ON THE COVER: Player to watch - Cleo FloydREAD ONLINE
Bryant Hornets: Bryant changing the mindset of winningPublished August 25, 2013 at 4:00 a.m.
For many teams, a seven-win season would be cause for celebration, but not for the Bryant High School Hornets. Coach Paul Calley said the high points of last season would be hard to find as the team failed to hold onto leads and didn’t manage to come back in the fourth quarter.
“The main problems last year were the offense not converting on third down, or the defense allowing first downs after getting their opponents into third-and-long situations,” the coach said. “Both sides were making mistakes or drawing penalties in critical situations.”
Calley said the first step for making the new season better is changing the way the team thinks.
“It is more of a mindset of knowing the situation that will make this a championship team,” he said. “We are stressing to everyone that they have to strive higher and live like champions — in class, at home and on the field — whatever it is, it has to be in these kids.”
Taking over for all-state quarterback Hayden Lessenberry, who graduated this spring, is junior Brandan Warner (5-11, 179). Calley said that as a ninth-grader, Warner led his team to an 11-0 season in 2011.
“He is coming in with years of competition but new to being a starter,” the coach said. “He is a leader and did a great job in the fall practices executing the multiple Spread offense that will emphasize the power run and the tight ends.”
As a backup QB last year, Warner was 15 of 21 for 157 yards and three touch- downs.
Wesley Akers (6-0, 220) will run the ball this season following elbow surgery that kept him from competing for the quarterback spot.
“He is back and strong, but he doesn’t have the velocity in his arm yet,” Calley said. “He will be the H-back, tight end and wide receiver and he will play some quarterback this season. Wesley is a football player, he could be found at any position.”
Coach Calley said senior Dalton Grisemer (6-0, 225) will also play tight end along with Austin May (5-11, 195), a senior known for his defensive play who will also be seen at tight end.
“Jarron Wade (5-10, 225), a senior, is a big man who can get the hard yards,” his coach said.
“He can make something when there is supposed to be nothing there,” Calley said. “He has good hands and is good for short yardage. He will be part of a good one-two punch.”
Junior Brushawn Hunter (5-8, 155) was all-conference last year, catching 42 passes for 719 yards and six touchdowns.
“We have got to get the ball to use him,” Calley said. “He can go the distance any- time he touches the ball. We will use him as wide receiver and in the backfield. He has the strength and speed to run after the catch.”
Another returning receiver is Devonte Howard (5-8, 160). The coach said the senior can run good routes and find the open area.
Senior receiver Austin Vail was described as being, pound-for-pound, the strongest player on the team and having good speed. Darian Jarrett (6-1, 160) was moved from defense after spring drills proved him to be a good target over the middle.
“He is a big target,” Calley said. “He gives us more confidence up over the middle.”
The offensive line has four starters returning. Senior Jordan Jones (6-4, 285) returns at right tackle, while Josh Earles, (5-11, 240), another senior, is moving to guard. Meanwhile, senior Seth Hoffmans (6-0, 215) is at guard and senior Jacob Ward (6-1, 270) is at center, Calley said.
Backing up at center is experienced senior Kurt Calley (5-9, 205).
Junior Cameron Davis (6-3, 270) is at left tackle, and Calley said he is someone the colleges will be looking at this year. Devon Waite will play tackle as a backup, the coach said.
May will return to the defense this year as a tackle along with junior Noah Florez (5-11, 270), while senior linebacker Colton Burton is expected to make major contributions to the defense.
“Seniors Drew Martin (6-0, 225), Amador Gaspar (5-9, 210) and John Farnworth (5-19, 245) get time, especially late in the games, when they are called to rush the passer and stop the run,” Calley said.
Hoping to keep the defensive line fresher through the season, sophomores Cameron Murry (6-2, 270) and Mario Waits (5-10, 225) will be worked into the mix.
Senior Tanner Rich (5-11, 175) is the inside linebacker. He, along with junior Connor Chapdelaine (5-9, 190) and sophomore Devon Howard (6-0, 190) will see action there. On the weak side, Bryce Denker returns along with the Hornets’ tackle leader from last year, Davis Nossaman (5-10, 170), who will work the strong side.
At the corners are Drew Tipton (5-8, 145) and Mar’Kevius Nelson (5-6, 145), returning juniors. Brenden Manley, a senior who moved into the area from Bentonville, will help solidify the corners for the Hornets, Calley said.
At safety, senior Jake Johnson (5-9, 160) and junior Ben Bruick (6-0, 170) will be the starters while junior Steve Murdock (5-9, 155) will back up both the starters, according to the coach.
The punter is senior Bruce Denker (5-9, 180), while his brother, junior Alex Denker (5-9, 180), is the placekicker.
Calley said the overall strength of the players is a plus for the Hornets, along with an experienced offense.
“We will score some points and the secondary is strong,” he said.
He said Bryant’s biggest weaknesses are a lack of depth and not a lot of team speed.