Despite a heartbreaking loss at Prairie Grove in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs last year, expectations remain high for Pottsville’s Apaches.
Coach Bryan Rust is succinct when asked his expectations for 2013: “Playoffs, conference champs, state champs,” he said.
Pottsville finished 10-2 last year, winning its first eight games before falling at Booneville, 30-22. The Apaches finished 6-1 in the 4-4A, tying for their second straight conference title.
Since back-to-back three-win seasons in 2008 and ’09, Pottsville has won 30 games.
And with Michael Perry (5-10, 175) back for his senior season at quarterback, it’s no surprise expectations are so high.
Perry will be a fourth-year starter at QB. He’s a two-time all-state pick. Rust recorded him at more than 1,500 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing as a junior. Defensively, he tallied 75 tackles, five interceptions and two fumble recoveries from his safety position last year. He was also named MVP of the Class 4A state basketball tournament.
“We lost a lot of offense, but the key component returns,” Rust said.
Five starters return on either side of the ball from a team that averaged 40 points per game while giving up only 16.
The Apaches beat Heber Springs, 35-14; Fountain Lake, 34-20; Clinton, 53-21; Subiaco Academy, 36-12; Dardanelle, 39-10; Mena, 39-17; Dover, 53-20; and Maumelle, 33-0, before the loss to rival Booneville (which had lost to Mena, 22-21, two weeks prior). They rebounded to close the regular season over Waldron, 48-6, to earn the league’s second seed and opened the playoffs with a 56-13 win over Gravette before falling at Prairie Grove, 34-28.
The Apaches will run a Multiple T offense. Joining Perry in the offensive lineup will be sophomore Austin McNeely (6-4, 220) and senior Blayze Schrepfer (6-0, 165) at tight end; sophomore Noah Johnson (5-11, 245) and senior Bradley Roberts (6-0, 220) at tackle; senior Trent Beard (5-10, 220) and junior Tyler Waddell (5-8, 200) at guard; junior Taylor Waddell (5-9, 165) and senior Cameron Waldee (5-9, 170), backed by sophomore Josh Dugger (5-9, 150) and junior Logan Hunt (5-9, 195) at running back and senior Tanner Weaver (6-2, 195) at fullback.
For the 50 defensive scheme, the lineup should include Weaver and Tyler Waddell at end; seniors Jared Hett (6-2, 185) and Andy Hepp (5-8, 225) at tackle; junior Austin Moore (5-10, 250) at noseguard; Hunt and juniors Alonso Torres (5-8, 190) and Austin Smith (5-9, 200) at linebacker; Josh Dugger and Waldee at the corners and Perry and Taylor Waddell at the safeties.
Strengths and weaknesses for the Apaches?
“We’ve got good team speed, some experience up front and at the quarterback spot,” Rust said. “But we’re young on the line and in the secondary, and we’ve got some unproven skill positions.”
He said the key game on the schedule would come Nov. 1 when Booneville visits. The Bearcats, defending co-champs with Pottsville, return 15 starters after reaching the state quarterfinals.
“They’re our big rival in the conference,” Rust said.
He predicted Dardanelle and Maumelle would also return to the playoffs from the 4-4A in 2013.