The Southside Batesville Southerners will be focusing on nonconference games as much as conference ones, third-year coach Kenny Simpson said.
“We look at [nonconference games] differently than a lot of programs. We place a lot more emphasis on those games. That’s where we learn how to win. One of our first games is a big rival game against Cave City. That’s as big to us as a conference game,” Simpson said.
The team finished 2012 with a 4-5-1 record and placed sixth in the 2012 2-4A Conference race. Simpson has his sights on making it to the playoffs this year and is counting on the experience of the team’s 16 seniors to take the Southerners there.
“Many of these guys have played all the way through from the third grade up. We’re still new to football, so we’re hoping that confidence is going to help us this year,” he said.
Among the team leaders that Simpson is counting on is third-year starting quarterback senior Drew Moss ( 6-3, 170). Moss had to sit out the final four games in 2012 because of a blood clot in his leg.
“He’s looking much better,” Simpson said. “He was able to go through the spring and summer with us, so we’re sure we’ve moved past the injury.”
Senior running back and linebacker Trey Payne (5-9, 150) is looking good on both sides of the ball, and third-year starting defensive lineman Devon Terrell, standing at 6 feet tall and weighing 255, will be a force to be reckoned with on the field.
“He’s probably our best defensive lineman, if not the best defensive player,” Simpson said.
Senior Kinze Sutton (5-10, 225) is one of eight returning defensive starters and will lend strength to the Southerners’ defensive lineup.
Senior Greg Smith, another three-year starter, will return to wide receiver after being fully cleared in July from an ACL injury he sustained last fall.
Simpson said several players, including receivers Cody McGaha, Colby Rowlett and Dakota Cook, will play offense and defense.
“We’re trying to develop different kids in different places,” Simpson said.
As Simpson looks ahead to the postseason, he has his sights set high.
“I think Stuttgart as the defending state champs are the team to look at. They lost a lot of guys, but they’re still the team to beat,” he said.
He also highlighted Newport and Lonoke as “some of the most athletic teams” he has seen and teams that will be on the Southerners’ radar throughout the season.