Duke City Gladiators coach Dominic Bramante was in a sour mood when talking about his team’s play the first two weeks of the Champions Indoor Football season, which included a 56-16 road loss to the Texas Revolution on March 28.
On defense, missed tackles and blown assignments were sore points, especially at end.
That’s when Bramante went shopping and came up with 6-foot-3, 240-pound Braxton Magalogo and 6-0, 230-pound John Fernandez, disruptive players who have responded well to the “Defensive End Whisperer.”
“The biggest thing with the others was that they would engage the taller, heavier tackles to try to prove their toughness,” said Bramante, whose Gladiators (1-2) face the Amarillo Venom (3-2) in a CIF game tonight. “That’s not what we want, and they’d get caught up in all that.
“Braxton and John embody what our program is about, being undersized, very aggressive and very fast. And they’re hard workers.”
The two spearheaded a defense the past two weeks in a 51-34 victory over San Angelo and a 47-43 loss to league-leading Dodge City.
Braxton, 23, from West Jordan, Utah, took a circuitous route to Albuquerque. After two seasons at Mesa (Ariz.) CC, he began a four-year hitch in the Army, which included two years at a base in South Korea about eight miles from North Korea.
“Every time (North Korea’s) leader threatened us, which was pretty much every other day, we be the first to get the ammo and the trucks lined up in case they crossed the border,” said Magalogo, who added that hostilities never escalated on his watch.
After leaving the Army in October, Magalogo joined the Indoor Football League’s Bemidji (Minn.) Axemen. That stay lasted one game.
“Both tackles I went against were big guys who had been in the NFL,” Magalogo said. “I had three or four tackles, but couldn’t put pressure on the quarterback.” He was cut.
Then came the chance to move to Albuquerque – and play against more big guys.
Magalogo always seems to be facing linemen close to half a foot taller and well over 100 pounds heavier.
“Basically, it’s whoever wins the hand-fighting,” Magalogo said of his on-field skirmishes. “I have to use my speed to get upfield.
“I like going against big guys, because I can make them tired. Then I’ll catch them off-guard and bull-rush.”
Trash-talking is also a staple.
“You’re going to see me talking crap and trying to get in their heads all game.” Magalogo said.
On the opposite side is Fernandez, 26, a former DeAnza (Calif.) JC player.
“A lot of times those big guys underestimate our power since we’re little,” Fernandez said. “But, hey, we’re in the weight room with the big boys, too.”
Although Fernandez is the less demonstrative of the two Duke City DEs, trash-talking is part of his game, as well. And in Wednesday’s practice, he got in a wrestling match with an offensive linemen during team drills.
“It depends on the moment,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll say to them they should feel bad since they’re not dominating someone my size.”
One of his goals is to get an opponent whistled for a personal foul.
“It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m working on it,” he said.
NEW COORDINATOR: Martino Theus, a 15-year veteran of the indoor game as a player and coach, has replaced Roger Linn as offensive coordinator. Bramante said Linn’s outside workload necessitated the move.
Theus could use a better travel agent. He arrived in Albuquerque on Wednesday after an 11-hour air odyssey that began in Nashville, Tenn., and took him to Houston, Los Angeles and then Albuquerque.
TICKETS: The team announced that fans who bring a ticket stub from a sporting event from the past 30 days get a free Gladiators ticket with each one purchased for tonight’s game.