There’s a new sheriff in town.
Well, actually there’s a new chief for the Apaches.
Thomas Rocco is the new Tyler Junior College football coach, taking over for legendary and longtime mentor Danny Palmer.
Rocco and his Apaches make their debut on Saturday, taking on rival Kilgore College in a non-conference game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium (Harris Street at Simmons Street, Kilgore, 75662).
“The guys are ready to play someone else,” said Rocco, who was named head coach in December after Palmer completed his 11th season at the helm of the Apaches and decided to step away. “(Practice) has gone well. We will find out a lot about our team Saturday. Kilgore is a good team.”
The Apaches selected captains this week. They include sophomore wide receiver Sam Hodges (Klein High School, Houston), sophomore running back K’Vonte Jackson (Angelton), sophomore quarterback David Johnson (South Oak Cliff HS, Dallas), sophomore offensive lineman Demetri Jordan (Coronado HS, Lubbock), sophomore linebacker Christopher Sanders (LBJ HS, Austin) and sophomore wide receiver Jamir Whitelow (Victoria East HS, Peoria, Illinois).
TJC will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak. The Apaches were in contention for the Southwest Junior College Football Conference title until the late season skid ended the bid. Included in that string was a season-ending 49-17 loss at Kilgore.
This will be the 122nd meeting between TJC and KC with the Apaches leading 65-56. The Rangers, ranked No. 6 in the nation, have won three straight against Tyler. Overall, the Rangers concluded the 2018 season with eight straight wins, the SWJCFC championship and the Heart of Texas Bowl title.
The Rangers will also have a new coach in longtime assistant and former Ranger Willie Gooden.
Rocco, along with being head coach, will also coach the wide receivers. Matt Gordon, in his third season with the Apaches, is defensive coordinator, academic liaison and defensive backs coach. The remainder of the staff includes: Chris Towery (offensive coordinator, head of strength and conditioning, quarterbacks), Alex Wierzbicki (grad assistant, defensive line, recruiting coordinator), Anthony Eggleston (grad assistant, linebackers, social media/video coordinator), Tyler Edwards (offensive line, head equipment manager), Derrick Waddell (student assistant), Stephen Simmons (student assistant, running backs), Alex Sultz (student assistant, tight ends) and Ethan Barnes (student assistant, team videographer).
Former John Tyler All-East Texas wide receiver Damion Miller is a member of the Apaches. Miller, who originally signed with Texas before transferring to Navarro College, is a sophomore WR. Other former JT players now at TJC include sophomore DB Javontavius Mosley and freshman DB Tyus Walker-Grayson
For the Rangers, former All-East Texas linebacker Tre Allison, who originally signed with Syracuse, is a freshman for KC. Other Tyler ties include Bishop Gorman graduate Chase Crumpton (freshman, DB).
Reserve tickets are $10 with general admission $7 at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
Aug. 24 at Kilgore 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 at Blinn 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Trinity Valley 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Navarro 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 Texas A&T 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at New Mexico Military TBD
Oct. 12 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Cisco 3 p.m.
Oct. 26 Kilgore 3 p.m.
All home games on Earl Campbell Field at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, 700 Fair Park Drive, Tyler, 75701