having this group of businesses supporting us is really big for us.”
Louk, 22, is possibly the youngest owner in all of developmental sports, so with a solid foundation being laid, the Bobcats could be a big deal in Yukon for many years.
“I’m the youngest team owner in our league, in Oklahoma semi-pro, and I actually think I might be younger than anyone in Kansas too,” Louk stated. “Doing it at 22 and being more successful this offseason, I feel this year is a big thing for me and for my community. My teammates see that and I garner a certain level of respect because of it. It’s done wonders for me as a person and wonders for my team as well.”
As Louk alluded to, big changes were needed for the Bobcats this offseason and it’s something that he and the organization addressed head on.
“We have a very different offense this year than we had last year,” Louk exclaimed. “We’re more of a spread type offense versus last year where we had more of a traditional run and gun offense. A big reason for the offensive and defensive evolution is the coaches we’ve added and the roster changes we made. Head coach Aaron Taylor has done an impressive job in his first gig and offensive coordinator Joshua Houston has totally transformed our entire team’s offense.
“Defensive coordinator Stacey Whitter has won championships at every level he’s coached. We added a lot of talent to some of the core guys we return. We didn’t have an offensive line last year at all so we added some talent there. Eric Walls at guard, Chandler Hedrick at center, and adding left tackle Kyle Atkins who played in the CFL last year was big for us. Our running back Michael Jordan should be hands down the best scat back in our league this year. We also have Trey Candy and he’s probably our best power back. Giovanni Knight was the Bulls quarterback last year and he’s over here now. Brandon Kinney and myself are probably the leaders of the receiving corps.”
With many pieces in place to field a very potent offense, Louk is counting on two defensive leaders to life that side of the ball to its potential as well.
“Defensively James Roberts is our middle linebacker and was our defensive captain last year and defensive lineman James Racadio is a force,” Louk said. “Those are two of the key guys that are going to be game changers for us on the defensive side of the ball.”
With all of the changes on the team in both the front office and on the roster, many teams would temper their expectations especially coming off an 0-8 season, but owner-player Dillon Louk has big hopes for the upcoming season.
“We’ve obviously want to be champions, but I think realistically we can be sitting at 8-3 at the end of the year,” Louk said. “Our first game is against the defending champions, the Oklahoma Monarchs out of Tulsa, and we honestly believe we’re going to win that game. There’s no doubt in our mind. We believe we can make a run at the championship. No one has seen the additions we’ve made, the work we’ve put in, and we believe they will overlook us based on last year, but we really believe we can win a championship or at least get very deep in the playoffs.”
For Louk, the Bobcats are about more than just winning championships. The organization is going to give back to the community and give people something to look forward to and they’re going to represent Yukon on a field very familiar to the young owner.
“We play our games at Yukon Middle School which is the old high school stadium where I played my high school ball at,” Louk said. “At the end of the day it’s not just about football though; community is a big part of why we do what we do and we’re really involved in the community. There’s an organization here called Knockout Bullying; it’s an anti-bullying movement that we’re a part of. Stacy does a really good job with those kids and likes to have us out and it’s something our guys enjoy doing to give back. We want Yukon to have something they can be a part of and be proud of.”
Going into season two looking for their first franchise win, the Bobcats are anxious to get the season started. They kickoff the year with their opening scrimmage, the red and black game, on February 18th at 1:00 PM and officially start their season on March 4th.
There’s no telling what the future holds for the Yukon Bobcats, but under the guidance of owner-player Dillon Louk things are looking up.