Conway Wampus Cats: Wampus Cats hope seniors make difference in 2013

Donna Lampkin Stephens Published August 25, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
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Rusty Hubbard

Conway lineman work on agility.

Strides continued at Conway last year, the fourth of the Clint Ashcraft era, and the Wampus Cats hope to sustain that improvement in 2013.

Ashcraft, 30-15 at CHS after a 31-15 mark at Siloam Springs from 2005-08, led the Cats to conference titles in 2010 and ’11. Although they entered the Class 7A state playoffs as the third seed from the 7A/6A Central last year, they won their first playoff game in three years when they beat Rogers in the opening round, 42-6.

Conway’s season didn’t end until a 38-17 quarterfinal loss at Fayetteville, the eventual state champion. This year, bolstered by a strong senior class, the Wampus Cats will try to surpass that finish.

“We’ve had a very productive offseason,” Ashcraft said. “Our seniors have done a great job of leading our younger guys. We have some positions to replace, and once we get those holes filled, we will have a solid football team.”

Four starters on offense and seven on defense — among 27 returning lettermen — are back from a team that finished 8-3 last year. The Cats will run a Spread offense and Multiple 4-3 defensive scheme.

During the regular season, Conway lost only at Fort Smith Southside, 35-21; and Greenwood, 49-28.

Senior leadership will be a strength this fall, the coach said.

“We made great offseason strength gains,” he said.

But the Wampus Cats must replace graduated quarterback Cody Rhoades and rebuild their defensive line.

Top returnees include senior receiver Sidney Moore (5-11, 178); senior center Blane Joyner (6-2, 261); senior offensive guard Danny Thomas (5-11, 237); junior fullback Derail McCoy (5-11, 212); senior defensive end Cortez Akins (6-1, 246); senior linebackers Jackson Smith (5-10, 191), Justin Vinson (5-11, 212) and Landon Hood (5-10, 212); senior cornerback A.J. Burton (5-10, 166); senior safety Malik Clemons (6-1, 184); junior safety Colin Condit (5-10, 180); junior kicker/wide receiver Matt Cummins (6-0, 181); senior offensive tackle Jagger Barnett (6-1, 278); senior defensive lineman Kevasia Tate (5-10, 209); and senior running back Evan Wilson (5-10, 191). Wilson missed last season with a knee injury; Barnett’s junior year was also marred by injury.

Ashcraft said Moore, Vinson, Joyner, Smith and Colton Jackson, a newcomer at offensive tackle, are potential all-state selections. Moore, Vinson, Cummins, Joyner and Jackson were college prospects.

Other top newcomers include defensive linemen Saxon Smith and Andre Willard; DL/OL Ben Nolen; offensive linemen Frank Jackson and Josh Hannon; linebackers Nick Starr and Hunter Rose; wide receiver Brock Mitchell; wide receiver/defensive back Jorge Moldonodo; defensive backs Clark Garland and Michael Garlington; linebackers Beau Bailey and Beau Walter; tight end Hunter Scott; running backs Kevin Chomorrow and Karlil Johnson.

The Wampus Cats are making their mark in the classroom as well, with 13 players sporting GPAs of 3.5 or better: Clemons, Michael Fincher, Hunter Scott, Smith, Condit and Rose at 4.0; Cole Evans and Josh Hannon, 3.95; Blake Hood at 3.9; John Tiefel and Brock Mitchell at 3.8; Nick Starr at 3.7; and David Ford at 3.5.

Despite being just a year removed from Class 5A, Greenwood was the standard in the 7A/6A Central last year. The Bulldogs extended their winning streak to 38, tied for the third-longest in state history, and won their third consecutive state championship, and fifth since 2006. They won their seventh conference title in the last eight years.

Ashcraft said that in 2013, Greenwood again would be the team to beat, but look for the Wampus Cats to contend as well, with Fort Smith Southside, Russellville and Fort Smith Northside also aiming for postseason success.

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