On Friday, April 21, TJC’s Black/Gold spring football game reintroduced familiar faces as well as unveiled many new ones to the Pat Hartley Field Complex.
“I feel great about tonight. Offense executed, defense played good, we looked good going against number two’s — number two’s look good going against number one’s,” said No. 1 Quarterback Twayne Blackwell. “We were just executing and I felt good about it.”
TJC’s Black/Gold football game is the last test and last time to shine for the Apaches in the spring. It gives a chance for the coaches to decide which player is the best fit, and where he belongs.
“I was also kind of surprised by the second offense going against the first defense, they did a pretty good job,” said Head Football Coach Danny Palmer. “They quite surprised me.”
The offensive squad wasn’t the only thing that surprised the 10-year head coach. Fans, students and recruits as well as first-round draft pick Patrick Mahomes II were all in attendance to watch what the Apaches had to offer for next season under the lights.
“You saw it man, isn’t it something,” said Palmer on the attendance of the spring game.
Many players from all aspects of the game were able to showcase their skills and talents for the coaches watching closely on the sideline.
Returning running backs J.T. Smith and Shannon Vaughns helped bring dominance to the running game along with the shifty 5’6” walk-on Stephon Rucker-Carroll from Raytown, MO. These backs carried in multiple touchdowns and several 10-plus-yard runs.
“We’re going to be better up front (offensive line) too with some more depth,” said Palmer with confidence. “It picked up a little bit — yeah the running game is going to be good. It’s going to be real good.”
With this trio in the backfield, it gives the team something to build off of in the upcoming season. But the future of the program weren’t only the athletes competing on the field, many future Apaches were in attendance looking on as well.
33 players of this year’s recruiting class came to Pat Hartley after enrolling for classes, and filing paperwork for financial aid and housing. In those 33 recruits was Senior Quarterback and State Championship MVP Jeremiah Crawford from Mineola, TX.
The recruits weren’t the only new faces at the game, Coach Palmer also brought in a bevy of new personnel to replace his coaching staff. First-year Assistant Coach and Offensive Coordinator Matt Gordon was brought in from Henderson State University, as well as the first-year Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator Thomas Rocco from West Texas A&M.
“I think Rocco has come in and brought a whole new dimension. Coach Thompson did a great job too,” said Palmer.
Although the coaches wanted to keep the feeling and intensity of this game similar to that of an official game, no score was kept and no stats were recorded. Needless to say, Palmer and his staff had much more to worry about after the loss of the favorite to start at the quarterback position, Carter McCown, due to multiple injuries.
Though the depth at the running back position may be solid at this point, there are still many questions that have yet to be answered about the quarterback position. Both quarterbacks that saw playing time in the Black/Gold game were cut the following week along with many other position players.
This leaves a lot of pressure on the upcoming recruits to perform many different positions come fall.