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New faces greet Bulldogs coaches

Replacing most of its offensive production from last season will garner the focus of Bulldogs coaches this spring, coach Zak Clark said.

Gone are quarterbacks Grant Allen and Will Mueller, running back Garrett Vaughan and several wide receivers including all-stater Brock Pounders.

"We've got a bunch of new faces," Clark said. "This has been a big offseason and will be a big spring and summer for us in getting the younger guys acclimated and figuring out the pieces to the puzzle."

Darrell Parchman returns as running back but may be held out of spring practice as he rehabs from injury. Three starting offensive linemen are also back.

"We have some young guys and our junior highs have continued to get better," Clark said. "It's time for those guys to step up."

Rising senior Jujuan Boyd, who has been a starter in the secondary, has transferred to crosstown Har-Ber, Clark said.

-- Chip Souza • @NWAChip


Wildcats want to return to roots

The Wildcats find themselves in the unfamiliar position of trying to climb back from a 2-8 season in 2018 that included the forfeiture of several games for playing an ineligible player.

Coach Chris Wood said Har-Ber is using that as motivation heading into the spring.

"We're dialed in and we've had a great offseason since January," Wood said. "We've really tried to take our time and focus on some areas where we need to get stronger as a group physically and just continue to grow mentally."

Wood said the Wildcats need to return to what made the program so successful in the past, and that is a strong run game. With most of its offense back from last season, including depth and experience in the offensive line, that will be the focus this spring.

"We have to be able to handle adversity and persevere," Wood said. "I think our kids have embraced that all spring. They are chomping at the bit to get on the football field and put on pads."

Wood said the coaching staff spent a lot of time over the offseason pealing back the layers and determining where the program had gone away from what made it an elite 7A team.

"The focus this spring is to return to what made Har-Ber football so special," Wood said.

-- Chip Souza • @NWAChip


Mounties spread out in other sports

The Mounties will have more size and speed than they've had in recent years, but coach Mike Loyd won't see much of them during spring workouts.

"We've got 25 or 30 kids in other sports right now," Loyd said. "That's something I love to see. I think it's good for them to play more than one sport."

Something else the Mounties have more of now is players who already have college scholarship offers.

"We've got seven or eight in the senior class and probably seven who are juniors," Loyd said. "There are a few more on the radar. We haven't had that since I've been here."

Offensive lineman RJ Long (6-foot-2, 290 pounds) has an offer from the Air Force Academy and Cornell, while quarterback Hunter Loyd (6-4, 200) has offers from Arkansas State, Cornell, and Louisiana Monroe. Matthew Watson (6-4, 240) is another who could garner Division I interest at tight end, but he could choose to play baseball instead.

The Mounties will also make some changes offensively with new offensive coordinator Justin Bigham, who played at Ole Miss.

"I think it will fit our kids pretty well," Loyd said. "We'll be in some two-back, a screen game on the perimeter. We've got some big receivers."


Hookfin excited to start work on the field

War Eagles new coach Steve Hookfin is still trying to round out his staff, but he will finally get on the field with his team this week as spring practice begins.

The 42-year-old was hired only a little more than two weeks ago and spent some time tying up loose ends in Tennessee. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"I've been enthused about it," Hookfin said. "They're good listeners. These kids are hungry to win and I'm just as hungry to help them get that taste of victory."

He interviewed a couple of assistant coach candidates and spent time last week getting to know players. But Hookfin broke down his idea to a very basic football concept.

"I like to make success simple," Hookfin said. "We all know that football is about getting yards and first downs and all that. I break it down even smaller than that. Give me a group that's going to fight for that first inch. If you're willing to fight for that first inch, we're gonna win ballgames.

"That's the start -- inches, then feet, then yards, then first downs, then touchdowns. But it starts with the first inch and if they're willing to whip somebody and do everything they can for that first inch, I think we'll have a chance."

-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB


Four to vie for starting QB job

Will the next Bentonville starting quarterback please step forward?

That's what Tigers coach Jody Grant hopes to see as his team started spring drills Thursday as four players will battle for that position. Ben Pankau, already a starter at a safety spot, will have the opportunity to earn that position, as will incoming juniors Andrew Edwards and Matthew Schluterman and rising sophomore Drew Wright.

"So we will have a healthy quarterback competition," Grant said. "That will be fun to watch as it develops, and we have some great guys battling for it.

"As we progress through practices, we'll have to get that down to where we're down to two and let those two compete through it, even through team camp. Hopefully, we'll have a general idea on who our guy will be as we exit team camp."

Grant said the Tigers will also address their offensive line, where they must replace four starters from last year's team, as well as the defensive line. If Pankau happens to win the quarterback job, then somebody will need to fill the void he will leave at safety.

-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry


Spring will serve Wolverines' youth

West coach Bryan Pratt said spring workouts provide the perfect opportunity for his team's younger players to catch the coaching staff's eye with what they can do on the field.

