TLCA-Abilene Eagles approach 11-a-side game with excitement

A few scrimmages helped Texas Leadership Charter Academy coach Jeremy Kirk get a better idea of ​​what to expect heading into his team’s first season in 11-a-side football.

A scrimmage was against the Midland TLCA, and Kirk called it a win for his team. Next is Archer City, a Class 2A Division II team that showed the Eagles a thing or two.

“I wasn’t very bright,” Kirk laughed at the AC lineup. “I’m telling you what, that team over there is going to have a run for the state.”

While district rival Windthorst is ranked No. 7 in the state by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Archer City is No. 23. The Wildcats were 8-3 last year and fired six starters in attack and five in defense.

Of course, the No. 1 team is Albany, a team that TLCA faces in its final game of the regular season.

These workouts helped Kirk and his team swell the TLCA team which played three seasons of six-a-side football.

“I was very pleased with our second scrum,” Kirk said. “We asked our kids to do simple things to help us get through the fray and be healthy, and we did. I think they got a little taste of what it’s going to be like. Friday nights.”

How many freshmen?

It’s a young team, no doubt. There are 14 freshmen and six sophomores on the roster.

“We’re really a joint venture playing a college program,” Kirk said. “But I’m one of those people who likes, ‘We just have to go. If we don’t learn now, what good is it to us?’

The freshmen played well last year, Kirk said, getting acclimated to football. There are only three seniors in the team.

“They know what to expect and the ins and outs,” Kirk said. That’s why they will be in the field.

This year’s eighth-grade class also looks promising, so the future is here for the Eagles.

But this season will be a test. Kirk expects to play all freshmen in high school defensive and two at linebacker.

Four or five freshmen will start on offense, including quarterback Jonathan Rico.

The enthusiasm is there, Kirk said.

Quarterback Jonathan Rico steps back to throw a pass during practice with the TLCA Eagles.

“Our kids are really buying,” he said. “Kids keep asking questions and they want to learn the game fast. And we need them to learn the game fast.

Kirk said the Eagles would likely throw the ball more to give the offensive line time to gel. He has size up front, that’s for sure, but he lacks the experience now to be effective with the ball.

Against Archer City, Rico was decked out as a defensive end as he tried to get past the first play of the game.

He bounced back, learned about the reality of football.

“He realized, hey, it’s not too bad to be hit,” Kirk said.

The offensive line anchor is Zaidryn Moreno-Nobles, who was at Cooper for a year.

The Eagles center is 365 pounds and “we’re going 280 on guards and 265 on our tackles,” the coach said.

At wide receiver is the coach’s son, Junior Jay. He played 11-a-side football from seventh grade until last year, so he brings valuable experience to the roster. He also has speed, which the Eagles hope to use for big winners.

Rico had a good arm and is smart in his readings. Kirk hopes the Rico-to-Kirk connection will grow quickly.

Give the Eagles a chance early on

Kirk said he has built his schedule to start with three games that will test his team but also ease them into the season.

Water Valley and Sterling City are also joining the 11-player ranks, and while they’re successful at the six-man level, they’re adapting to the new game, much like TLCA.

Munday was 0-10 last year and hired Wylie High assistant Webb Murphy to lead the program.

Kirk said they discussed over the summer how to make programs.

Members of the TLCA Eagles jostle during practice.

“How do you involve the kids…he has a lot of kids,” Kirk said.

“We felt that those three games gave us a chance for early success,” the TLCA coach said.

Lockney and City View wrap up the out-of-district schedule. Kirk knows the coaches of both schools and needed to find matches.

Going to 11 players meant Kirk had to expand his coaching roster. He had two assistants last year. Now he has five.

Steven Ward is the offensive coordinator. He previously coached 11 men, tried his hand at six men at TLCA and got sidelined. The Eagles now playing in class 2A led him to join the coaching staff.

Kirk will call the defense, and he said he was a little unorthodox. TLCA will line up in a 3-3 pile, giving their players freedom to react.

“I can tell them where to go and they’ll be fine,” he said. “Our strength will be more on the defensive side to start the year.”

Need help, appreciated

The other coaches are Michael Stevens of Anson, Cameron Rockett of Bangs, Tyler Burchette of Millsap and Dakota Fanning, who was the quarterback a few years ago at Baird.

Home games will be held at Hawley. There are only three – Hamlin on a Thursday, Roscoe and Cross Plains. Kirk said Hawley’s coach Mitch Ables understood his situation and offered his pitch when he was available. The Bearcats have a home game Oct. 7 against Colorado City, so the Eagles will prepare for Thursday Night Football.

“Mitch was a big influence on me,” Kirk said of developing a friendship with the famed Hawley trainer.

Kirk said his team will adjust to Abilene and be ready to warm up when they arrive in Hawley, 14 miles north of Abilene. It was routine for Iowa Park, when Kirk coached there, for games at nearby Holliday.

“It’s the same situation we’re in here,” he said.