Coach Mike Loyd wasn’t too concerned about the final score in last week’s two-quarter scrimmage, but he’s worked to correct several mistakes from the 7-3 loss at Russellville.
The Mounties started with six dropped passes in their first two offensive series and also gave up a pair of big plays on Russellville’s final offensive series that lead to the only touchdown.
“We have a young football team and we’ll get better,” Loyd said. “A safety missed a call and didn’t communicate. If they don’t have their phones, they don’t know how to communicate. It cost us even in a scrimmage.
“But we’re better defensively now than we were at any stage last year. We’re more athletic and we’re going to get better.”
Loyd utilized the scrimmage to evaluate personnel, particularly on defense. Senior Shane Taylor will likely more from defensive back to linebacker, while senior Ryan Donovan has worked his way into playing time at defensive back, Loyd said.
Loyd said if the dropped passes continue, 6-1, 235-pound senior A-ron Jones, who started at defensive end a year ago, is a serious option to carry the football.
“He can run downhill,” Loyd said. “We have a kid who we can put at a fullback or H-Back, too, that’s got a little nasty in him. We’re young, but the senior we have need to provide leadership and when they have to chance to make plays, they have to make plays.”
The War Eagles won’t have senior offensive lineman Kevin Beltran when they open the season against Little Rock Central on Friday night.
Beltran (5-10, 260), who saw some varsity playing time late last season, suffered a knee injury during practice a couple of weeks ago and coach Tony Travis said he’s unsure how long he will be out.
“We still don’t know, but he’s still limping on it pretty good,” Travis said. “I think it’s something where he will be out a substantial amount of time. He hasn’t had an MRI yet.”
Beltran’s injury depletes depth at a spot where Heritage didn’t have much with varsity experience. The War Eagles did not return a full-time starter at all on the offensive line.
“It hurts from a versatility standpoint because he could play guard or tackle,” Travis said.
Travis said he didn’t have any major injuries from the preseason scrimmage against Fort Smith Northside. But he was pleased with his team’s defense.
“I thought we played well against a team that has some speed on offense for sure,” Travis said. “Defense held them to three and we got a big turnover deep in our territory to snuff out one drive.”
The War Eagles will face a defense with some speed on Friday, Travis said.
“We want to be more consistent in the passing game,” Travis said. “Against Little Rock Central, I think we’re going to see them play a lot of man against us and try to stack the box up. We’re going to have to throw the football.
“They know we want to run the football and they are going to try to take that away from us. You’ve got to be efficient throwing and catching against man defense and that’s something we’ve worked on this week.”
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Red’Dogs relish early home schedule
Entering his third season at Springdale, coach Zak Clark is still experiencing firsts.
Friday night, Springdale will open its season at home for the first time in his tenure.
“If there’s a group that deserves a home opener its this one,” Clark said. “So I’m glad this group of seniors gets to open at home the first couple weeks, and hopefully we’ll have a big crowd Friday night.”
Springdale has played away from home Weeks 1 and 2 in Clark’s first two seasons at Alma, Conway and Greenwood. The change is a welcome one.
“In the past its been like Week 3 before we got into our routine,” Clark said. “That’ll be nice. There’s just something about being comfortable with that routine that makes gameday run a lot smoother.”
The Red’Dogs’ six-game home schedule is also a plus for a program – and senior class – gunning for its third consecutive playoff appearance.
That journey begins with Conway, a team Springdale will have faced three times in as many seasons after Friday and one it beat in a wildly entertaining 37-30 contest one year ago this Saturday. It was the first time one of Clark’s teams had beaten someone they weren’t necessarily supposed to, he said.
“For us, you could just see the belief and the guys’ whole attitude change,” he added. “There’s still some doubt until you go out and beat a team you shouldn’t.”
Conway finished 2016 at 4-8, but improved week by week after an 0-5 start. One game Springdale’s staff has identified for film study is the Wampus Cats’ hard-fought 21-7 Week 10 loss at Bryant, who came one game away from reaching the state finals last season.
“We’ve played them a lot (recently),” Clark said. “At the same time they’re a lot different than they were last year. … They start a ton of seniors that played at least the last half of last year on into this year. They were a lot better than their record.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
A familiar face: Har-Ber set to meet Southside
Since its football program began in 2006, Har-Ber has faced no team more frequently than Fort Smith Southside.
Friday will mark the 16th meeting between the schools and the second consecutive season they have met in the season opener. The Wildcats have won the last three meetings handily and lead the overall series 8-7. But traditionally, the games have been anything but routs with nine contests decided by eight points or less.
Chris Wood has coached in all of them and always looks forward to facing coach Jeff Williams and Southside. Wood says Southside’s 8-7 win in the 2008 state seminfinals and the 2009 state finals, in which Har-Ber claimed its first state title, are games that stand out through the years.
“We have so much respect for them, their coaching staff, their players and their community,” he said. “We feel a lot of ourselves in them, the playing style we both kind of try to mimic. It’s always a fun matchup and it’s always a good game usually.”
Har-Ber cruised to a 47-0 win in last year’s season opener against the Mavericks, rushing for 311 yards while its defense limited Southside to just 70 yards of total offense.
But after being largely bottled up on the ground in last week’s scrimmage against Bixby (Okla.), Har-Ber has focused on fine-tuning the details up front and moving the line of scrimmage in game prep to create more offensive symmetry.
