Considering they were winless in their inaugural season one year ago, the Yukon Bobcats have made some major strides and are now looking to carry a winning record into the playoffs.
Yukon opened the season by getting blown out by the defending XFL Champions, the Oklahoma Monarchs 70-0, then everything changed.
“We dropped our first game pretty hard,” Bobcats owner Dillon Louk told Developmental Football USA. “We went in not gelled as a team, overconfident, cocky, and the Monarchs used that against us.”
At this level, those types of losses can sometimes permanently damage a team, but that’s not what happened for the Bobcats.
“That was the turning point for us as a team,” Bobcats owner Dillon Louk told Developmental Football USA. “I think after that, everybody bought in. After that, they saw what we could be about. We went out the next week and won our first home game, 49-0. That was the first time our offense had ever scored a touchdown and we put up seven of them.”
After the first taste of victory, the Bobcats tacked on two more consecutive wins, to jump out to a 3-1 start.
“We went out and beat the Oklahoma Chargers who beat us 48-0 last year,” Louk said. “Then we went out and played the Prague Red Bulls. They came in as a highly-touted team, everybody said they were going to beat us by a couple of scores and nobody believed in us. We went out and won 16-8. They’re a great team that’s highly respected, doing a great job out there.”
Offensively, the backfield has been solid for Yukon while they make progress towards opening up their playbook in the passing game.
“Tez Williams, he’s a head-down, downhill running back and he goes through people,” Louk said. “Teams are having a hard time stopping him. Our darkhorse guy is going to be quarterback Sylvester Cathey.”
On defense, two playmakers in the secondary have stood out for Yukon and helped the entire defense improve, in hard-hitting safety Chaastin Antwine and lockdown cornerback Charles Scott.
“Chaastin, he’s going to bring a hit, it’s just going to happen,” Louk said. “Scott, he’s probably in the top three in the league in interceptions. He’s got a ton of them. He’s a ballhawk, it’s what he does.”
Special teams has also been big for the Bobcats, where their dominant defensive backs have doubled down as return specialists.
“Our special teams was terrible the first week and it has shored up,” Louk said. “Chaastin Antwine has been great in the return game. Him and Charles Scott have killed the return game. They’ve been dominating, giving us good field position to put the ball in the end zone.
Louk himself has also blocked several punts on special teams and Shaun Aaron has recovered all but one of them.
“Special teams has shored up, and, in a lot of situations, it has helped us win,” Louk said. “Shout out to our coaching staff, they’ve done an incredible, incredible, job. We’ve got a lot of pieces in place.”
The Bobcats host the Oklahoma City Jaguars Saturday, then the Oklahoma Nightmare the following week, before finishing out the regular season with a rescheduled game against the Kansas Cougars.
“I think right now we’re essentially guaranteed a spot in the playoffs with our record and it’s about seeding from here on out,” Louk said.
“A game we’re looking forward to the most is the Nightmare game. It’s a team a lot of our guys are familiar with. I started down there, that’s where I got my start at this level. I have huge respect for what they’re doing down there. There’s going to be a lot of emotions going into that game. I talk to a lot of those guys, I’m still friends with a lot of those guys, so pulling out a win against the Nightmare might be the highlight of the season for me.”
Once playoffs start, the Bobcats will have to knock off one of the heavy-hitters of the league if they want to finish out this season with hardware.
“The Monarchs should have the No. 1 seed, then the Cougars and the Elite will battle it out for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots,” Louk said. “It depends on how they shake out for the rest of the season. I feel like we’re going to be the fourth team, if not the third team. If we can go in and beat the Cougars, we can be the third team. I see us finishing the season in that fourth or third spot if we can stay healthy and execute the offense and the defenses we run.
“I think people are starting to see, now that we’re in mid-season form, that we’re for real and that Week 1 loss isn’t what we’re about. Should teams be worried about us? I think so.”
Last year, the Bobcats played their season with 15 guys, but after a successful off-season with Louk recruiting and promoting his program, Yukon now has a full roster of 50.
“Our guys are getting really involved in our film sessions, really involved in our practices,” Louk said. “The mesh is finally coming together. We’ve really played well together. We’ve come together as a unit and as a team. That brotherhood and that camaraderie has made us into something every team in the league needs to worry about.”
While developmental football has the potential to be interesting on any day of the year, next year will be especially interesting for Louk, who signed to play football for Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla., as a wide receiver and tight end.
“I’m the oldest incoming freshman at age 22,” Louk said. “I will still run the Bobcats and I’m still going to be living at my home in Yukon. I’m not a scholarship athlete, so I’ll still be able to run the Bobcats, and I’m not getting paid from football. I’ll still be very, very involved with the team, if not playing.”
Yukon has made up a lot of ground in Year 2, and, while there’s still a lot of football left to be played, they should be even better in Year 3.
“I’m never going to sit there and say we’re going to lose a game,” Louk said. “If we’re not prepared, I’m still going to say we have a chance to win. That’s how the Bobcats are built, that’s what we do.
“If I retain 60 percent of the personnel and players I have this season, going into next season, I’d put us into the top three going into next year.”