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Conway Christian Eagles: Eagles look to build on stellar seasonPublished August 25, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
The 2012 season was a benchmark for Conway Christian.
Michael Carter’s Eagles won the most games in school history (eight), finished third in the 5-2A and won the first playoff game in the school’s five-year history of Arkansas Activities Association-sanctioned football.
Conway Christian finished 8-4, reaching the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs before ending the season with a 54-29 loss at Magnet Cove, which had won the regular-season game between the two conference foes by just 43-39.
As the third seed from the 5-2A, the Eagles eliminated McCrory in the first round, 40-32, to make history.
Still, Carter downplayed the accomplishments.
“We improved week to week,” he said.
Conway Christian won seven of its first eight games, falling only to Rose Bud, 33-20, in Week 3 before a couple of heartbreakers in Weeks 9 and 10 (losses to Magnet Cove by four points and to Bigelow by 41-38). The Eagles finished the league schedule 4-2, behind only those two.
But 2013 will be a bit of a reloading year after the graduation of Tanner Stevenson, all-state quarterback, and Andrew Dather, a three-time all-conference receiver. Stevenson threw for 2,900 yards last year, while Dather accounted for 1,260 yards receiving.
But four starters return for the Spread offense and five for the 33 defense off that team, which set a standard for all future Eagle squads.
Carter said he expected senior Chandler Ferrand (5-10, 170) to succeed Stevenson at QB. Ferrand makes the switch from receiver, where he earned all-conference accolades with 53 catches for 998 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. The Eagles could go to more of a ground-oriented style of offense with Ferrand’s ascension.
Junior running back Ancil Lea (6-0, 165) earned 801 yards and 7 TDs as a sophomore. Expect him to be a major part of the CCS offense. The Eagles will welcome the return of junior wide receiver Josiah Smith (5-6, 150), who missed most of his sophomore season with a knee injury.
Senior Caleb Dather (6-4, 220) will be a stalwart on the offensive line, as well as at defensive end. He’ll get help on the O line from junior Noah Bowman (5-10, 175). Senior defensive backs Byron Pascoe (5-10, 150) and Andrew Steely (5-9, 150) will be among the bell cows of the defense. Pascoe snagged five interceptions last season.
Carter said the skill players would be the Eagles’ strength, but they’ll face the usual weakness of a Class 2A school — a lack of depth.
Still, expectations are high to start the season.
“We expect to win the conference and advance in the playoffs,” Carter said.
To do so, the Eagles will have to contend with Magnet Cove and Bigelow again, as well as the league’s other playoff teams from 2012 (Mount Ida and Poyen) and others.
“It’s a very good conference,” Carter said. “It will be a battle each week.”
He predicted Mount Ida, Magnet Cove, Bigelow and Quitman to contend for playoff berths.
What will be the key game for the Eagles in 2013?
“Really, as good as our conference will be this year, each game will be as important as the next one,” Carter said.