All Saints began the 2016 season with optimism. The Trojans went 2-2 in their first four games, including a 51-point explosion in a win over Malakoff Cross Roads.
Then the season-ending injuries started and did not stop. When All Saints took the field for its regular-season finale against Bishop Gorman, the Trojans could only suit up 18 healthy players.
“I could not have been prouder of how are kids played,” All Saints coach Drew Starnes said of his team’s resilience. “We played iron man football against good competition. They never quit, never gave in and the effort was outstanding.
“Six of our injured guys were two-way starters. The majority of the guys against Gorman were not starters to begin the season.
All Saints finished 2-8, and coach Drew Starnes out of necessity, began thinking about changing things up for 2017. The Trojans would be an independent program for the upcoming season, meaning All Saints would no longer play in TAPPS Division II District 2.
“We have good kids, who are hard workers, and for those young men, it was the best decision for our program currently and for the future to go to an independent schedule,” Starnes said. “No one wants to cancel games and do this, but we had to for the betterment of our program.”
Starnes made the decision, but now was forced to start from zero as far as a schedule.
Gone were the TAPPS Div. II District 2 opponents, and being a non-realignment year, Starnes wondered if he would be able to find enough teams that needed games to fill out a season.
“Our athletic director Eddie Francis and I were on the phone like crazy for the first weeks of May looking for teams who needed games,” Starnes said. “We were lucky at first to find two teams who were transitioning from 6-Man to 11-Man, so they were independent (too).”
So, the first two on the schedule were Midland Trinity and Newman International Academy in Mansfield.
Okay, so two down, but several more weeks needed to be filled for a legitimate schedule.
The next two who reached out, according to Starnes, were Frankston and Shelbyville “because they had cancellations.”
Four weeks were now taken care of. All Saints was able to keep 2016 opponents Alba-Golden and Cross Roads on the schedule in their same weeks.
The Trojans still did not have an opponent for the Tyler Football Classic in Week 1.
Until that week also became filled after a phone call.
“A+ Academy out of Dallas had an opening in Week 1, so (that worked out great),” Starnes said.
To round out what was now an 8-game schedule, All Saints agreed to face former TAPPS Div. II District 2 foe Cedar Hill Trinity Christian in a non-district game for their open week.
“When we started, I didn’t think we were going to find any games,” Starnes said. “It worked out so well.’
Starnes and the Trojans were about to get another welcome surprise. Independent teams played in a separate division of sorts with the top four moving on into the playoffs with the final two in a state championship game.
“It is done by a Wild Card system based on how well you do against your opponents in regards to your strength of schedule,” Starnes said.
The other independent teams listed with the Trojans are Fort Worth All Saints, El Paso Cathedral, The Village School, Austin Savio, TMI Episcopal, Irving the Highlands, Garland Christian, Midland Trinity and Newman International.
Starnes admits this opportunity is more than he could’ve hoped for when All Saints agreed to go independent.
“Our kids will get honors and a chance to make the playoffs,” Starnes said. “If we don’t make the playoffs, I have arrangements for a game in Week 10, so either way our kids will play 9 games this season.”
As for the team on the field, Starnes is excited about All Saints’ chances. The Trojans return several two-way starters, many of which gained valuable experience last year because of the injuries.
Senior quarterback Tanner Towns was a first-team all-district play a year ago as an athlete, whom Starnes said aptly describes him. Towns rushed for 839 yards and six touchdowns while also making 23 solo tackles on defense with five pass breakups at safety.
He is joined by returners Russell Wynne (WR/K), Collin Gee (TE/DE), Jackson Jordan (WR/DB), Jayden Terres (RB/LB) and Jared Bradford (RB/LB).
“We have good quality at (several) positions,” Starnes said. “The 22 kids we have in the program, have had a great offseason. They have shown great dedication and they have overcome a lot.
“If we can avoid injury. I think this could be a special group.”
All Saints Trojans 2017 Schedule
Date Opponent Time
9/2 ^Dallas A+ Academy 7 p.m.
9/9 *Midland Trinity 2 p.m.
9/15 Alba-Golden 7:30 p.m.
9/22 Cross Roads 7:30 p.m.
9/29 at Frankston 7:30 p.m.
10/6 Shelbyville 7:30 p.m.
10/13 at Cedar Hill Trinity Christian 7:30 p.m.
10/20 at Mansfield Newman International 7:30 p.m.
^ – Bishop Gorman’s McCallum Stadium
* – at Fort Worth Southwest Christian