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Mills never left Pulaski County to play a game last fall, yet it was still a long season for the Comets, particularly defensively.

Mills finished 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the travel-friendly 5A-Central (seven of the eight schools were in Pulaski County). The Comets allowed 43.2 points per game.

Comets at a glance

COACH Patrick Russell

CONFERENCE 2-4A

2017 RECORD 2-8, 1-6 5A-Central

KEY RETURNERS OL/DL Jacob Beman (Jr., 6-0, 265)

SCHEDULE

DATE;OPPONENT

Aug. 31;at Jacksonville

Sept. 7;LR Hall

Sept. 14;Maumelle

Sept. 21;Bald Knob*

Sept. 28;at CAC*

Oct. 5;Riverview*

Oct. 12;at Lonoke*

Oct. 19;at Stuttgart*

Oct. 26;Southside Batesville*

Nov. 2;at Heber Springs*

*2-4A game

Patrick Russell, entering his 12th season as coach at Mills, said the Comets will be "hard-pressed" not to be better defensively this fall, adding that 2017 was "about as bad a year as I've ever had defensively."

"Every time we went on the field last year, we were definitely on a tilted field," Russell said. "We just didn't match up numbers-wise, talent-wise."

Russell expects to have about 40 players again this fall, but a thin roster could be offset by a drop to Class 4A for the 2018-2020 cycle. Mills has been placed in 2-4A, which produced a three-way tie for the championship last fall (Southside Batesville, Stuttgart and Heber Springs).

"It will help us with the numbers," Russell said.

Russell said he hopes eight returning starters -- four on each side of the ball -- and several promising newcomers can help Mills reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Junior Braelon Adams (6-2, 200 pounds) is expected to start at quarterback after transferring from Little Rock Hall. Adams accounted for three touchdowns in Hall's 28-12 season-opening victory over Little Rock Fair last year.

Russell noted the program's revolving door at quarterback since option specialist Omar Avance, a three-year starter, led the Comets to a 9-3 record and the Class 5A quarterfinals as a senior in 2013. Mills has not had a returning starter at quarterback since then, Russell said, and used five at that position last fall in its transition from a run-heavy Double-Slot scheme to the Spread.

Russell, who will call plays this season, said the hope is that Mills can one day incorporate triple-option plays from the Spread.

"My philosophy on the Spread, when you spread to run, is you better be able to throw it a little bit, too," said Russell, a former defensive coordinator at Little Rock McClellan and head coach at Bearden. "You can take away the Spread run if you can't throw it."

He calls sophomore tailback/safety Lavell Carnell (5-11, 170) "one of the most exciting players we've had come here in a long time." Senior Daivon Geter (6-0, 300) and junior Jacob Beman (6-0, 265) will help along both lines, Russell said. Geter didn't play last season.

Russell said Mills will continue to run a 4-3 defense and tapped Jalen Garmon, a standout two-way lineman on the school's 2010 Class 5A playoff quarterfinalist team, as coordinator. Garmon, a 2011 Mills graduate, played at the University of Arkansas-Monticello and previously coached at Wynne.

"We feel like when we get them all here, and get them all under the roof, we'll have a chance to be competitive, just athletically," Russell said. "If they'll buy into things and come together like some of our teams in the past, we'll have a chance to win some games."

Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Patrick Russell

Sports on 08/07/2018

Print Headline: Mills finds class drop to liking

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