Perryville football fans may have more to cheer about this season.
Coach Ed Baker, who came on board last year, said the Mustangs have 15 seniors on the team, almost half its roster.
“For us, that’s a pretty good-sized group,” he said of the seniors. “We had nine last year.”
Baker said he was hired in May 2012. “We had two other coaching spots that hired after that. We were trying to catch up all summer and all year last year. We had a good offseason this year,” he said.
Practices have given him hope that the dismal 1-9 record of last season can be turned around.
“It’s been a good, productive summer for us. We’re way ahead of where we were last year,” Baker said.
“We have a real good turnout; we get after it hard.”
Camps have given the players some good experience, he said.
“We’ve done several team camps, and those have gone good,” Baker said. Perryville went to a camp at Dover, one at Atkins and hosted one in which six or seven schools participated, he said.
Baker said he doesn’t want to single out players for praise. The pressure is on, though.
“Our seniors — any of our seniors — on both sides of the ball, we need them to step up, offensively and defensively,” he said.
“We have a really small junior class; there’s only five kids in our junior class, so our seniors will have to do the bulk of playing and leading. Several have got quite a bit of experience,” he said.
A positive note is that the sophomore class had “a little bit of success” as ninth-graders. “They went 4 and 5, so we’re hoping that’ll carry over,” Baker said.
The coach said the staff emphasizes “playing disciplined, not making silly mistakes and you’ll give yourself a chance. We just harp on those things over and over.”
Baker’s staff includes Cole Harriman, Jason Wilson and Paul Gottsponer, an addition this year. A former Bigelow coach, Gottsponer has been out of coaching a little while, Baker said.
It’s not like the Mustangs don’t know what it’s like to win. Perryville won the 2-3A conference title in 2008 and 2009.
However, in 2010, the team went 2-8; then 1-8 in 2011 and then 1-9.
“I think we’ll be better than we were last year,” Baker said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the record will be better.”
The schedule won’t be a breeze.
He said Harding Academy always is a threat, and “Mayflower should be loaded; they’ve got everybody back. Rose Bud is going to be good… and Barton.”
Baker said despite recent losing records, the students are winners.
“The positives are our kids’ work ethic and attitude. We’ve had a real good attendance this summer; they work hard.
“We just talk to our kids about doing your best, whether that’s school or athletics, doing what’s right and treating other people like you want to be treated and that leads to having a good attitude,” he said.
“Even though we went 1-9, it sounds cliché, but it was a joy to come to work on Monday, because they showed up with a positive attitude,” Baker said.