CONWAY WAMPUS CATS | Puzzle fits together
Donna Lampkin Stephens Contributing Writer
August 29, 2010
Senior-heavy Wampus Cats gain confidence
RIVER VALLEY and OZARK AREA After a year of getting to know his Conway Wampus Cats, second-year coach Clint Ashcraft and his team have plenty of high expectations in 2010. “Last year, I think a lot of our kids weren’t sure, but now they are comfortable with what we’re doing and confident that they’re going to have a good season,” Ashcraft said.
Conway finished 5-7 overall and 3-4 in the 7A Central last year in the transition from Kenny Smith’s long tenure. But the Wampus Cats qualified for the Class 7A state playoffs as the fifth seed from the Central and won at Fayetteville in the opening round, 45-42, before falling to Cabot in the quarterfinals, 38-7.
The win was Conway’s first in the playoffs since 2003.
“Going into the season last year, we as coaches were
really not sure what the players were capable of doing,
and it took us half the season to finally get what we
thought was our best 11 on the field,” Ashcraft said. “Itwas a searching process. None of these kids had played this style we’re asking them to play now, and it was rough to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“But making the playoffs and winning a game helped us in the offseason. It put a sense of excitement in our younger kids to say, ‘Look what we’re capable of doing.’ Thathelped us going into January.” With eight returning starters on each side of the football, Conway enters the 7A/6A Central this year as one of the league favorites. The Wampus Cats will run the Spread offense and a 4-3 defensive scheme.
One player who will be difficult to replace is Xavier Acklin, the first-year senior quarterback whose 52-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left against Fayetteville pulled off the playoff win.
Ashcraft said Acklin, who accounted for nearly 3,000 yards of offense last year, cameinto his own as a quarterback in the 38-21 regular-season loss to Cabot. That’s also when the team began to gel.
For 2010, the Wampus Cats will look to junior Tyler Langley (6-1, 170) and possibly senior Micah Delph (5-10, 160) to replace Acklin at QB. Whoever is at quarterback will have a bevy of senior receivers to choose from, including Jalen Jones (5-10, 160), Desmond Cox (5-10, 170), Tristan Eddings (5-7, 140), Jaalan Windom (5-11, 180) and Kameron Taylor (5-11, 150). Another senior, Trevor Maltiba (6-0, 200), returns at H-back.
Jamarkus Harmon (5-7, 155) returns at tailback for his senior season after averaging more than 7 yards per carry last year. The rest of the backfield will include juniors Colin Fluesmeier and Cordarius Irby (5-11, 180).
The offensive line is experienced and senior-heavy, with senior Alex Chambliss (6-1, 250) returning at tackle and senior Dillon Earnhart (5-11, 220) back at guard. The starting position at center looks to be between seniors Dylan Polk (6-3, 260) and Ben Stegemann (6-3, 280). Senior Hal Hoggard (6-1, 280) should get playing time on the line after serving as a backup last year. Look for senior Tyler Bacon (6-0, 225) to also be in the mix,and sophomore Brannon Kotch (6-1, 240) has impressed coaches in the offseason.
The defensive line is also senior-heavy: Terrance Cartwright (5-11, 230) and Marquez Massey (5-11, 250) are back at the ends. A pair of juniors, E.J. Robinson (5-9, 290) and Marquis Rogers (5-10, 235), look to be the stalwarts at tackle. Senior Patrick Mann (6-0, 190) will see time at both defensive end and tight end.
Senior Darian Hill (5-10, 220) returns at middle linebacker after leading the tackle chart in 2009. Junior Ben Tusson (6-0, 180) returns at one of the outside linebacker spots.
Ashcraft said the weak side LB position was being contested among juniors Reid Blaylock, Hayden Strickland and Jonathan Spears.
Hunter Moix (5-11, 160) moves from cornerback to safety for his senior campaign.
Senior Elliot Collins (6-0, 175) returns to start at the other safety position. Look for playing time in the secondary for seniors Tramaine Ervin (5-8, 160), Jordan Cagle (5-11, 160), Teshawn Sim (5-10, 160) and Windom; and juniors Corven Alexander (5-7, 140) and Kipley Powell. Ashcraft said all eight of those would play every week.
For now, the Wampus Cats are ready to play.
“After lifting weights, running, team camp and 7-on-7, everybody’s bored with all that and ready to move forward and turn the page,” Ashcraft said.
CONWAY WAMPUS CATSSept. 3 ... Fort Smith Southside Sept. 10 ............@ Jonesboro Sept. 17 ............@ Heritage* Sept. 24 ................... Cabot* Oct. 1 .... @ North Little Rock*
Oct. 8 ......Little Rock Central*
Oct. 15 ................ @ Bryant*
Oct. 22 .............. Van Buren*
Oct. 29 .......... @ Russellville*
Nov. 4 ... Little Rock Catholic*
River Valley Ozark Football, Pages 71 on 08/29/2010