There are often football teams in the lower classes like Class A and the eight-man classes that sometimes fight the numbers game with few backups on the sideline to help when there are injuries which leave a team depleted.
I’ve heard coaches talk about having the “dirty 30” over the past couple of decades and for Apache Head Coach Tanner Coons, having a “dirty 30” roster would be a real blessing considering there were just 17 or so players on Chandler Field Tuesday as the Warriors prepared for Friday’s home playoff game against Stratford.
As the sun set in the west, Koons and his staff gathered up every water boy and manager to try and provide the scout team with enough players to give the starting 11 on both sides of the ball a good look at what the Bulldogs will use Friday.
It’s something the Warriors have been facing all season.
“We’ve been low in numbers from the start, so we’ve just learned to use the guys we have available,” 6-1, 190-pound senior defensive end/center Matthew Beavers said. “We don’t have any other choice but to keep pushing forward as a team.”
And push forward is just what the Warriors have done as they capped a perfect District A-2 season at 6-0 and they are 9-1 overall entering Friday’s second-round game.
That is definitely a better start to the playoffs from last season’s loss to Fairview in the first round.
“We all remember what happened last year but we’ve been able to play hard and play with intensity,” 5-11, 165-pound quarterback Houston Herrin said. “We all remember that loss in the playoffs last year and we vowed to come out and play fast and hard from the start of every game. I’ve taken some big hits and they didn’t bother me so I feel good about how we’ve been able to make plays when we needed big plays.”
While Herrin and Dom Scott have been the catalysts on an explosive offense, they know the importance of a balanced attack.
“We have a high-powered offense but we really rely on our defense,” Herrin said. “I know a lot of people talk about our offense but I think our defense is one of the best in our class in this area. When we go out there on offense, our goal is to do whatever we need to do to score points.”
Scott is the explosive threat for the Warriors as he lines up in the backfield at times but also can be used at several of the receiver spots where his 6-1, 185-pound frame makes him an easy target for Herrin to spot downfield.
“We aren’t really big up front but these guys are getting stronger every week,” Scott said. “This bunch (Stratford) reminds me of Carnegie because they had a good receiver and this bunch has a good one who can catch the ball ran run well after he grabs it. That guy is about 6-3, so we have to be ready because they will try to get the ball to him from anywhere on the field.”
While the Warriors aren’t known for throwing a lot of blitz packages into their defensive scheme, that could change Friday.
“We will blitz at times but we’ve also been able to get good pressure at times from our line without having to blitz,” Scott said. “We know what it takes to win and now we just have to go out and execute.”
The Warriors have executed well enough to average more than 40 points a game while allowing just 14.1 on defense per game. Apache’s lone loss was a 33-23 loss to Minco in a non-district game on Week 2.
While there might not be that many players on the Apache sideline, there will be plenty of fans Friday at Chandler Field where there is an authentic Native American teepee behind the end zone and come Friday the war drums will be providing an atmosphere that fans have grown fond of in recent years.
“Our fans are just amazing; they come early and they get loud,” Beavers said. “It’s just a great atmosphere to compete in and we thrive on what our fans bring with them to our games. It’s fun to play in front of these great crowds.”