Behind enemy lines
By BY ALBERT ALVARADO
July 30, 2010 at 2:30 a.m.
With the rematch between South Texas Amateur Football's two best teams set for Saturday at Memorial Stadium, both teams can look back and see they've received contributions from players from the opposing city.
Cuero native Adam Hengst has filled in as a linebacker/safety for the 9-2 Red Rage, while in Cuero, five Victorians have helped the Gobblers remain STAF's lone undefeated team.
Just months removed from playing his last game at Cuero High, Adam Hengst didn't find out about the STAF team in Cuero until after he joined the Red Rage. Although playing for his hometown team seemed like a natural fit, he likes making new friends with a new team despite the razzing he got from friends in Cuero.
"Some of the guys I graduated with who knew I was going to play for the Red Rage gave me a lot of crap, but I came over here knowing I was going to have a chance to just play again," Hengst said.
Like Hengst, former Memorial Vipers Eugene Johnson, Brandon Flores and Corey and Cedric Peoples joined STAF and found out about the Red Rage after joining the Gobblers and despite convenience and a chance to play for a hometown team, these four respected the commitment they made to the Gobblers.
"I felt like it would be messed up if I had quit Cuero and played for the Red Rage," Johnson said.
Flores added: "I thought about it, but I wasn't going to leave them up dry to hang."
Wide receiver/running back Cedric Peoples last wore a Vipers uniform in 2002 and, for him, the atmosphere that Gobbler owners Tim and Billie Basquez created made it easy to be loyal to Cuero.
"I was taught by my aunt and my mom that once you commit you stay committed," said Cedric. "Since we've been here everybody has been treating us like we're family - like we came to school in Cuero."
Most of the Cuero players and coaching staff grew up together and were high school teammates. Although you would think it could be awkward for an outsider from Victoria to be embraced by the group, Cedric's brother, wide receiver/running back Corey Peoples, said that was not the case with the Gobblers.
"They treated us just like them," Corey said.
Gobber tight end/linebacker and former Stroman High standout Bobby Harris credits the coaching staff and owners for making it easy for the five non-Cueroans to fit right in.
"When I first got here it was like family," Harris said. "They welcomed me with open arms."
For Gobbler head coach Robert Hopkins, football is the best way the guys from Victoria found common ground with their new teammates.
"Everybody that came in and played with us loves the game of football," Hopkins said. "Once you get into Cuero's group and you want to play football and you know how to play football you're always welcome because our town is strictly football, and they fit right in."
The last time the Red Rage played the Gobblers a late touchdown connection by Brandon Mays to Corey Peoples proved to be the difference in Cuero's 12-7 victory at Patti Welder Stadium.
Before the first game, these players knew what the other teams were all about.
"I played for Cuero. That's all I knew is Cuero football," Hengst said.
Flores enjoyed lining up across from some of his high school teammates.
"It was fun because we always were on the same team and we never got to compete against each other," Flores said.
After the opening week setback, the Red Rage won nine of its 10 games and clinched a playoff birth after last week's 39-0 win against Texas. Hengst said the loss gave Victoria something to work towards.
"It made us get better and know if we wanted to make the playoffs and make this a fun experience, we would have to win games and play to our full ability," Hengst said.
For Harris and Cedric Peoples, the opening win set the tone for what has been, up to this point, an undefeated Gobbler season.
"After we got that first win against Victoria, we focused on playing every game like it was Victoria," Cedric Peoples said.
Harris added: "Even though it was a battle of defenses, it set the tone to a goal to go to the South Texas Amateur Bowl Game and see if we can win it," Harris said.
Although the outcome of the game will have no impact on the STAF playoff picture, Red Rage head coach Cody Shugart likes the opportunity his team has to give Cuero its first loss.
"It's all about pride and Cuero's always been on top. Right now we've got an opportunity to put them behind us and that's what they're aiming to do - to get some respect," Shugart said.
Hengst, like a lot of his Red Rage teammates, has been anticipating this game all week.
"There may be some bad blood between us, but still it's just football and we get to go out and hit some people," Hengst said.
The season finale was originally scheduled to be played at Hunt Field in Cuero, but was moved to Memorial Stadium in Victoria.
For the Victorians on the Cuero roster, they will seize the opportunity to play on their high school home field.
"I cannot wait to play back at my home field," Johnson said.
"I might have a couple of flashbacks before I walk back onto the field," Cedric Peoples said.
Flores said he would showcase his wide receiver/running back skills that have improved since he last played for Memorial in 2007.
"I'm excited, it brings back memories and I'm better than I was then so I'm hoping to put on a show," Flores said.
The game is the highlight of a full day of activities at Memorial Stadium as there will be a blood drive in the Memorial Stadium parking lot from 2-6 p.m., a tailgate from 4-6 p.m. and kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
After the rematch, the Gobblers will host Pearsall in the STAF playoffs while Victoria will travel to Dilley for its first round playoff game.