Mounties wrap drills
Bentonville West’s Tucker Swoboda (3) makes a catch Friday during a spring football game at Wolverine Stadium in Centerton.
The Mounties played several young players a year ago. But that's translated into plenty of Friday night experience returning.
They are not only more experienced, but also bigger and faster, Rogers coach Mike Loyd said.
"I looked out there at times and we had 13 or 14 sophomores playing," Loyd said. "They got baptized a little bit, but that's OK. Last year, we had one kid that could break 4.7, this year we've got 13 in off-season, several more in track and baseball.
But it starts up front and we've got seven, eight, nine kids 280 or 290 that can actually play. We'll look different and I think we'll be better. Does that mean we'll win more? We'll see."
Rising senior Charlie Louree (6-3, 225) had a good offseason in the weight room but suffered a broken ankle early in the spring. However, he will likely be cleared for workouts by July, Loyd said.
"He's a big kid we are looking at to play tight end or H-Back, maybe a little defensive end," Loyd said. "He's got as good a hands as anybody we have."
Rogers will have a new defensive coordinator. Kenny Evans, who had been the defensive coordinator at Missouri Southern, will take over that role.
Evans has an extensive coaching resume in college and high school. In addition to being defensive coordinator for three years at Missouri Southern, he was head coach at East Central High School in Tulsa and Northeastern (Okla.) State. He was also an assistant at Louisiana Tech and North Texas State.
"We've known each other for a long time," Loyd said. "He's a quality guy. Kenny's resume is as good as any coach in Arkansas. That's going to be a good fit for us."
War Eagles build depth in trenches
War Eagles coach Tony Travis was looking to utilize spring practice to build some depth on the offensive line, which returns just one starter.
Rising senior Zion Adair (6-3, 335 pound) is the lone holdover on the offensive line and his experience showed in spring workouts, but classmate Hunter Holland (5-9, 210) has also shown well.
"Hunter is probably our most consistent center when it comes to shotgun snaps," Travis said. "When you're in a spread, it's important. He's turned into a young man we can count on."
Travis decided to explore changing from a four-man front to three on defense and he likes what he's seen so far.
"We'll continue with that through the summer," Travis said. "We kinda like where it's going right now.
"One of the main things is with the spread offenses we're seeing, we think it's a little more flexible getting that extra cover guy in there when you want it. You can show more fronts out of it, different looks. And it fits our personnel right now. We kinda felt like we have more depth on the back end of the defense than up front."
The War Eagles are also looking for another assistant coach since Paul Wilson recently became the assistant principal at Rogers High. Travis said he has visited with several coaches about the vacancy and is hopeful to have the spot filled soon.
Heritage will head to Missouri State for a team camp in two weeks and also compete in the Branson (Mo.) Border Battle, a one-day 7-on-7 event slated for July 12. Travis is also looking at possibly hosting a small team camp late since Heritage won't have a preseason scrimmage because they are playing on Zero Week.
-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Tigers return plenty of RB help
Bentonville coach Jody Grant said his team will spend the summer trying to establish depth in a number of positions.
One spot where the Tigers have a surplus of talent as they head toward the fall campaign is running back. Bentonville returns rising junior Preston Crawford, who ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the Class 7A state championship game last year, but the Tigers also have Colby Ried, Cole Joyce and Hunter Roath vying for carries and playing time.
"With Preston, we had a guy we knew was special," Grant said. "But we have a number of guys that are special. These guys could be the feature back at most places, and we have them all here. That's a nice thing."
Where Bentonville needs to find more depth is in the trenches, as well as in its receiving corps. Grant said the Tigers have spent a lot of time moving some players around in hopes of finding the five best offensive linemen, and they also need depth in the defensive line, where Bentonville has often platooned players in their 3-4 scheme.