“Once you play someone I think you go back and realize the need for more fundamentals and trying to install your philosophy, making sure you execute at a high level,” Wood said. “We’ve got to have balance.”
As he enters his 12th season at Har-Ber, Wood admits to still getting game-week butterflies. The team has had lively practices this week, which is a positive in more ways than one.
“I’ve been really excited this week,” Wood added. “It’s been fun teaching the kids and working on the details of the game. The energy the kids have, you feed off that as a coach. It keeps you youthful in spirit.”
Har-Ber will be without a pair of offensive lineman Friday. Starting tackle Grant Rothrock (6-2, 258) tore his ACL in the Bixby scrimmage and will miss his senior season. “It just breaks your heart,” Wood said. Callen Cleveland (6-2, 250) is still working his way back from a concussion sustained earlier in fall camp as well.
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Bentonville coach Jody Grant has almost lost his voice this week as the Tigers prepare for Friday’s season opener at Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst.
The reason is simple — things have become much more serious after last week’s scrimmage, where the Tigers where pushed around by a good North Little Rock team.
“The scrimmage opened our eyes in a sense that we have a long way to go,” Grant said. “So we’ve had to speed up and ramp up the process through our practices. Truthfully, we didn’t play with the tenacity and effort that we expect to play with, and it’s almost a good thing.
“You don’t like to get your teeth kicked in like that on a regular basis, but it was a good thing for our kids to see so they understand what their coaches are talking about in practice because you play like you practice. We’ve had a great week of practice so far.”
Bentonville, as it has in previous years, will take on a Rockhurst team with two games already under its belt. The Hawklets (1-1) trailed 7-0 early, but a blocked field-goal return sparked a comeback for a 27-7 victory over Blue Springs (Mo.) South last week.
“We have to be disciplined and eliminate mistakes,” Grant said. “We had a lot of penalties last year against Rockhurst, and it hurt us. We can’t win football games if we are doing to do that.
“We’ve played Rockhurst for six years now, and each team looks so similar in what they do.
They’re big up front, they’re very well-coached. They’re very vanilla in what they do, but they do it so well.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
The results of last week’s scrimmage against Poteau, Okla., has West coach Bryan Pratt feeling good about his team heading into Friday’s season opener against Pryor, Okla., at Tiger Stadium.
Will Jarrett threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers, and the defense did its part with three turnovers in a 35-3 decision.
“Our kids came out and played well, like we were hoping they would play,” Pratt said. “One thing I got out of it was we asked our kids to play hard, and if you make a mistake, do it at full speed. For the most part, we got that.
“We struggled a little on defense early, but that is expected when you’re going against a scout team, then going with the true speed of the game. It took us a little time to adapt, but we were able to get three turnovers in the two quarters we played.”
The Wolverines now turn their attention to Pryor and the contrast between the two teams. West likes a faster pace, while Pryor plays a run-oriented offense and prefers the more methodical approach.
“I feel our team is much different when it comes to a maturity level,” Pratt said. “I’m sure Pryor wants to slow it down a lot because they have a lot of kids playing both ways while we can platoon now.
“It’s still going to be a physical Pryor team, and they beat us last year. We had more kids last year, but they still beat us. I think our kids have a bad taste in their mouths from that.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Don’t be surprised if the two-time defending 7A champs have trouble at Blue Springs, Mo., on Friday. The Bulldogs will open the season against a Wildcats’ squad that’s already 2-0 and many consider them a favorite to win their sixth Missouri’s Class 6 state championship.
Fayetteville defeated Blue Springs 26-21 at Harmon Field in last season’s opener for the Bulldogs, but the Wildcats return 16 starters — eight on each side of the ball — off a team that lost in the state finals a year ago.
That team lacked the experience this season’s crew owns, Blue Springs coach John Oyler said on a recent PrepsKC.com podcast.
“Coming off a state championship two years ago, our seniors that year played the majority of the time on both sides of the ball,” said Oyler, who’s in his second season at Blue Springs. “Going into last year, we knew we didn’t have a lot of kids with varsity experience, but now I think we have about 26-27 players that have pretty established varsity experience going into this season, so we feel pretty good about that.”
Another thing Oyler “feels good” about is the Wildcats’ defense, which is led by four-star defensive end Daniel Parker Jr., a University of Missouri pledge. It has surrendered just two touchdowns this season while outscoring Lee’s Summitt and Lee’s Summitt West by a combined margin of 62-13.
“They look really fast out there on the field,” Oyler said, “We have 8 of our 11 guys who were starters last year (on defense) and a couple of players that were real surprises over the summer.”
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
The Cardinals used two quarterbacks in Tuesday’s 36-13 home loss against Prairie Grove. Senior Trey Waggle got the start and logged the most snaps, but Seth Swain stepped under center as the Tigers’ widened their lead by scoring 30 unanswered points.
Waggle is a second-year starter who completed 50 percent of his passes a season ago. He completed 8 of 26 passes for 126 yards, with 52 of those yards coming on his first pass attempt of the game to Xavier Staten. He also threw a “pick-6” to Collin Bryant, who stepped in front of a pass intended for Staten and raced 73 yards for a touchdown.
Swain completed his only pass attempt for a yard and led the Cardinals to a touchdown drive against Prairie Grove’s reserves in the closing minutes. Reid Turner capped the drive with a 25-yard touchdown run.
Farmington did have success at times running Caleb Williams between the tackles. He finished with 19 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. He also helped the Cardinals march into the red zone late in the game before the drive stalled inside the 10.
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy