Burnet County Cowboys quarterback Jimmy Gibbs warms up before starting practice April 28. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
BURNET —Burnet County Cowboys head coach Dennis Wilke said the 2016 team has all the elements to make a run at the Texas League of American Football championship.
The squad is in its second year.
“In nine years of doing this, I’ve never had a team as strong as this one” he said. “We probably have the best offensive line I’ve every dealt with. We have several strong defenders, the linebacker crew – I can’t say enough about them. We have things in place to have a huge success.”
The semi-professional team plays its games at Pony Stadium in Marble Falls and Wallace Riddell Park in Burnet.
Fans can get their first look at the 2016 Cowboys when the team kicks off the season at 5 p.m. April 30 against the Texas Mavericks at Pony Stadium on the Marble Falls Middle School campus, 1511 Pony Circle Drive.
The Cowboys have 28 players on the roster from Burnet and Llano counties who vary in age from their late teens to their 60s. Most players are in their mid-20s.
“The passion for football is very strong,” Wilke said. “That’s something that can’t be replaced by anything else. And if you can physically still do it to be competitive, who says you can’t do it.”
Jimmy Gibbs is the team’s quarterback and also helps with the day-to-day responsibilities of the squad. Special teams coach is Jessica Wunderlich, a 2014 Llano High School graduate.
Gibbs operates the triple-option offense.
“It’s kind of a complex offense for the quarterback,” Wilke said. “Every team we played last year had no idea where the ball was most of the time. Our passing game has come along greatly.”
The offense is split between 60 percent running plays and 40 percent passing, the coach said.
The running backs are Dustin Wheeler and Jathan Craig, a 2010 Burnet High School graduate.
“They’ll put pressure on the defense to cover both parts,” Wilke said. “We catch people looking in the backfield all the time.”
Wilke said linebacker Austin Ketchum and receivers Chris Evans and Torrence Foster have the best chance to land college scholarships. All three are in their late teens to early 20s but suffered sports injuries that sidelined them. Now, they’re hoping the Cowboys will provide film that they can send to college coaches.
Last season, the Cowboys posted a 4-5 overall record with a loss in the first round of the playoffs. The Cowboys had a lead throughout most of the games, but depth played a factor in the outcome, the coach said, noting opponents have as many at 60 players on the roster. To even the playing field, teams can only suit up 32 athletes.
Wilke moved here a few years ago and got back into coaching semi-pros because of Gibbs, who still had a desire to play.
Prior to the Cowboys, Wilke coached the Hill Country Colts, another semi-pro squad.
He also coached with the Highland Lakes Horns, a youth football team, that is now part of the Burnet Bulldog Tackle Football League.
“With kids, you have to understand they’re trying to learn to play the game,” Wilke said. “You have to be more of a mentor than anything else. Kids’ eyes light up when they make a tackle or catch a pass. It’s very inspiring to see that. With adults, they know how to make a tackle. You’re just fine-tuning things.”
Still, he enjoys coaching the sport and being with the players and coaches, especially this season with all the elements in place.
The Texas League of American Football has six teams: Lampasas Lightning, Texas Mavericks in San Antonio, Texas Pride in Brownwood, Austin Bison and Temple Reapers.
Go to texasfootballleague.com to learn more about the squad and the league.
Burnet County Cowboys 2016 schedule
APRIL 30 at 5 p.m. vs. Texas Mavericks, Pony Stadium, 1511 Pony Circle Drive in Marble Falls
MAY 7 at Temple Reapers
MAY 28 at 5 p.m. at Lampasas, Gavin Garrett Soccer Park, 900 Spring St. in Lampasas
JUNE 11 at 5 p.m. vs. Temple at Wallace Riddell Park, East Polk and Rhomberg in Burnet
JUNE 18 at 5 p.m. vs. Baytown Wallace Riddell Park, East Polk and Rhomberg in Burnet
JULY 9 at 5 p.m. vs. Lampasas at Wallace Riddell Park, East Polk and Rhomberg in Burnet