Meanwhile, the Tigers return Harrison Campbell and Dylan Smith as receivers, but the loss of Kam'Ron Mays-Hunt to graduation leaves big shoes to fill. Zach Lee is currently working at one receiver position, and Grant is hopeful players like A.J. Moss and other can fill that void.
"We have a lot of guys competing, but we need people to step up," Grant said. "We learned that depth is an issue at certain spots, even on the defensive line. We feel like we're good on the defensive line but we play a lot of guys there.
"What I like about our team coming out of spring drills is our young kids. We had a really good freshman class last year that will be sophomores, and we're excited about where they are at with their development. They're not that far behind. They are really close to being ready to help us."
Wolverines find offensive line depth
West coach Bryan Pratt said one of the biggest areas his team needed to address during spring workouts was the offensive line, where four starters that graduated and left Brandon Beesley as the lone returning starters.
The Wolverines moved some players around, and some players who were on the defensive line have made the move to the other side of the football. Pratt said some of those players had never played those positions before, but he's been pleased with the progress.
"Now we have seven or eight players that can help us there," Pratt said. "That will be a huge help for us.
"One of those was Ben Gann, who will be our left tackle. He played last year as a defensive tackle. He's definitely come on and had a good spring. Trent Davis is a sophomore that we played some at right tackle and definitely answered the bell. A.J. Smith had a great spring on the offensive line, as has Caden Childers and Zack Trammell."
There are other players that will be in new positions. Nick Whitlach, a safety has last year, has found a new home at outside linebacker, and Pratt said some players will be utilized on both sides of the football that didn't play offense last season.
"I think it's good for us," Pratt said. "As we go into our team camp season, it's going to allow us to be more of a team. Because we have platooned during the spring, it's sort of divided us because there's the offense and the defense and they're competing against each other. When we start going to the team camps and 7-on-7s, we'll start jelling more as a team."
West will head to Tulsa for its team camp June 5 to begin the offseason schedule.
-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Dawson happy with Bulldogs' effort
Fayetteville coach Billy Dawson said he feels better about some areas of his team after the Bulldogs completed spring practice on Wednesday.
Dawson was particularly concerned about holes at receiver and in the secondary for the Bulldogs, who finished 8-5 last season.
"We had a good spring," Dawson said. "I got to see a lot of kids running around who can help us at receiver and in the secondary. I feel better about it."
Dawson listed a number of players who emerged during the spring at those positions, including Beau Stuckey, Luke Charboneau, Cornelius Williams, Barrett Adams, Gage Reid, Brooks Flanigan, and Connor Flanigan. Dawson also liked the play of Zach Vanhook and Johnson Bowman at tight end during spring drills.
Fayetteville is established at quarterback, where Darius Bowers will return after throwing for nearly 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior.
With spring practice complete, Fayetteville will turn to its summer session before returning to full-scale workouts beginning July 31. Fayetteville will send two teams to Charleston for a 7-on-7 tournament on June 16 and the Bulldogs will also participate in the Shiloh Christian tournament at Springdale July 12-14.
-- Rick Fires • @NWARick
Fort Smith Northside
Hopes high for Grizzlies
Though Northside coach Mike Falleur was not pleased with a 4-8 record from his 2017 Grizzly team, he is more the optimistic about the prospects for the 2018 season.
Northside, who completed spring practice last week, finished the season with a win at Southside, the stunned Springdale Har-Ber in a 7A first-round playoff game before losing to eventual state champion North Little Rock in the quarterfinals.
"We had a tough stretch in the middle of the season when we lost to (Little Rock) Catholic. We were at a crossroad when we played Southside," Falleur said. "We played great that night, won a playoff game and played great for three quarters at North Little Rock. We didn't feel good about the season as a whole, but we did feel good that we kept working and got better by the end of the season."
At the end of spring drills, the Grizzlies had 114 players on the roster, more than enough for Falleur and his staff. Off-season actually started with 148 players.
