Tyler Legacy entered the 2020 season expecting to face a state-championship caliber opponent in Week 4.
That still holds true. It’s just from a different state.
The Red Raiders were scheduled to take on Allen, which won state titles in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017 and was currently ranked No. 5 in Class 6A. However, that game was canceled due to COVID-19 cases inside of the Allen football program.
Legacy was able to pick up a game against another state powerhouse, but from Arkansas. Pulaski Academy — located in Little Rock, Arkansas — has won state titles in 2003, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.
“We lost four weeks in the spring that we could have been practicing, and we are getting those weeks back in our non-district schedule,” Legacy head coach Joe Willis said. “And thank goodness we get a chance to pick up another team with a state championship pedigree in order to do that.”
Not only does Pulaski Academy bring a championship tradition to Friday’s game that will kick off at 6 p.m. on Earl Campbell Field at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, the Bruins will also bring a unique style of play to the field.
They won’t punt … even if they are deep in their own territory.
“This team is very unorthodox,” Legacy senior linebacker Josh Olivares said. “Our main focus is being disciplined, especially with our eyes. We’ve also got to trust our teammates. We know that even at their own 5-yard line, they’ll still go for it. So if we get a stop, that’s helpful for our offense, because it will make it easy for us to score.”
“It’s a get off the field mentality,” Willis said. “Normally the money down is third down to get off the field. Now, it’s going to be all four downs. We know they are in four-down territory every time they touch the ball, so we have to lock in and play four downs. That sense of urgency needs to be there to get off the field when we have the chance.”
They also will onside kick after each score with multiple kickers.
“There’s no question that they present some challenges in the special teams,” Willis said. “You never know when a game is going to come down to fielding an onside kick, and it’s not something you can always prepare for, because you usually don’t see those on film. But this is a situation where we actually get to see it on film and prepare for it. Hopefully we don’t have a lot during the game, because hopefully we can keep them from scoring a lot.”
“It will be a whole lot different,” said junior running back Bryson Donnell, who is usually back deep fielding kickoffs with Jamarion Miller. “We will have to be ready. “Our hands have to be ready, and we have to be aware of where the kicker is at all times.”
The Bruins will also attempt a two-point conversion on about half of their touchdowns.
On offense, they are just as creative as they are in other aspects of the game.
“Another challenge their offense presents is they have a lot of gadget plays,” Willis said. “Again, we’re talking about things we can’t scout on film. Our players on the field are going to have to see those things and make adjustments and then we are going to have to use a timeout or two to adjust as a coaching staff.”
Willis said the Bruins are also aggressive defensively, playing man coverage and blitzing often.
Quarterbacks Charlie Fiser and Nolen Bruffett have each thrown for more than 1,000 yards. Running back Joseph Himon has rushed for 954 yards. And Willis said the Bruins have “as good of a receiving core as we’re going to see. They run really good routes and they catch the ball.”
Pulaski Academy (6-0) is averaging 45.3 points per game and is coming off of a 49-28 victory over White Hall.
Legacy (2-1) is looking to bounce back from a 37-14 loss to Longview while also trying to defend its home turf against the out-of-state visitors.
“We definitely have something we need to defend with our name here in Texas,” Olivares said. “Especially with them being a good team in Arkansas, we’ve got to show them what it’s all about.”
“We’re extremely ready for this game,” Donnell said. “I think we’re ready to represent the state of Texas and not only the state of Texas, but also our town of Tyler and East Texas.”
Following Friday’s game, the Red Raiders will have a bye week before opening District 10-6A play against Dallas Skyline on Oct. 30.