Commanders wrap up road stretch with victory over Legends

image from Twitter.com @aafcommanders

Editor’s note: This story was updated Sunday night after the Birmingham Iron beat the San Diego Fleet 32-29

The San Antonio Commanders wrapped up the dreaded four-game road stretch of their schedule with their third straight victory and return home at the top of the standings.

The Commanders defense came up with a series of big plays for the second week in a row as they knocked off the Atlanta Legends 37-6 on Sunday at Georgia State Stadium.

The Commanders (4-2) went 3-1 on the road stretch of the schedule. They play at the Alamodome on Sunday at 7 p.m. (Central) against the Salt Lake Stallions (2-4). The Commanders have sole possession of first place in the AAF West. San Diego and Salt Lake are both 3-3.

“We just finished 3-1 on the road on a four-game road trip, which I think is pretty impressive for us,” Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside said. “We’ve got a chance to go back and play a really good Salt Lake team back in San Antonio. We’re excited about going back and playing in the Dome.”

Commanders defensive backs De’Vante Bausby, Zack Sanchez and Derron Smith all came up with interceptions. Smith had an interception return for a touchdown for a second straight week. Duke Thomas added a first-half fumble recovery.

The Commanders scored touchdowns after their first three takeaways.

“We’ve got some good players and they made plays today,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “They’re athletic and they’re savvy. Derron Smith is a very unique football player.
(Zack) Sanchez made another interception. Those guys, if you make a mistake around them, they’re going to make you pay. They play with a lot of confidence.

“Getting turnovers is one thing. Being able to capitalize with points, that was really the game today. We got the ball in some good situations for our offense. We did take advantage of it and made it count got a good early lead because of it.”

Greg Ward Jr. gave the Commanders a special teams score when he returned a punt for a league-record 79-yard touchdown. The Commanders’ offense did not have any turnovers.

“I was really proud of our team today,” Riley said. “I think we kind of stayed on top of it. It was fun to see basically all the parts of our team, offense, defense, and special teams all contribute to winning the game. It was definitely a team win, a team effort.”

Woodside completed 17 of 23 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think it’s just another week with this offense and these guys,” said Woodside, who was the AAF offensive player of the week last week. “I just tried to take it personal to study more and try to do everything I can in practice to make myself better. Obviously with the defense we have it have makes it tough on us in practice. So it always good to to go against those guys every week.”

Wide receiver Mekale McKay and tight end Evan Rodriguez had the Commanders’ touchdown catches. Tight end Cam Clear led the team in receptions with five for 45 yards.

“What we hoped to do is run the ball OK. We didn’t really run the ball as well as we wanted to today,” Riley said. “But we ran. We like to run.

“Then we like to have play-action passes that go down the field. Then we need some ball-control passes. One of the best things about our game at least early in the game, we hit some consistent ball-control routes that got some first downs for us. We kept the ball for a long time in the first half.”

Commanders running back Kenneth Farrow scored the first touchdown of the game to make it 6-0 in the first quarter. That was set up by Thomas’ fumble recovery.

The Legends tried to get even on their next drive when they went for a deep pass. The Commanders’ Smith and Bausby were there to break it up.

Sanchez had his interception later in the first quarter. That set the stage for Woodside’s touchdown pass and two-point conversion pass both to McKay to make it 14-0. The Commanders kept that drive going when Woodside completed a fourth-down pass to Clear.

The Commanders defense came up with its third takeaway of the first half on Bausby’s interception. This time Woodside threw a touchdown pass to Evan Rodriguez and the Commanders led 20-0.

The Legends scored a touchdown late in the first half for what turned out to be their only points of the game.

Ward’s punt return for the touchdown extended the Commanders’ lead to 26-6 with 1:00 left in the half.

Nick Rose, who has not missed this season, kicked a field goal on the Commanders’ first possession of the second half to make it 29-6.

Both offenses were held in check the rest of the way. The final touchdown of the game came on Smith’s 87-yard interception return with 8:40 remaining.

Commanders practice in full pads for first time

Commanders cornerback Zack Sanchez comes off the field Wednesday, the first day the team practiced in full pads. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders cornerback Zack Sanchez comes off the field Wednesday, the first day the team practiced in full pads. – photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders training camp was a little noisier on Wednesday.

The Commanders practiced in full pads – helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, hip pads – and did a little more hitting as they took one step closer to putting things together with the AAF season opener a month away.

“It felt great man,” said Zack Sanchez, a cornerback from Oklahoma. “I know for most of the guys it’s been awhile since you felt that thud so I’m glad we got to get out here, get that feel again, get that excitement back.”

Sanchez went to high school in Keller, north of Fort Worth, and played in 36 games over three seasons at Oklahoma. As a junior in 2015, his final season with the Sooners, he intercepted seven passes. The next spring he was drafted in the fifth round by the Carolina Panthers.

Sanchez saw action with the Panthers during the 2016 season, playing in three games and starting one. He had a workout with the New York Giants in August, 2018.

