In football, like in life, you get out what you put in. While all teams in the 4-State Football League are eager to kick off their 2020 season this weekend, the Tulsa Gators are especially excited, and for good reason.
The Gators launched in 2019 and made it all the way to the 4SFL Semifinals one year ago, ending with a 9-3 record. Teams at this level generally break for months following their final game, but the Gators have been making moves all off-season.
“We have almost tripled our community sponsorships in Tulsa and Broken Arrow since last season,” Gators co-owner Carson Smallwood told The Gridiron Grind. “We are getting the community to buy in.”
If you’ve been around this level more than a couple of weeks, you probably know that communities don’t just buy in to teams at this level. There has to be quality, there has to be organization, there has to be character and there has to be a product worth standing behind.
With a staff of several guys with more than 10 years experience at this level, the Gators made an emphasis from Day 1 on things that would set up their organization for long term success.
“We hold our players accountable with a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for unexcused absences and fighting,” Smallwood said. “Also, after just one year, we sent two players to college and one player to arena. Many teams who have been around 5 to 10 years cannot claim that.”
Veterans at this level can also tell you that coaching staffs are hit or miss in terms of experience, knowledge and professionalism, so that was something else the Gators addressed early and thoroughly.
“We have a full coaching staff of 13 that are either currently coaching high school football or middle school football,” Smallwood said. “Our head coach Gary Joice returns with a 138-25 record at the Semi-Pro level. From being one of the main pieces in creating the Oklahoma Thunder to arena ball and now returning for Year 2 with the Tulsa Gators.”
Off the field, not many teams have going for them what the Gators do. The same could be said on the field, too.
“Our talent is off the charts,” Smallwood said. “At some positions we have all-star caliber players top to bottom.”
The Gators are led by veteran quarterback Steven Hamilton, running back Terrel Buchanan, offensive linemen Mike Edwards and Dion Huey, and linebacker Frankie Davis.
“I could name 20 key players, those are just five of them,” Smallwood said.
The Gators will open up their season this weekend on the road against the Oklahoma City Titans and enter the game heavily favored. There are a few games later in the season the Gators have circled.
“Our biggest upcoming tests will be a rematch with our turnpike rival, the Oklahoma Bears, and against the Kansas City Ravens,” Smallwood said.”
Tulsa split its series with the Bears last season 1-1 and it will be the Gators first ever match-up against the Ravens.
“Our goal is to win a championship,” Smallwood said. “Our biggest hurdle that could prevent us from doing so will be ourselves. If we stay disciplined and play sound football, then I believe we can do that.”
All veterans and current service members are admitted into all Tulsa Gators home games free of charge.