Why play semi-pro football?
“You play for love of the game,” said Ark-La-Tex coach Recardo Wyrick. His Gladiators had just routed the Texas Hornets (Alvarado), 30-0, in the semifinals of the Texas United Semi-Pro Football League playoffs. “If this game isn’t in your blood, you shouldn’t be out here. The players have insurance, but they’re still playing at their own risk.”
Saturday night’s semi-pro game was played at Liberty-Eylau’s Harris Field, which attracted a crowd of several hundred. Proceeds from the game went to Texarkana’s youth football program.
The Gladiators now travel to a site in the Dallas area next week. They will play the Central Texas Apaches for the league championship. It would be a first for the Ark-La-Tex squad, which lost last year’s title game to the Wichita Falls Mustangs.
Ark-La-Tex entered this year’s postseason seeded first. That logic was evident Saturday as the Gladiators dominated their opposition. The ran at-will behind an offensive line that averaged well over 300 pounds per man. Quarterback Berander Russ of Stamps, Ark., also threw a touchdown pass to Liberty-Eylau graduate Qualyn Luster.
Lots of former Tigers on semi-pro squad
Texas High graduate Ronnie Harrison scored twice on short, but spectacular second-effort runs.
“Coming into this game, we had not played the Hornets before,” said Wyrick, a native of Lewisville, Ark. “We came together, and everyone did their job. This team is motivated because of last year’s close loss in the championship game. We’ve got a very talented team, and have spent a lot of time together practicing.”
All seven of the Gladiators’ captains played well against the Hornets. That list includes Kendrick King, Quentin Hope, Jodie Aubrey, Russ, Kyran Richardson, Rod Junior and Nick Peoples. Aubrey and Junior played for Texas High’s 2002 state championship team.
As a result of their win, the Gladiators could get an invitation to play for a national title if they beat the Apaches.