Eighth in a series profiling Pulaski County high school football teams.
Injuries crushed Little Rock Catholic's 2015 season, but some of the team's reserves gained valuable experience in the process.
Coach John Fogleman is hopeful that the unexpected experience, and fewer injuries, will lead to more success for the Rockets this fall.
LR Catholic at a glance
2015 RECORD 4-7, 3-4 in the 7A/6A-Central
COACH John Fogleman
KEY PLAYERS QB Taylor Price (Sr. 6-2, 175), RB/CB Orlando Henley (Sr. 5-9, 170), WR Thompson Olaimy (Sr. 6-1, 175), DT Sam Hathcock (Sr. 6-2, 235), FS Jared Allison (Sr. 6-0, 170), OL/DL Audry Horn, (6-4, 325), OL/DL Jack Mathis (6-5, 270), K/S Chris Elser (Jr., 5-10, 155)
Sept. 2;at Sylvan Hills
Sept. 23;at Cabot*
Oct. 7;at FS Northside*
Oct. 14;North Little Rock*
Oct. 21;FS Southside*
Oct. 28;at Conway*
Nov. 3;at Little Rock Central*
*7A-Central Conference game
"The injuries we had last year were the most I've ever experienced," said Fogleman, whose team went 4-7 last season. "We lost a number of key people, but there were also others that we were counting on that we expected to play a role. Where it really hurts you is when you don't have the numbers to replace them like they do in other [schools]. And it really hurts you when it comes to preparation. ... You struggle when you can't give a quality look at your opponent."
A partial list of Catholic players who failed to make it through last season:
• Quarterback Taylor Price suffered a stress fracture in his back.
• Lineman Sam Hathcock suffered a broken arm in the season opener against North Little Rock.
• Outside linebacker Ridge Fletcher suffered a broken leg and is not expected to play until later this season.
• Linemen Blake Howard, Audry Horn and Jack Mathis all failed to complete the season because of either illness or injury.
"They all weren't major," Fogleman said. "But we dealt with a lot of nagging injuries all year."
Price, 6-2, 175 pounds, played one game at receiver and two games at quarterback before the back injury shut him down. The senior completed 30 of 54 passes for 205 yards, and he caught 4 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
"Taylor gets rid of the ball quick," Fogleman said. "The ball comes out of his hands nice and he's probably a little more athletic than he's given credit for. ... He can scramble, but we're not going to design a whole lot of running plays for him because he has not played a complete year of football for us since he's been here. We can't keep him healthy."
Junior Jake James, 5-9, 145, will step in for Price if needed. James played one game at quarterback last season, completing 13 of 18 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown against Bryant.
"Last year created a little competition at quarterback," Fogleman said. "We feel like we have a little depth there because of it."
Senior Orlando Henley, 5-9, 170, could be a threat at both running back and at cornerback.
"He's faster than guys we've had in the past," Fogleman said.
Sophomore Sammi Johnson, 5-10, 175, junior Austin Bisceglia, 5-9, 170, and junior Luke Schildknecht, 5-10, 180, should all see time in the backfield.
Senior Thompson Olaimy, 6-1, 175, caught more passes (42) than any other Rockets receiver last season. He also had 547 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. Junior Adam Shepherd, 6-3, 210, returns at tight end where he caught 20 passes for 266 yards.
Horn, 6-4, 325, Mathis, 6-5, 270, and Howard, 6-4, 250, all return on the offensive line. Horn and Mathis are seniors. Howard is a junior.
Fogleman said the team is still trying to establish a defensive leader. Hathcock, 6-2, 235, is back at defensive tackle. Fogleman said junior Peter Fitz, 5-11, 220, is "a little undersized but has a good motor." Junior Jarvis Gulley, 6-4, 285, squatted 545 pounds last year and "is good with his hands."
Senior Russell Brown, 6-0, 200, played linebacker last season. Fogleman said he is trying "to find the best spot" for Brown this season. Junior Tyler Turner, 6-1, 200, is "one of our most aggressive players."
Senior Jared Allison, 6-0, 170, returns at safety where he intercepted three passes last season. "He does have a knack for the ball," Fogleman said.
Catholic is solid in the kicking game. Junior Chris Elser made 7 of 10 field-goal attempts and 34 of 35 extra-point attempts last season
"The biggest difference from last year to this year is that we had a fairly large senior class last year," Fogleman said. "This year, our larger numbers are from down low. We're heavy on sophomores and they're not as familiar with our system. We're having to do a lot more work on fundamentals and basics.
"Our game plan will probably be a little more simple. That seems like the smart thing to do and not try to overwhelm a bunch of young kids."
Sports on 08/19/2016
Print Headline: Rockets counting on staying healthy