By Jared Fields, Sports Editor
After an up and down 2004 season, head football coach Chris Thomsen said he looks to start his first year in Abilene with a bang. The Wildcats begin the season Sept. 3, hosting Lone Star Conference North Division favorite Central Oklahoma. The Bronchos, who finished 8-2 last year and shared the division title with Southeastern Oklahoma State, will be a tough first game for the Wildcats.
Thomsen said that UCO will be a good challenge for his team.
“A good way to find out what kind of team you have is to go against a top-20 football team,” Thomsen said. “That will be good because it’s the first one for us to see where we are.”
Central Oklahoma won’t be the only tough game on the schedule this year. The final three games are against proven teams in the tough South Division: Tarleton State, Texas A&M-Kingsville, and Midwestern State.
Thomsen said he can’t pick out a single big game out of this year’s schedule.
“I can’t pick one out that you can say is bigger than the other; they’re all tough. Every week is a big game,” Thomsen said.
Winning is of high importance to everyone, but Thomsen said he just wants to see the team improve each week.
“As far as records and championships go, it’s hard to say,” Thomsen said. “You just want to see your team play as well as they can.”
With a talented team to lead, high expectations are contagious among the team.
“We have a lot of players that have played here in the past and played at a high level,” Thomsen said. “I think those guys’ expectations are high this year.”
The Wildcats have a talented core of players coming back to tackle the difficult schedule. Junior safety Danieal Manning and senior defensive end Clayton Farrell return to anchor the defense. Senior Greg Yeldell also returns after being second on the team in tackles behind Farrell.
Offensively, the Wildcats have talented players at skill positions to lead them down the field. Senior Rashon Myles returns as running back for the Wildcats. Myles led the team in rushing last year with 865 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Jerale Badon returns as the team leader in receiving yards after having 521 as a freshman.
The quarterback position is highly competitive this year. The Wildcats finished the year ranked 12th in the LSC in passing and and total offense. Sophomore Brock Pierce did some of the play calling last year, but will be contested for playing time by two recruits.
Blinn Junior College transfer Daniel Marshall and Tulane transfer Billy Mallone bring depth to the quarterback position.
Marshall threw for 2,000 yards last season for Blinn, and Mallone signed with Tulane in 2002 after being a top national recruit.
Thomsen is the most outspoken about his class of seniors.
“All of those guys have been around a long time,” Thomsen said. “We’ve got a really good group of seniors that have taken the leadership role of this team. That should do something for us.”