“Once you’re out of that loop it’s hard to get back in. It’s real hard,” Sanchez said. “This is the best thing to happen, better than the CFL. There’s other leagues that are trying it.

“There’s a lot of home-grown talent here and a lot of guys who don’t get the look they may need. It’s a blessing to be here and I’m excited for it.”

Training camp report: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2018

There was more contact with the full pads on than in the previous four days of training camp, but still no full tackling.

Commanders head coach Mike Riley could sense the energy in practice. The Commanders open the season Feb. 9 against the San Diego Fleet.

“Now it’s the real deal, one month away,” Riley said. “It feels good. I think our guys have made some real progress considering the short amount of time we’ve been together. There’s a million things left to do but I’ve really enjoyed working with these guys and it’s certainly real now.”

Cooled off

The weather cooled off and it felt a little more like winter, at least by Texas standards. After four straight days in the 70s, it never got above the 60s today.

Commanders add defensive back

The Commanders announced they signed De’Vante Bausby, a defensive back from Pittsburg State of Kansas. Bausby played six games with the Chicago Bears in 2016, was on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad in 2017 and played in six games with the Eagles this season.

Brandon Shed, a wide receiver from Hobart, makes a sideline catch at the end of practice Wednesday at Commanders training camp. - photo by Joe Alexander
Brandon Shed, a wide receiver from Hobart, makes a sideline catch at the end of practice Wednesday at Commanders training camp.

Commanders coach Mike Riley and the zen of bouncing back

San Antonio Commanders coach Mike Riley (right) works with players on holding for field goals. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders coach Mike Riley (right) works with players on holding for field goals. – photo by Joe Alexander
The talk of the football world on Sunday night was a missed field goal on the final play of the Philadelphia Eagles’ victory over the Chicago Bears.

San Antonio Commanders coach Mike Riley has been around long enough to have thoughts on working with players who shoulder the blame for tough losses.

“There’s a lot of mental parts that go into it,” Riley said. “The fact of the matter is that it was tough, it was a miss.

“What we coach is it’s a great opportunity to show that you can bounce back and that you’re-tough minded enough to do it and it’s a great chance to build a better you.”

Training camp update: Monday, Jan. 7, 2019

It was warmer and more humid than the first two days of practice, up to about 75 degrees when the players walked off the field. There were lots of visiting coaches on the sidelines, due largely to the American Football Coaches Association convention in San Antonio.

Cornerback Zack Sanchez and the rest of the players were in shoulder pads on Monday for the first time in training camp. - photo by Joe Alexander
Cornerback Zack Sanchez and the rest of the players were in shoulder pads on Monday for the first time in training camp.
Shoulder pads

The Commanders went through their first two practices on Saturday and Sunday with helmets but no pads. On Monday, they added shoulder pads. “It feels like real football,” one assistant coach said.

“If was given the choice I would go with shoulder pads on the very first day and still keep them up just because I think it provides them the protection when you’re running through the hole from the back,” Riley said. “I think it’s good. Frankly it wasn’t a lot different, except for the interaction in the line.”

Come watch practice

The Commanders’ daily news update includes the following:

“NEW ANNOUNCEMENT: All practices for teams of The Alliance of American Football are now open to the general public. Fans are required to sit in the stands.”

Roster addition

Henry Poggi, a fullback from Iowa State, is now No. 45 on the roster. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds.

Mabry no longer on roster

Former UTSA defensive lineman Ashaad Mabry is no longer on the roster. He was listed as a defensive end at 6-foot-2, 312 pounds wearing No. 97. Mabry was at the first training camp practice on Saturday, but didn’t have a helmet on. He was with the team in mini-camp. The team announced he was placed on the reserved/injured list via the waiver system.

San Antonio Commanders kicker Sergio Castillo Jr. works with Joseph Zema doing the holding. Zema is a punter. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders kicker Sergio Castillo Jr. works with Joseph Zema doing the holding. Zema is a punter.

Cornerback drills at Commanders mini-camp

Commanders cornerback Jamari Gilbert, a former University of the Incarnate Word player, goes for the ball during a mini-camp practice. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders cornerback Jamari Gilbert, a former University of the Incarnate Word player, goes for the ball.
San Antonio Commanders cornerbacks went through their drills on Saturday morning in the final practice of mini-camp.

The Commanders open the inaugural Alliance of American Football (AAF) season on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at home at the Alamodome against the San Diego Fleet.

San Antonio Commanders sign more players: Oct. 12, 2018

San Antonio Commanders
Commanders
Nine more players have signed with the San Antonio Commanders, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) announced on Friday:

Tre Dickerson DB Emporia State
Chase Dutra DB Indiana
Tayo Fabuluje T TCU
Jarod Haynes K East Central (OK)
Joel Lanning LB Iowa State
Zack Sanchez DB Oklahoma
Brandon Shed WR Hobart
Andy Smigiera DB Robert Morris
Jordan Thomas DB Oklahoma