"Because we have so many kids in other sports, spring is a good time for the young kids to get some reps," Pratt said. "We have probably 10 guys who will play for us that are in another sport right now. This will be the time for those younger players to improve.

"With our offensive line coming back, that's a plus for us. Last year, it was a major concern because we had no returning starters. We feel good about those guys, and now it's the skill side guys' turn we try to find some guys that will step up and make plays."

For the first time since he arrived in Northwest Arkansas, Pratt won't have Will Jarrett and Jadon Jackson in the huddle or on the sideline. Those two will head to the collegiate world at Arkansas State and Ole Miss, respectively, but they won't be forgotten.

"They left a lasting impression on our program, though," Pratt said. "Some of our guys have seen the leadership they gave us. We have a leadership day every Friday morning, and one of the things we talked about was the influence people have had on us.

"One of those players mentioned Will Jarrett and how, when he was injured, he was still there with everybody. That kind of stuff carries over."

-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry


Cardinals looking for playmakers

A new stadium and renewed optimism won't be enough for a Farmington team that hopes to avoid missing the playoffs again.

The Cardinals need playmakers, and plenty of them, on both sides of the ball after finishing 4-6 overall and 2-5 in 5A-West Conference play. The process begins today when Farmington conducts spring drills. The Cardinals will practice on consecutive weeks and a spring game is tentatively scheduled for May 17.

Senior Drew Sturgeon heads the list of returning starters for the Cardinals after he caught 56 passes for 834 yards and eight touchdowns last season. MarQweveon Watson is back after he caught 21 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns and senior Colton Kilgore returns as a three-year starter on defense for the Cardinals, who will open the season against Prairie Grove.

"I think Drew will be the best receiver in our area, in all classifications," Farmington coach Mike Adams said. "Colton will be a three-year starter at Mike Linebacker and (MarQweveon) has tremendous later quickness and great hands. We'll have a package with him at quarterback."

Farmington will move into its new stadium next to the high school in July after playing for decades at Allen Holland Field.


Presley next in line for 'Dogs

The Bulldogs have had a good run of talent at the quarterback position in recent years. That should continue with Jace Presley.

Presley (6-foot-4, 180 pounds), is looking to keep the production on offense high for the two-time defending Class 6A champions while starting as a senior with plenty of previous reps.

"He is going to be our guy at that position this year," Greenwood coach Rick Jones said. "He has has been able to get a lot of experience. He has been our JV quarterback for two years. He had a lot of snaps there and has got in some varsity action as well."

Presley was able to complete 17 of 33 passes for 148 yards at the varsity level. He will be replacing Peyton Holt, who had a productive year at the position. Holt finished with 3,037 passing yards with 23 touchdown tosses while adding 858 yards on the ground with 21 touchdowns last season.

"He is a big, tall guy," Jones said of Presley. "He can stand in the pocket and make the throws. He has a strong arm. He is getting a better understanding of the offense and has been doing it since the seventh grade. He is comfortable."

-- Harold McIlvain II • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette


Tuck looks to build on last season

The Pointers are looking to hit the ground running and build on last year's bounce-back season with the hiring of former assistant coach Crosby Tuck to lead the program.

After a winless 2017 season, Van Buren was able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Tuck, a former Shiloh Christian, and Arkansas Razorback, said the Pointers are now excited for the chance to improve from last season.

"We want to take that momentum and ride it out now," Tuck said. "We have a great, great senior class coming back. I'm really excited about these guys. They are a big part of the reason I felt I needed to be here. I want to work with these guys here."

Coaching turnover has been a trend at Van Buren, as Tuck becomes the third coach in the last five seasons for the Pointers. The transition will look to be much smoother with Tuck being the team's offensive coordinator from last season.

Tuck helped the Van Buren offense last year average 21 points and 312 yards of offense per game. He now looks to keep moving forward at Van Buren after helping jump-start the program with former coach Casey Dick, who was hired at Fayetteville to be its new coach.

-- Harold McIlvain II • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette


Airedales want to flex muscle

The Airedales were able to lift their way to some early-season momentum heading into spring practices.

Alma totaled 4,750 pounds of weights lifted to beat out Greene County Tech for the state championship in the Class 5A division of the state weight meet in late April. The Airedales will now look to translate that success onto the football field.

"We here at Alma have to be the more physical team," Alma coach Doug Loughridge said. "That's the way we need to play. We aren't going to have the best athletes every year. The weight meet and what we do getting ready for it sets the tone for our football season."

The Airedales were able to get strong performances from quarterback Landon Blair and from skill position players in Josh Davis, Ben Henley and Karsten Beneux to help win at the weight meet.

"Those are some guys we are going to count on this year in football," Loughridge said. "They are having good offseasons, and it showed."

-- Harold McIlvain II • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette


Panthers continue spring drills

The Siloam Springs football team is nearly halfway through spring football practice.