"This is the first time we come into the season with three strong classes," Falleur said. "Usually you may have two and one drops off, but we have around 114 players out and that is plenty. This is the most we have ever had. This is a big group of seniors (32) and several are 2- and 3-year starters. Many of these juniors were thrown into the fire, more so physically, of playing in the 7A-Central as sophomores last year. This spring for them was more about moving people into the right position and improve on what we want them to do."
One of the key returnees back includes quarterback Duece Wise and offensive lineman Stevie Young. Wise moved the quarterback last season and rushed for 934 yards and 9 touchdowns while passing for 1031 yards and 13 TD. Young is considered one of the best linemen in the state.
"We have more depth in several positions that we have ever had," Falleur said. "We still are not deep at offensive line, but we are really comfortable with our two-deep. If you lose Deuce Wise, Stevie Young or (safety) Greg Washington, it's going to be a big void because they have played for 3 years."
The Grizzlies start summer camps on Wednesday at team camp at Greenwood. Besides Northside and Greenwood, other teams participating in the camp include Fayetteville, Springdale, Pulaski Academy and Broken Arrow, Okla.
Northside will scrimmage Bentonville West on Aug. 14, then open the regular season Aug. 24 against Rogers Heritage on the first "Zero Week" under the new Arkansas Activities Association scheduling rules for football. The Grizzlies will have a bye in week 3 before opening 7A-Central play at Bryant Sept. 21.
"Coming from Georgia (where Falleur coached before returning to his alma mater), everybody had a bye week built into our schedule," Falleur said. "So you wanted that week towards the middle of the season. You start in early August so you are worn down physically and mentally by the middle of the season. I've always liked a bye week. It gives you a chance to correct something that needs to be fixed or make changes without the pressure of a game on Friday."
Fort Smith Southside
Mavs' scrimmage pleases Williams
Southside averaged nearly 30 points per game last year and made the postseason. Many of those skill players return for the Mavericks and that makes coach Jeff Williams optimistic about the upcoming season.
"I thought we had a good offseason," Williams said. "We have some good mix of veterans and newcomers. We have the young guys a chance to go against some of the veterans in practice. Our numbers are up. We have a lot of experience coming back on both sides of the ball. We are also in better shape depth wise than we have been for a while."
Southside, which has 100 players on its roster, wrapped up spring practice on Tuesday with a short scrimmage.
"We went about 45 minutes (Tuesday). We got some good work in by the veterans and we then put in the young guys to see what they could do," Williams said.
The Mavericks have about 100 players on the roster. The biggest losses were four senior linebackers and a couple of offensive linemen.
"Despite the losses, we feel good about the people who will step in and play," Williams said. "We had to improve our depth because in this league, depth is critical. If you don't have depth, you are in trouble. Our goal this spring was to create depth and to keep everyone healthy. We did that."
Because of the offensive returnees, such as quarterback Taye Gatewood (3,580 yards of offense, 42 touchdowns), Williams said the spring was as much about seeing what the incoming sophomores could do.
"The older guys knew what to do, so we worked extensively with the young guys to get into the flow of what we do," Williams said. "We did some things like put the sophomores up against the starting offensive line to see where they are at. With the returning starters, it was about tuning them up and keeping them healthy."
In year's past, many high school football fans and experts claimed that the best conference in Arkansas was the 7A-West. But Williams, whose Mavericks were in the 7A-West from 1965-2015, now says the 7A-Central is now the best from top-to-bottom. Three 7A-Central teams (North Little Rock, Bryant, Conway) made the semifinal, with North Little Rock winning the first state title for the 7A-Central since 2004.
"This may be the toughest league I have ever coached in," Williams said. "When I first got to Southside in 2005, the schools in the 7A-West were one-school towns and that conference was strong. Now with the schools splitting up in the West, the big schools are now in the Central -- team like Cabot, Bryant and Conway. Last year, we were the sixth seed, but we lost to Conway in overtime and they made the semifinals. That is how close and competitive teams are in our league."
