What a difference a year makes.
This time last year, Brandon Scott was getting just backup quarterback reps getting ready for the season. Scott, now after an all-state season for Charleston last year, is getting even more development in the spring now he is the guy for the Tigers.
“It is helping him out a lot,” Charleston coach Ricky May said. “Getting those reps helps a lot. We are missing a couple on the scout team in the secondary, so he is looking really good right now. The level of competition hasn’t been there for him just yet missing a corner and a safety. But Brandon has looked as good as we thought he would.”
Scott, a rising junior, emerged as a dual-threat quarterback with more than 2,300 yards of offense. Scott was 117 of 175 passing for 1,612 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions. He also rushed 140 times for a team-high 713 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His main target in the air last year was just Bryton Ketter, another rising junior who finished with a team-high 483 receiving yards on 42 catches with four touchdowns. The Tigers will now look to replace the production of the graduating Dalton Curtis. He finished with 420 yards on 26 catches for six touchdowns. Sebastian Gaona and Reese Merechka have stood out to May so far looking to fill that role.
“Gaona has gotten bigger and quicker,” said May. “Reese has looked pretty good and he will just be a sophomore. That is an impact spot we are looking forward to filling. Those guys are doing a good job for us. We want to get as many guys around Scott as we can.”
Charleston was very balanced on offense with 1,781 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns to go along with 1,837 yards passing with 23 touchdowns. The ground game will have a new leader with the departure of Breckon Ketter, who finished with 93 carries with 553 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Charleston, which returns most of its offensive line, has been working Ransom Merechka, Chris Worthey, Brevyn Ketter and Wiley Carroll all pretty equally looking to see who will step up and earn carries.
“We have really put an emphasis on running the ball more this spring,” May said. “We’ll need to replace one offensive lineman, so we got some returners there. But we don’t have the one guy that can do it all like we did last year. We are working several guys there looking to find the right match. They all bring their advantages.”
— Harold McIlvain
Weaver hits the ground running
Paris was oh so close to winning its first conference title since 2012 with a program-best 11-2 season a year ago.
First-year coach Jeff Weaver is hoping he is the guy that can keep the momentum going and perhaps take things to the next level. The Eagles will have plenty of talent to do so. Chase Watts, the school’s career passing leader, returns to guide the way. Duke Walker, a University of Missouri baseball commit, and Nate Henderson are back at running back. Ryan Post and Mequeil Ellingberg anchor the offensive and defensive lines. Blake Martines, one of the fastest players on the team, will make a big impact at wide receiver.
Weaver, hired in late April, has enjoyed the spring learning about the Eagles players as they develop in the offseason to make another playoff run.
“It’s been a learning curve for everybody out here,” Weaver said. “But it is going really, really well. We’ve got a lot of talent back off a very good football team. We’ve got about 30 kids on the roster. They have been very eager to learn. What is working in our favor is the style of offense is basically the same with some different terminology. They’ve picked it up fast.”
Paris dropped just one game in the regular season against Booneville before falling to Hoxie in a quarterfinals state playoff matchup. Last year’s team matched a school record with two playoff wins. The Eagles want to make that run again.
From what Weaver has seen so far in the spring, he isn’t betting against them.
“These guys are really proud of what they accomplished last year,” Weaver said. “They look at it as an opportunity to develop and go even further. I think they are getting it done this spring. The commitment and expectation levels are high. We aren’t as deep as last year. But if we can avoid the injury bug, we can do better than last season.”
— Harold McIlvain
Pirates have plenty of weapons
It’s no secret that how running back Darryl Kattich goes, so go the Pirates. The rising senior is one of the top returning backs in Arkansas and will again be counted on heavily.
But Kattich (6-1, 195), who rushed for 2,007 yards and 25 touchdown a year ago, will have help in wingback Bruce Turney, who has raised his play this spring considerably, said coach Max Washausen.