The Panthers wrapped up their fourth full-pad practice out of 10 available on Thursday at Panther Stadium and second-year coach Brandon Craig is pleased with what he's seen so far.

"I like the competition that's occurring in practice," Craig said. "A lot of competition -- kids are getting after it."

The Panthers appear to be making progress all over the field, despite missing several key players who are still involved with spring sports.

Craig said sophomore Jace Sutulovich has played well on the offensive line, while wide receiver Oren Stafford and running backs Jackson Norberg and Zach Hull have all played well.

Craig also noted that senior placekicker Harrison Losh has shown tremendous improvement so far in the spring.

"He's really booming some footballs," Craig said. "He's doing a great job for us. He hit a 40-yard field goal into the wind the other day."

-- Graham Thomas • @NWAGraham


Grizzlies looking for replacements

After a 7A semifinal run in 2018, Fort Smith Northside coach Mike Falleur sees his 2019 Grizzlies with another chance to make the postseason again.

First, though, Northside has to find a new quarterback, four offensive linemen and several defensive players to fill voids left from graduation.

"We have a good group of returning people coming back, so we know what to expect from them. We also lost some key people in several areas," Falleur said. "We have a good idea who the new players are going to be, but we still need to get them on the field. We also need to see the younger guys that are coming up to see if they can become starters or at least become depth at those positions."

Quarterback is one of the key position for Northside to fill. Senior Matt Hollenbeck and junior Drey Norwood will be battling for the starting job.

Depth is always critical and Falleur says spring practice is when you find those backups who can fill a position.

"I know what (running back) Jackson King and (tight end) James Clayton can do on the field," Falleur added. "They still need to practice to get better, obviously. What we are looking for is the next guy up. If Jackson King goes down, who is the player we have confidence can step up and play. We have a lot of sophomore and juniors that we've seen in the offseason that we think can play, but can they take the next step in spring practice."

-- Walter Woodie • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette


Mavericks seek depth

Coach Jeff Williams said the key to success in Class 7A football is depth, depth and more depth.

"I may sound like a broken record, but it is about depth," Williams said. "Spring practice is about evaluating people to make sure they are in the right spot and creating depth at every position."

The Mavericks, coming off a 6-6 season and a 7A quarterfinal appearance, must replace skill players on offense if they want a chance to compete in 7A-Central.

What Southside lacks in experience skill players, though, it makes up with experienced linemen and defensive players. For the first time in several years, Williams likes what he sees in the Mavericks' line on both sides of the ball.

"We had a great offseason, especially in the weight room," Williams said. "We are probably stronger than we have been in 2-3 years. We feel that our offensive line and defensive line will be the strengths of our team. In the 7A-Central, you have to be strong up front or teams like North Little Rock, Bryant and Conway will expose you."

-- Walter Woodie • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette


Davis joins Fayetteville staff as OC

Bryant Davis will be the offensive coordinator on Casey's Dick first football staff at Fayetteville.

Davis arrives from Springdale High, where he held the same position. Former Fayetteville offensive coordinator Chad Harbison will remain on staff and coach receivers at Fayetteville.

"(Davis) is a guy I've known for a while," said Dick, who was hired at Fayetteville to replace Billy Dawson, who resigned to enter private business. "He's a great coach and a teacher who is going to build relationships with our kids."

Dick will lead his new team onto the field today for the start of spring drills. A lot of interest will be a quarterback where Hank Gibbs and transfer Quinn McClain will compete to replace Darius Bowers, who signed with Central Arkansas. McClain will receive most of the early opportunities while Gibbs is playing with the Fayetteville baseball team.

"We've got two good ones there who'll compete," Dick said. "Hank is playing baseball right now and trying to help the team win a state championship in baseball. Quinn will get a lot of the early reps. But both will an opportunity at quarterback, a position we feel really good about."

-- Rick Fires • @NWARick


No major moves for Goblins

If everything goes as planned, Harrison will have nine returning starters on offense and seven on defense from last year's 12-1 team.

With that much of a veteran presence, Goblins coach Joel Wells said the younger players can benefit from some added attention they will receive in spring workouts, which begin this afternoon.

"Our biggest focus will be getting our younger players up to speed," Wells said. "We're not going to be that physical during spring drills because we have so many several veteran players. So we will be working more on scheme than technique.

"We've also used the spring to move a few guys around and let them try new positions and see how that works out. If it doesn't work, then we'll move them to new positions."

Some incoming sophomores, particularly Ty Madden and Brody Gillam, will have the opportunity to earn playing time, Wells said. Harrison will have to replace two offensive tackles, as well as find a replacement for Hayden Vanderpool at noseguard.

"We'll have three or four lineman battling for those spots," Wells said. "There's an opportunity for somebody to get some playing time in those spots."

-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry

Sports on 05/06/2019



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