Southside will have a team camp, then go to a Russellville team camp on June 12 and then to Fayetteville June 19.
"We will see a lot of good teams this summer," Williams added. "We are going to know where we are at pretty quick."
-- Walter Woodie • Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette
Airedales return experience on O-Line
Experience in the trenches will be a key to success for the Airedales this season.
After starting five juniors last season on the offensive line, the core will return now as seniors along with all their backups to provide stability to an offense that lost key contributors.
Rising senior Zacary Henson, who has offers from the University of Central Arkansas and Ouachita Baptist University, will lead the way for the Airedales after earning All-State honors a season ago.
"I think those guys up front on the offensive line will help us a lot early," Alma coach Doug Loughridge said. "Since I've been at Alma, I don't think we've had a better group of five. I can't even tell you the last time Alma had a Division 1 offensive lineman. That's special."
The Alma offense will look much different next season without several key outgoing seniors, but the foundation remains strong for the Airedales.
Alma will miss the graduating duo of quarterback Garrison Jensen and wide receiver Brayden Johnson, who both accounted for 32 of the team's 51 touchdowns a season ago.
"We graduated two two-time All-State players," Loughridge said. "They made up for a lot of our offense last year. But we have a good nucleus. We feel really good about the guys coming back."
Upcoming seniors Tanner Shelton, Austin Fraley and junior Landon Blair all worked out as quarterbacks during the spring practices.
-- Harold McIlvain • Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette
Holt may see time as QB1 for Bulldogs
Rising senior Peyton Holt did it all for the Greenwood Bulldogs last season during a breakout year as a wide receiver, but he could be asked to do even more this season.
Holt was able to work out as a quarterback in spring drills alongside junior Jace Presley and sophomore Landry Jurecka all competing for the vacancy left by the graduating Connor Noland.
"One thing we have in our back pocket is Holt if it gets to that," Greenwood coach Rick Jones said. "He played quarterback in junior high. We haven't really figured out a great way to have a quarterback throw the ball to himself. It will be interesting to see how this works out."
Holt last year finished with 101 catches for 1,354 yards with 17 touchdowns as junior. He also completed the only pass he threw all season, a 31-yard touchdown.
Spring football practices were limited for Holt and many other players that play both football and baseball because of the baseball state tournament championship run.
"We had a pretty good number playing baseball that also play football," Jones said. "I worked together with baseball coach (Trey) Holloway because we wanted to give them the best chance to win it. Some guys we did a little with, while some we did nothing at all with. I'm very proud of those guys winning the state baseball championship."
Greenwood will defend it perfect 13-0 season and Class 6A state championship next season without six graduating seniors that earned All-State honors.
-- Harold McIlvain • Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette
Special visitor at Red-White scrimmage
A nice crowd was on hand last week to see the Bulldogs cap a successful spring slate, but a special visitor was sitting about 10 rows up near the 30-yard line. When your name is affixed to the stadium, you pretty much get any seat you want.
Longtime RedDogs coach Jarrell Williams looked on as the Bulldogs played a number of underclassmen in the final spring scrimmage. Several players who are expected to play key roles this season did not suit out for the scrimmage as they are still recovering from injuries or off-season surgery in the case of rising senior quarterback Grant Allen, one of several transfers from crosstown Springdale Har-Ber this offseason.
Springdale coach Zak Clark said the team would move into its summer schedule starting this week that will include a couple of team camps and 7-in-7 tournaments.
"We have a team camp in Greenwood and one later in June," Clark said. "We're trying to get everything we can done in June except for the Shiloh 7-on-7. It will be a busy slate the first three to four weeks of the summer."
Clark said the team will continue to try and rebuild its offensive and defensive lines over the summer, hoping to add more bulk to the players vying for those open spots.
-- Chip Souza • @NWAChip
Sports on 05/27/2018
Print Headline: Spring Football Report