Pulaski County preview: Little Rock Fair
August 8, 2011
LITTLE ROCK Today is part nine in an 18-part series, previewing every team in Pulaski County.
I'll be going over all the county teams over the next few weeks, in conjunction with the team previews in Northwest Arkansas, giving readers the low-down on all thing Pulaski County football, along with mixing in some state teams of note.
Today's installment: Little Rock Fair
Donald Harris isn't one to mince words. He'll tell you that he believes that last season's 3-7 record for Little Rock Fair — which was 2-8 until they were awarded a forfeit victory over Benton after the season — could've been a lot better.
"Last year really should've been our year, but it wasn't, so we've moved past that," the seventh-year coach said.
The 2010 was filled with a lot of peril for Harris and the War Eagles. Harris was placed on administrative leave for a number of games last season for an undisclosed reason. The squad was a proverbial carousel of players coming and going. So when Harris says the team has moved past that, he truly means that, not out of you basic coach-speak, but because the team has no choice but to move on.
Because he doesn't believe much can be learned from it.
"That's in the past were not looking back," Harris said.
Some things, however, will remain the same. Fair will still run the same Wing-T and Double Wing offensive sets it's used to, as well as multiple defensive fronts. He's just hoping that this time around, the players in uniform will stay the same, too. They'll need it if they're to end a five-year playoff drought in which they've won only six total games.
He'll start with junior quarterback Damarious Robinson, who will enter his first season as a full-time starter, taking over for Darreal Mims, who graduated. He'll be asked direct an offense that averaged a dismal 9.5 points per game, one of the lowest in the state. The War Eagles were shut out twice and scored seven or fewer points five times in 2010.
The offense will be aided by the return of nine starters, something that was encouraging to Harris.
"All of them have grown up," Harris said. "They're all a lot bigger, faster, stronger. All of them are just a lot better."
The defense wasn't any better last season, giving up 41.3 points per game last season. They did earn one shutout — against Little Rock McClellan, 7-0, the team they finished ahead of in the 6A South Conference. Senior defensive lineman Stephon Petty (5-10, 230 pounds), who also played on Fair's state-contending basketball team, will anchor the line on a unit that returns seven starters.
"(We need) more gang tackles, more guys guys getting to the football," Harris said of the defense. "We've got to have more 'want to', you know?"
It won't be an easy climb, Harris knows that. Especially not in the tough 6A South, featuring back-to-back state champion El Dorado, 2009 state finalist Pine Bluff and perennial powerhouse Lake Hamilton.
But on the other hand, Harris sees no other way to improve the War Eagles situation but to win.
And that was evident, even over the phone.
"Win, win, win, just we want to win," Harris said. We just have to do things different to win, you know?"
Little Rock J.A. Fair
2010 record - 3-7, 6th in the 6A South Conference (missed playoffs)
Coach - Donald Harris
Starters returning - Offense - 9, Defense - 7
Key players returning - Jr. QB Damarious Robinson, Jr. WR Andre Anderson, Sr. DL Stephon Petty
Key players lost - ATH Jerry Baldwin, QB Darreal Mims
Big game - Sept. 30 vs. Pine Bluff
Interesting fact - The War Eagles haven't made the playoffs since a 5-win season in 2005 — also their last season with at least a .500 record in the regular season.