Brian Brents and his fellow coaches have picked up where they left off last season in Tupelo – getting an indoor pro football team into the playoffs.
The former Mississippi MudCats’ head coach still has his sights set on claiming a championship trophy, with the help of several players he counted on during two seasons in Tupelo.
Brents’ new team, the expansion El Paso Generals of the IFL, has advanced to the semifinals of the league’s playoffs. The Generals (13-2) whipped the San Antonio Stampede Express 75-37 on Sunday.
That sets up a huge showdown later this week on the road against the Billings (Mont.) Outlaws for the championship of the IFL’s Intense Conference.
Billings (13-2) demolished Fairbanks 50-7 last weekend.
The Generals and Outlaws play Saturday for a berth in the first IFL championship game.
“It’s been great,” Brents, a Texas native, said recently. “The whole town is loving it and it’s been a great experience for the guys.”
His on-field staff is the same as it was in two seasons with the MudCats – Gary Patterson is assistant head coach and defensive coordinator and William McCarthy coaches both lines and special teams.
And the roster has a number of names that will be familiar to MudCats fans, starting with quarterback Tommy Jones.
Jones, who played college football at Indiana, was the IFL’s leading passer in the regular season, throwing for 66 touchdowns in 14 games. Jones threw six more TDs in Sunday’s playoff victory.
“He still felt like he had something to prove,” Brents said of Jones. “We’ve got basically the same offense that we ran with the MudCats, with the main difference being that the IFL rules let you go with four receivers and no running back.
“For the most part, though, it’s the same game.”
Former ICC receiver Lemans Casimier blossomed this season, finishing the regular season as the IFL’s third-leading pass-catcher (84 receptions for 1,086 yards and a league-best 23 touchdowns).
“Lemans has really stepped up this season,” Brents said, crediting some of his development to playing last season with veteran indoor receiver Darryl Carter.
“Playing with Darryl, he really learned a lot,” Brents said.
More familiar faces
Other former MudCats on the Generals’ roster include former Ole Miss standout Travis Johnson (Shannon) in the defensive backfield, former Mississippi State linebacker Jason Clark, defensive lineman Naton Stewart (Southern Miss) and kicker Trey Crum (Delta State).
“Travis is a guy who’s basically the leader of our secondary,” Brents said. “He’s really matured a lot.”
Johnson has returned six missed field goals this season for a 32.5-yard average, including one for a touchdown.
Brents, 28, is 37-7 in three seasons as a head coach in the indoor game. All his resume lacks at this point is a league championship to go with the one he won in 2005 as an assistant for the Lakeland (Fla.) Thunderbolts in the AIFA.
With a win this week at Billings, the El Paso team would be the host for the IFL championship game.
“We have some of the rowdiest fans I think I have ever seen,” Brents said. “We’ve been drawing 3,000 to 5,000 a game and it would be great to bring the championship game here.”
John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal