“Defense wins championships” is a phrase nothing short of a cliché in the football world, but for head coach Danny Palmer and the Tyler Junior College Apache football team, defense has given them an opportunity to win their first conference championship since the year 2000.
The Apaches shocked the world, or at least East Texas last Saturday as they traveled to Bryan and defeated the number one ranked Blinn Buccaneers in overtime, 37-34.
“Our offensive line dominated the game, and our defensive front played their best game all year. I couldn’t use one guy it was everybody. Everybody on the team contributed to that win,” said Palmer.
TJC held the Bucs to a mere 123 yards of total offense, a significantly lower number than what the previously undefeated team was accustomed to generating. Even more surprising is that the Apaches managed to stop Blinn’s high scoring offense in their own backyard.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this win will carry an ample amount of momentum and confidence as TJC ventures to Corsicana in hopes of avenging their controversial, regular-season loss to the Navarro College Bulldogs.
“We want to get back at them really bad because they’re in between us getting a ring,” said Hunter Hogan, offensive lineman for the Apaches, who continued on to say that good preparation in practice has been vital to their recent victories. “These past two weeks we’ve had the best practices since I’ve been here.”
In week three, TJC lost a heartbreaker to Navarro, 34-22. The Apaches faltered primarily due to excessive injuries, penalties, and turnovers, three catalysts that the Apaches have played without in the Blinn game last weekend.
“We didn’t have any turnovers, which is a big key,” said Palmer. “Our morale is high, we’re playing with a lot of confidence, we’re healthy; which we were not earlier in the year, when we played Trinity Valley and Navarro the first time. We’ve dismissed some people from the team who were not ‘team’ members. We have a young team. They believe in the coaches and one another, and they’re close.”
Palmer says that the Apaches will prepare for their upcoming conference championship game the same exact way they do every week, which includes spending countless hours in the weight room, on the practice field, and in the film room.
While defense is key, TJC has many offensive weapons to keep Navarro off-balance as well. For starters, TJC had nine players to carry the ball for positive yards in the victory against Blinn. Ryan Young was described as the “bell cow” of the runningbacks by Coach Palmer, racking up 150 yards on 33 carries against the Bucs. O’Bryan Washington, Ryan Black, Rodney Hall, Javante Mack, Tyriq Rollison, Brian Eurysthee, and Randy Price collectively added an additional 206 yards. Chason White scored the game-winning, 1-yard touchdown run in overtime.
With such diversity in the running game and a catabolic defense at Palmer’s disposal, the Apaches are surely a force to be reckoned with in the post-season. They travel to Corsicana to face Navarro for the conference championship game at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Tiger Stadium.