By JUSTIN RAINS
Football normally isn’t played during the first half of the year, but don’t tell that to the 50-or-so players who’ll take the field Saturday for the new Anderson County Roughnecks.
The Roughnecks, an expansion team in the Professional American Football League (PAFL), open up the regular season Saturday at Mountain View College in Dallas against the Texas Knights. Kick-off is at 3 p.m.
The team is made up of players from around the area, and includes former high school stars like former Westwood player Tevin Watson and former Palestine players like Cameron Shead and D.J. Morrow.
With that talent, Roughnecks coach Robert Oberlander expects results, despite this being the team’s first year.
“From the talent we have on the team I feel like we have a chance to win our division and make the playoffs,” Oberlander said. “We lack experience playing with each other, but we have a lot of the talent in East Texas.”
The Roughnecks went 2-2 in the preseason, but what pleased Oberlander the most was the squad’s performance in the preseason finale, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
In that game, Anderson County beat the East Texas Storm, a perennial playoff team, 22-8.
“That was a first complete game and we won 22-8,” Oberlander said. “They were a pretty established team.”
The Roughnecks play in the league’s South Division, along with the Knights, the Temple Panthers and the ATX (Austin) Tigers.
The PAFL is made up of three, four-team divisions, with each division winner as well as the second-place team with the best record making the playoffs.
Oberlander said he hopes his squad is one of those four.
Behind Watson, Shead and Morrow, Oberlander called the Roughnecks’ running game the team’s offensive strength.
He added that he hopes to improve the play of the team’s big but inexperienced offensive line as the season goes along.
“In semi-pro football, it’s hard to attract that talent,” he said. “But, we’ve got big boys. We’re definitely not small.”
Defensively, Oberlander highlighted linebacker Rodney Watson (Athens) as well as defensive tackle Desmond Johnson (Grapeland) as big-time players, calling Johnson “unstoppable” during the final preseason game.
The goal of the team will be to give back to the community, Oberlander said, and proceeds from each home game — played at Wildcat Stadium — will go to a different charity each week.
The team’s first home game, at 3 p.m. March 3 against the Permian Basin Strikeforce, will be a military appreciation event.
“We really are just trying to give back to the community. That’s our biggest thing,” Oberlander said. “We’ve done cancer benefits and Toys for Tots, and our first home game will be military appreciation.”
He added that he hopes the community will support the team, and see that this isn’t some joke but rather dedicated people hoping to build a strong organization in Palestine.
“We’re trying to build a professional program here,” he said. “We’re trying to get more people to think like that, and we’re trying to attract professional-type talent.”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
2013 Roughneck Schedule
2/17: at Texas Knights, 3 p.m.*
2/23: at N. Texas Stampede, 7 p.m.
3/3: vs. Permian Basin Skyforce, 3 p.m.
3/10: at Temple Panthers, 3 p.m.*
3/17: vs. Curry Co. Cats, 3 p.m.
3/23: vs. Texas Knights, 7 p.m.*
4/7: vs. ATX Tigers, 3 p.m.*
4/21: vs. Temple Panthers, 3 p.m.*
4/28: at ATX Tigers, 4 p.m.*
5/5: at Wichita Knighthawks, 3 p.m.
* indicates South Division game
All home games played at Wildcat Stadium