“He has really gone to another level,” said Washausen. “He will be a huge playmaker for us. He was our leading receiver last year, but he’s going to run the ball quite a bit this season. He was able to power clean 265 pounds this spring and he weighs 160 pounds.”
Cedarville was 7-4 last season and returns multiple key players. Besides Kattich and Turney, the Pirates also return quarterback Cody Dickens, who has also grown over the offseason, said Washausen. Dickens passed for 946 yards and 7 TDs last fall. Fullback Hayden Partain ran for 668 yards and 9 TDs last season.
Washausen said Luke Mallow had a solid spring on the offensive and defensive lines, and rising sophomore Colton Arnold, who led the junior high team in rushing, will also be in the mix for the Pirates offensively.
Cedarville will participate in several team camps this summer as well as a summer 7on7 league.
— Chip Souza
Bearcats will lean on Ray brothers
The path to the 3A-4 Conference title usually runs through Booneville and that should be no different this season.
The Bearcats were 11-3 last season and lost to eventual state champion Harding Academy in the playoffs.
Rising senior Randon Ray, who rushed for 1,800 yards last season, returns to lead the Booneville offense, and he will be joined by rising sophomore brother Reylen Ray (6-0, 220) who will line up at fullback, Bearcats coach Doc Crowley said.
“Everybody is pretty excited,” said Crowley. “We have a good group of kids coming back. We were a little sloppy early in spring, having to replace everybody upfront, so that was a little expected. But by the end it was good.”
Rising seniors Rayce Blansett and Greyson Boersma will also be counted on to provide leadership for this year’s squad along with rising sophomore Dax Goff.
Crowley said his team, like others across the state, is happy to be on the field for spring camps and 7on7 tournaments after getting shut down last year by covid-19 protocols.
“The kids were really excited about spring ball,” he said. “We have four team camps in June. It just goes back to being able to be out there and do that kind of stuff. The kids are excited, the coaches are excited. It’s just good to be back doing the things we should be doing.”
— Chip Souza
Optimistic about replacements
Greenland has huge holes to fill at quarterback and running back but coach Lee Larkan is optimistic about the replacements.
Gabe Wilson and Jett Dennis were the top playmakers as seniors for the Pirates, who finished 9-3 overall and 6-1 in the 3A-1 Conference. Wilson passed for over 1,500 yards and rushed for nearly 700 yards while twice being selected as the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Player of the Week. Dennis finished his high school career as one of the top running backs in the state when he rushed for over 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Wilson and Dennis are no longer available, but Larkan is confident in their replacements heading into the 2021 season. Max Meredith is expected to take over at quarterback after playing sparingly as a sophomore last year behind Wilson.
“Max is a big, strong kid,” Larkan said. “He’s already bench pressing 330 pounds. He’s solid.”
The load at running back position will likely be split between Seth Center and Tucker Meaders, who each saw time in the backfield as sophomores. Meaders rushed for 273 yards and Center 188 yards in limited action for Greenland, which beat Perryville in the playoffs before being eliminated in the second round by Paris.
“They may not get 2,300 yards but I think they can get ,1200 yards between them,” Larkin said of Center and Meaders.
Greenland has already finished spring drills and moved into its summer workout program.
“The thing we’re looking for is depth,” Larkan said. “We’ve got to add some more depth.”
— Rick Fires
Dragons limited in spring
The Dragons were quite limited with only a few practices for spring football.
“It was a combination of things,” Mountainburg coach Tom Harrell said. “We got in a few practices but no pads stuff. There’s been times where we were able to get a lot done. But this was just one of those years where there was a lot of other things going on with our kids at school.”
Harrell said he’s most confident in the offensive line, where four sophomores started last season. He’s also excited about the return of Noah Johnson at running back and the potential of Isaac Cowett at quarterback.
“I’m liking what we did last year with four sophomores on the offensive line,” Harrell said. “I think our offense is going to be fine. But we’ve got to improve a lot on defense.”
— Rick Fires