Pocahontas head coach Dave Williams has said this year’s squad is just “a good, blue-collar working group,” a formula that seems to suit his coaching style to a T. Williams’ focus on a solid work ethic and good old-fashioned determination have served him well over the past several years.
Taking only three losses in the 2012 regular season — to Valley View, Gosnell and Highland — the Redskins found a playoff berth in 2012 but suffered a disappointing 52-14 loss to Dardanelle in the opening round of the 4A state playoffs.
Even so, Williams said, he’s looking neither forward nor back, choosing instead to focus upon the task at hand and the talents at his disposal.
“We’re gonna have a talented group to work with, a good group,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t have a bad group, either. We managed to go 7-3 in the regular season. Got beat pretty bad in the playoffs, but we didn’t play very well. We had a bunch of turnovers, and that’ll beat you, you know. So these kids will work hard, and I think they’ll be very competitive.”
Williams has “about 40” players on the 2013 roster, including 13 seniors and six returning starters.
Asked how he thinks his squad will fare, both in regular-season play and in another potential playoff appearance, Williams refused to make predictions.
“Well, we’re gonna try it one game at a time and do the best we can,” he said. “Don’t look too far ahead. … I learned a long time ago, when you try to look ahead, you sometimes get in trouble.”
On offense, Williams returns several starters from last season, although some have shifted positions.
Senior Caden Wilson (6-0, 180) shifts to quarterback this year, and though he has limited experience at the position, Williams is expecting good things.
“He’s always been a fullback, a real tough guy, but we’ve had some quarterbacks move off and stuff,” Williams said. “He stepped in, and he can throw the devil out of the ball. We’re real pleased with him.”
Adding that sophomore backup quarterback Grant Pritchard “can throw the ball, too,” Williams quipped that “all we’ve gotta do is find somebody who can catch it.”
Working at center is versatile senior Brandon Marrone (5-11, 215), who will also split time at tight end. Marrone, who boasts a 300-pound bench press, is sure to be one of the Redskins’ key offensive players.
“Nobody will try any harder than Brandon,” Williams said.
In the backfield, all-conference tailback Spencer Tanner (5-11, 185) returns from racking up more than 900 yards rushing in the 2012 season, including 23 carries for 213 yards in Pocahontas’ 30-7 win over Cave City last year.
Moving to the fullback slot is senior Corbyn Tippy (5-10, 180), who Williams said will bring experience and maturity to the position.
“He’s been around a while,” Williams said.
On the other side of the football, senior Josh Kester (6-1, 215) returns at defensive end, and seniors Dakota Shipley (6-2, 195) and Cole Johnson (5-8, 210) will labor in the defensive tackle spots. Williams said Johnson squats more than 600 pounds.
“At the other end will probably be a young man named Cody Hills,” Williams said. “He’s a good-sized kid … very athletic.”
Rounding out the Redskins’ defense is junior Zack Huffman (5-11, 185) at linebacker, Jake Fox (6-1, 250) at right tackle, Jesse DeJournett (6-3, 275) at left tackle, Russell Miller (5-6, 170) at guard and Tanner Britt (5-10, 210), who is coming off of knee surgery, also at guard.
“Our secondary should [also] be improved,” Williams said. “We’ve got some veterans back there.”
Williams expressed confidence in his squad, saying the key to success for the Redskins will be working hard and focusing on the next hurdle.
“Just looking forward to the season,” Williams said. “We’re gonna have a really good group to work with, … and they’re gonna work hard. We’re looking forward to it.”