West Texas A&M head football coach Hunter Hughes, center, leads his team down the ramp during an inter-squad scrimmage at Buffalo Stadium last week. [Trevor Fleeman/ WT athletics]
It’s been a long but worth while wait when West Texas A&M finally opens its 2020 football season against Oklahoma Panhandle State at the friendly confines of Buffalo Stadium on J-Ferg Field at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
After months of uncertainty due to the ongoing coronavirus, and despite the Lone Star Conference’s decision to move all fall sports to the spring, WT felt its best option was playing in the fall. The Buffs are one of only a handful of Division II programs playing football this fall, currently coming up with an outlaw 7-game schedule.
“It’s been a long six months,” said WT head football coach Hunter Hughes, who is 17-16 in his first three seasons. “I credit our president Dr. Walter Wendler and athletic director Michael McBroom. They worked as hard as they could to get us a season that started at five games. I don’t think playing in the spring then turning around in a few months to play another full schedule is healthy for our players.”
WT athletic director Michael McBroom agreed with Hughes.
“I believe this is just another example of how, at WT, we put all of our efforts into creating platforms and opportunities for students to learn and achieve success.,” McBroom said. “We set this particular stage Saturday for athletics and the football team, but deans and department heads are doing the same thing in nursing, agriculture, business, engineering – everywhere on campus in every nook and cranny you will find the same commitment to creating opportunities for WT students to excel. It’s the WT way.”
Like most of 2020, nothing has been normal about the Buffs fall football camp leading to the season opener. Hughes and his staff have had to practice without an entire team at times due to COVID-19. If it wasn’t the coronavirus playing an issue, the ongoing social injustice in America has played a huge role inside the locker room. Hughes cancelled a practice because of social injustice, and held a special team meeting during camp to have an intense open discussion and listen to his players. His focus was to let everyone speak their peace and come together as one.
“It’s been very interesting with what’s going on in the world, and listen to our players,” Hughes said. “I told them, I can’t walk a step in your shoes, and I don’t know what a lot of these guys go through. We talked about the National Anthem and we’ll vote as a team what we want to do. We voted to take our stance and be individuals and they have the right to do that. But we’ll respect each others opinions and beliefs. I’m here and support these guys.”
When it comes to football Saturday, the Buffs
return a loaded roster of 30 letterman off a team that went 8-3 a year ago.
Junior quarterback Nick Gerber is back under center for a second straight year, while Stratford graduate and redshirt junior Parker Hanna (6-foot-5, 315 pounds) is back for his third year starting at left tackle. Senior fullback/ tight end Jordan Johnson, linebacker Hayden Dennis and defensive lineman Joseph Radke will also get one final season. Though this year doesn’t count against players eligibility all will conclude their 10 semesters of playing in the NCAA.
Senior linebacker Eric Collins, and the ever-exciting Tobias Harris will begin his third year starting at cornerback, as well as a return specialist.
Harris, only a junior, already holds the school-record for punt return yards in a season with 436 yards he set in 2019, and career punt return yards with 756.
Though the team knows they will be playing for nothing more than pride this fall, with the exception of most players getting a year back expect Hughes to play many younger players as well.
WT will fill the stadium at 50 percent capacity with general admission tickets available online starting at $10.
WT will provide live stats and pay-per-view webstream for the game on the LSC Digital Network. Fans can purchase a $10 single-day pass to watch Saturday’s contest. Lucas Kinsey and Brice Sheets will be on the call. For more information, visit the Football Schedule Page at GoBuffsGo.com.
Buffs 2020 football schedule
Sept. 19 vs. Oklahoma Panhandle St, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Angelo State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Stephen F. Austin, 4 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Abilene Christian, 6 p.m.
Oct. 24 vs. Angelo State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 31 vs. North American St. 6 p.m.
Nov. 21 vs. Colorado Mesa, noon