For most teams, a 5-5 season wouldn’t be considered a success, but for the Hot Springs Trojans, it was a welcome change of pace.
After winning a total of five games in the 2009-2011 seasons, the Trojans made quite the turnaround in 2012. Head coach Chris Vereen said that between losing several key players last season and tough conference opponents, a nonlosing season was a nice change of pace for the team.
“This is, without a doubt, the toughest conference in 5A football,” he said. “On top of that, we lost our best defensive back, kicker and our best wide receiver in game five. As far as the difference between winning five and seven ball games, I think losing him cost us two ball games.”
This season, Vereen said, he will be looking to his returning starters to lead the team to victory.
Junior Anthony Goffigan will be helming the Trojans at quarterback this year. Last season, Goffigan started at outside linebacker but also served as a backup quarterback. Since stepping into the quarterback role, Vereen said, Goffigan has gained maturity and leadership on and off the field.
“From May up until this point, he has matured probably more than any other kid I’ve coached,” he said. “He has become a tremendous leader and is showing senior characteristics as a junior.”
In the backfield, junior Kenny Kelly will be the Trojan’s key running back, Vereen said. Last season, Kelly averaged 7 yards per carry.
“He’s got the most experience out of any back,” the coach said.
Senior Chris Pondexter, junior Deantre Campbell and sophomore Nathan Jones will also be carrying the ball for the team. Vereen said running backs are one of the team’s biggest strengths and the position where there is the most depth.
For wide receivers, senior Bailey White and sophomore Clarence Floyd will be fielding passes from Goffigan.
“We just got [Floyd] from the junior high, and he is going to be something special,” Vereen said. “As a sophomore, he may be the best receiver I’ve ever coached in 17 years.”
One area Vereen said he hopes to improve this season is defense. Last season, the Trojans gave up an average of 30 points per game.
“Our key focus has been on defense, and I think we’re going to be a lot better on the defensive side of the football this year,” he said.
Vereen said that so far, practices have been very productive and that after an extended boot camp this summer, the team is beginning to come together as a unit.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “Getting everybody to gel together as a team — that is probably the single most important thing we do all year.”