Tigers team seeks fans, sponsors

Standing on the sideline at the West Orange-Stark Middle School football field, Dameon Morris felt the old urge to suit up during his team’s first preseason game.

“It is hard,” the former running back for the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears admitted with a grin. “Being involved in coaching and not actually playing, well, it’s different. But at least I’m surrounding myself with football.”

Morris, owner and head coach of the Orange Stark Tigers semi-professional football team, played his last high school football game for LC-M in 1997 and one year of college ball in Kilgore. But that just wasn’t enough for him.

“We wanted a football team that could help bring some history back to the area,” he said. “So, when we joined the Southern American Football League, we decided to call ourselves the Orange Stark Tigers.”

The Tigers also call the WO-S Middle School field home, the home of their historical predecessors until 1977.

“We announced the first preseason game for just three days before it took place and 400 people showed up,” Morris said. “I believe that people like the historical aspect we are bringing with the team.”

Morris was previously involved with another semi-professional team called the SETX Demons, but they did not attain the success he had hoped for in the SAFL.

“We had a team in Orange called the Orange Panthers that we merged with the Beaumont Cowboys in order to form an SAFL team,” he said. “We split back up and most of the Orange Panthers stayed together to become the Tigers.”

Morris said the idea of the Tigers is to give players a second chance that they may have never gotten after high school or college; a second chance to get out on the field and prove that they still have fuel in the tank.

“There are scouts from the Arena Football League and some colleges that come to SAFL games to scout for talent,” he said. “It gives some the younger guys a chance to shine and be seen that may not have got that chance before.”

Tyler Thibodeaux, kicker for the Tigers, played for the WO-S Mustangs before graduating in 1999 and for both the University of Kansas and the University of Houston. But even though he got a shot at AFL fame, he decided to come back home.

“I played for the New Jersey Extreme for two years but I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” he said. “I wanted to be back home.

Something like this is good for the area and gives players a chance to finish any unfinished business that they have on the field.”

Morris said that to keep the team going, it will take a lot more than fan support.

“People have and will come out to the games,” he said. “This area loves football. But we are really needing sponsors right now. It costs me $2,100 just to rent the field for a home game and it costs us an average of $700 to travel to away games. And then we have to deal with players’ fees and uniforms. Any help that we could get from the community would be appreciated.”

Morris said any area businesses willing to help sponsor the Tigers can call him at (409) 313-4283.

For scheduled games, go to www.setxsports.com and click under “minor league football.” Tickets to home games are $6 for ages 13 and up and $3 for ages 12 and under.