Service members tackle double life

SAN ANGELO, Texas-- Members of the West Texas Scorpions, semi-pro football team pose for a group photo Feb. 29. The Scorpions are members of the Crossroads Amateur Football League and travel throughout Texas playing other teams. (Courtesy Photo)

SAN ANGELO, Texas-- Members of the West Texas Scorpions, semi-pro football team pose for a group photo Feb. 29. The Scorpions are members of the Crossroads Amateur Football League and travel throughout Texas playing other teams. (Courtesy Photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The referees blow their high-pitched whistles, sending the crowd into an uproar as the Crossroads Amateur Football League Bowl Championship comes to a close June 20.

The outcome is not what the West Texas Scorpions expected as they accept a hard-fought 30-20 loss at the hands of the Edinburg Landsharks. However, several Scorpions walk off the field with a little more pride, knowing they still accomplished something remarkable.

Those members are Senior Airman Chadwick McGuire, 17th Training Support Squadron, Senior Airman Clifton Gathers, 17th Comptroller Squadron, Lance Cpl. Everick Griffin, Marine Corps Detachment, and David Samaniego, 17th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Balancing work and semi-pro football career is no small feat, especially when those jobs involve playing important roles as members of Team Goodfellow. Samaniego is the coach of the Scorpions, McGuire plays cornerback, Gathers plays running back, and Griffin plays running back as well.

The West Texas Scorpions are in a unique predicament whereas half of the team live in San Angelo, while the others live in Abilene.

"Having a split team is at the very least challenging," said Samaniego. "Practices, communication, and game planning, all are just the tip of the iceberg."

"But we make it work because of the type of athletes I have on my roster, the very high football intelligence all my players bring to this team, to include Gathers, McGuire, and Griffin," the coach continued. "We make the best of it and let our football savvy take over."

The Scorpions went up against the odds many times, sometimes going to away games with just 16-20 players. However, the team dominated their competition, outscoring their opponents by an average of nearly 30 points per game during the regular season. Those games included an 81-0 demolition of the Central Texas Outlaws and a 70-13 hammering of Dawson Los Locos in consecutive games in April.

The Scorpions captured the Northern Conference Wildfire division with an 11-1 record during regular season, which helped them earn the number two seed in the playoffs.
 
The Scorpions defeated three teams in the playoffs, including a 44-13 rout over the Northern Conference Rajun Cajun division champs, Louisiana Eagles, who were undefeated in the regular season. The Scorpions then beat a nine-win Mathis Lions team, 21-6 and the Texas Extreme 21-18 to earn a shot at the championship.

Although often short-handed, some team members managed to find the right balance between work, home and the team.

"Balancing work and football was easy for me," said Gathers, a two-time league all-star. "I had enough time to go to practice after work and our games were always on Saturday."

"He is the hardest working and most humble athlete I have come across, with a great personality and willing to assist anytime he is around," said Samaniego. "I have nothing but the greatest respect for Gathers as a person, a player, and a service member."

Coach Samaniego has been the coaching the West Texas Scorpions for two years, and has been a part of Team Goodfellow for more than four years.

"Working for Team Goodfellow is a blessing a lot of people don't see," Samaniego said. "The personnel at this base are above and beyond the best.

The coach added that the Scorpions couldn't have achieved their level of success without the Wings support and the extremely talented and very dedicated athletes.

"Each member of the Scorpions dedicated blood, sweat, and tears into their season, and it is an added bonus knowing that McGuire, Griffin, and Gathers had the added willpower and strength to give to this successful team while being service members," he added.

The West Texas Scorpions may not have won the championship, but they did learn that even with having a team split between two cities, lack of players, and service member teammates playing multiple roles, that they could accomplish great things.