The Leander Wolfpack knew their season-opening match-up against the San Antonio Titans wasn’t going to be an easy one.
In fact, it’s safe to say that Leander was a major underdog as a new team in the Texas United Football Association going up against the defending champions in the Titans.
That’s no easy task and the Wolfpack didn’t have much to work with as far as preparation was concerned. And yes, there’s no such thing a moral victories in football and a loss is a loss, but Leander’s 36-34 opening weekend loss to the Titans will go down as an impressive feat none the less.
The Wolfpack were at a disadvantage from the jump, a challenge made even worse by the fact that the Titans took the game’s opening kick-off back 97-yards for a touchdown.
“That took the wind out of our sails immediately,” co-owner Mark Rogers told Developmental Football USA after the game.
To make matters even worse for the Wolfpack, their starting quarterback was hit on the offense’s third play from scrimmage, fracturing his collar bone and putting him out for the rest of the season.
“In six plays we gave up a kickoff for a touchdown and my starting quarterback is done,” Rogers bitterly reminisced.
Luckily for Leander the team had prepared two signal-callers heading into the season, so Jewel Russell stepped in for the Wolfpack and stepped up admirably.
He threw his first touchdown pass of the game to Brandon Wilkerson, a 15-yard strike, and all-in-all made it possible for the Wolfpack to keep up with the defending champs with a 212-yard, two touchdown game.
In fact, after a second-half opening kickoff return of their own — another touchdown from Wilkerson — the Pack had tied the game with the Titans at 22-all. Heading into the fourth quarter after a two-yard touchdown run by Earnest Mays, Leander was actually up 28-22 — a testament to just how good Russell, Wilkerson, Mays and the rest of their teammates played. It was a testament to the mental fortitude of the team.
“It was good to have somebody you trust that can come in and lead the team,” Rogers said of his new starting quarterback. “Nobody likes a moral measuring stick, but at the end of the day with the events and adversity that happened in the first five plays in the ball game, I knew these guys were ready to compete at a high level,” he went on to say, speaking about his team as a whole.
The Titans ended up pulling away in the fourth quarter after a few missed field goals put the Wolfpack behind the eight ball, but ultimately, it was a game that Leander can hang its hat on and build off of looking ahead to the rest of the season
“The leadership kept the guys focused. I thought our character was exceptional,” Rogers told DFUSA. “At the end of the day we could have used a few more seconds on the clock, but guys were where we needed them at the end.”
Up next for the Wolfpack are the Texas Showtime out of San Antonio. It will be Leander’s first home game, so look for the team to show up in a big way.
“Being our first home game I definitely want us to be able to put on a show,” Rogers said.
He relayed that much like with the Titans, the team doesn’t know much about the Showtime, but in general they feel they know themselves better than any other team could know them — which comes down to self-scouting.
The Wolfpack will be looking to shore up their play in the defensive backfield and give up less big plays, especially on third down. They’ll also be focused on repping their schemes this week and specifically getting better on special teams, where substitution issues hurt the team against the Titans.
“They’re ready to play a home game,” Rogers said. “As soon as the game was over on Saturday evening our focus shifted to the Texas Showtime and hosting our first opponent at home — knowing what we need to fix and what we do better.”