Tarleton Football springs into first Division 1 season


Blake Smith/The JTAC

Donovan Banks (Defensive back) and Devin Hafford (Defensive back) at the Sports Media event on Jan. 17, 2021.

The global pandemic has affected everyone individually but it has also impacted team sports like Tarleton State University’s now Division 1 football team. After finally joining the NCAA Division 1, Western Athletic Conference in July 2020, it seemed as though Tarleton State fans were in for a treat. However, with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the idea of attending a football game in the fall was becoming less of a reality and more of a dream. However, the pandemic was no match for the love of college football and the support of fans, faculty, staff and students. Rather than calling it quits, Tarleton State kept its head up and the Division 1 team got to work in preparation for the new season.
In the 2019 season, Tarleton State football was recorded to have put up about 45 points per game with an overall total of 540 points during the season. After their 11 game winning streak, it was clear that Tarleton State football would be making big moves in the near future. The pandemic might have changed the entire sports timeline but it did not relinquish the fire that burns in each player’s heart when they are put up against a worthy opponent. COVID-19 might have delayed the season but that did not change the prearranged work schedule that the coaches had in place for the upcoming season.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has definitely taken time away from the normal season timeline but the coach wanted us to keep kicking individually to make sure we didn’t lose our touch. During the break, we were encouraged to do extra workouts and I usually lifted weights at home and practiced my kicking in an open field,” kicker, Christian Hernandez said.
Despite the fact that this year’s season is unconventional in comparison to past seasons, the amount of hard work the team has put in has not been put on hold. The football team has been practicing non stop since July. Although the team practices diligently everyday, the coaches work hard to allow players to focus on their studies while also building their strength on and off the field. On average, the team practices for about three hours a day all throughout the week. Due to the new Division 1 status, practices have intensified.
“With this being our first time playing as a Division 1 team, the one thing we need to bring to the field this year is energy. Last year, when we played in Nacogdoches, we brought a lot of energy and we learned, as a team, that we can handle anybody. If we carry that into this next season, we have a lot of confidence that we can take on any and everybody,” slot receiver, Braden Hucks said.
This year, Tarleton State will go head-to-head with new teams such as Dixie State, Mississippi State, Northeastern and East Central State University. Although each team is a new hurdle to overcome, the Texans are ready to show the world just why they were eligible for the new Division 1 status.
There are currently six scheduled home games in this season. The first official game of the 2021 season is currently scheduled for Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
“This season, I’m most excited about playing McNeese State because my first year playing college ball, they beat us and I would like to return the favor,” linebacker, Rondell Wilson said.
After going from being a Division 2 university with an 11 game winning streak to being a Division 1 university, Tarleton State football has got a lot to prove. Their constant hard work is expected to show itself on the field.
“I would say the team only has one thing to prove and that is that we can handle Division 1 teams,” offensive lineman, Robert Rios said.
“My team goal for this year is to win as many games as possible. I want us to get better everyday in practice and learn from each game whether we win or lose. My personal goals are to just be a better leader on and off the field. I want to be able to guide the younger guys in a direction that will keep the program successful in the future,” defensive back, Devin Hafford said.
With the new season approaching, fans can expect to see determined players and dedicated coaches out there on the field. Football games will look different this year due to COVID-19. However, purchasing tickets is still convenient. In order to purchase tickets online, fans can visit the Tarleton Sports website or tickets can be purchased at the gate an hour before kickoff. Face coverings and social distancing is not only encouraged but it will be enforced. For more information about how to stay safe or purchase football tickets, visit the Tarleton Sports website or app. Stay safe Texans!