First-year Malvern Leopards head coach Mike Scarbrough isn’t looking to make many changes when taking over the program. Instead, he looks to simply build upon the foundation set forth by longtime head coach John Fogleman and hopes to improve last season’s 9-3 record.
The 2012 season wrapped up for the Leopards after the team advanced to the second round of the 4A state playoffs, where they took a 28-32 loss to the the Warren Lumberjacks.
Scarbrough, who has been coaching in the Malvern School District for 21 years and served as defensive coordinator last season, will debut senior Kaylen Burks as the team’s new quarterback.
“Kaylen started for us both ways last year as a receiver and a defensive back,” Scarbrough said. “He’s done a great job stepping up, and he is replacing one of the all-time best quarterbacks here at Malvern. I feel like he is fixing to have a really big season for us.”
Scarbrough said juniors Keidric Dickens and Devin Bradford will serve as two of the primary receivers for the team, along with seniors Matt Tidwell and Lynn Ross. Juniors Britton Russell and Quincy Collier will both take the field at offensive tackle. Junior Sheldon Lewallen will likely start at center.
Although the team graduated six starters from the offense, Scarbrough said, this will be an opportunity for several players who were “backups” last year to see some playing time.
Scarbrough said spectators can expect to see the same Spread offense that the team has run for quite some time, but they will also see fewer huddles on the field.
“Hopefully, we’ll be balanced, but we are going to be spread with no huddle most of the time,” he said. “I think in the past we’ve been a little more spread to run, but I think we may throw it a little more this year, but we have never really been a no-huddle team.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Scarbrough said all members of the secondary will return this year, including Burks and Bradford at safety, as well as junior cornerbacks Dickens and Elliott Coston.
“I feel like all of our guys defensively are going to have a big year for us,” he said.
Scarbrough said he also expects big things from senior and three-year starting defensive end Isaac Wright, along with junior linebacker Teshaun Hart.
“We’re going to do the same thing defensively that we have been doing — we are a 4-3 team,” Scarbrough said. “That is what we do, and we hang our hat on that.”
Senior kicker Jesus Torres, who suffered an injury during the preseason last year, will return to the field and be a definite asset to the team, Scarbrough said.
“He is a pretty special kicker, and having him back is a weapon,” Scarbrough said. “He is one of the better kickers in high school football right now; he is going to be really big for us.”
The Leopards will take on Glen Rose in the season opener on Sept. 6. Even though the Glen Rose Beavers reside in the 5-3A Conference, the schools maintain a healthy rivalry because they are located only minutes apart. Last year, the Leopards defeated the Beavers, but Scarbrough said no win is guaranteed.
“I think our philosophy is that we are going to play aggressive, physical, and we are going to play fast,” Scarbrough said.
The Leopards will open conference play on Sept. 27 when they take on Bauxite.
“In our conference, everybody is a tough competitor,” Scarbrough said. “Everybody we line up against is going to be a challenge, and every week, we’ve got to show up to play.”