Last season, the Lake Hamilton Wolves advanced to the second round of the 6A state playoffs, where they fell to Jonesboro with a 21-45 loss. This year, the team will look to the strength of a new but strong quarterback, a multiple offense and a strong set of linebackers to improve upon last year’s overall 7-5 record.
“I think offensively, we should be able to score points,” head coach Jerry Clay said. “We are pretty multiple on offense; that is the best way to describe it. I would say we will run the Spread offense, but we will do a little bit of everything — we are pretty multiple.”
Senior Nathan Sawrie will step into the starting quarterback position this year, and Clay said he expects to see good things from Sawrie this season.
“Nathan is a good athlete,” Clay said. “He played some last year, but he will be starting at quarterback this year. He has had a lot of success throwing the ball this year in 7-on-7, but he is also a running threat. He makes good decisions, and he can be a very good quarterback.”
Several familiar faces will also return in the starting lineup for the Wolves, including senior Trevor Mittelstadt, who Clay said “was the [team’s] leading receiver last year.”
Senior Spencer Magby will start at center for a second year, and senior Greyson Fulbright will return in the offensive backfield at fullback.
“We expect big things out of [Fulbright] this year,” Clay said.
Junior Donell West “alternated at running back last season and will be doing that again this year,” Clay said. Senior Hunter Lipton will also see playing time as a running back.
“[Lipton] gives a great effort, and we can expect big things out of him,” Clay added.
Riley Goad and Josh Graves, both juniors, are expected to be two definite standouts on the offensive line.
“Our offensive line has a chance to be pretty good, but we are just going to be small — our guys are small compared to the people we are playing,” Clay said.
As for defense, senior Chris Eastburn will remain in the starting lineup and has been the team’s “leading tackler for two years” with more than 200 career tackles, Clay said.
Last season, Eastburn earned all-state honors at linebacker. He, along with Fulbright and senior Quin Treat, will start as linebackers, and Clay said he expects the trio to be “the strength of the defense.”
“We need to play more aggressively on defense, especially in the secondary,” Clay said. “Our secondary has a lot of speed and a lot of potential. They just have to play more aggressively that they did last year.”
Other names of significance for the Wolves’ defense include Goad and Graves on the defensive line, and Lipton and seniors Alec Young and Stephen Shirley as defensive backs. The team will continue to primarily utilize a 4-3 defense, Clay said.
Lake Hamilton’s season opener won’t be an easy one. The Wolves will take on nonconference opponent North Little Rock on Sept. 6. Clay said that game could turn out to be the biggest challenge of the season for the team.
“We’ll start with the No. 1 team in the state, North Little Rock,” he said. “It will be a good experience for us. They’re very talented, and they’re going to be very good.”
Three weeks later, Lake Hamilton will open conference play with Sheridan; however, no matter who the opponent may be, Clay said, his expectations for the season are to simply remain “competitive.”