CONWAY WAMPUS CATS: Wampus Cats hope to continue climb
Donna Lampkin Stephens
August 26, 2012
Conway earned a share of a second straight 7A/6A Central championship last year, and although the Wampus Cats must rebuild a defense that returns just one starter, they have high expectations again in 2012.
“Simply put — to exceed the previous season,” coach Clint Ashcraft said when asked about those expectations. “We talk a lot about making sure our program is taking steps forward and not being stagnant. Nothing stays the same — you get better or you get worse, and we, as a whole, want to make sure we are doing everything we can to get better.”
The bar has been raised in the last couple of years, with the Wampus Cats going 17-5 over that period with two conference titles. Conway finished 8-3 overall last year, 6-1 in conference play, with an opening loss to Fort Smith Southside, 32-27; a conference blip against Bryant, 31-28; and a second-round playoff loss to Fayetteville, the eventual state champion, 49-28.
“We had a good group of seniors that really did a good job of leading our team,” Ashcraft said.
Twenty-five seniors graduated from a team that averaged 32 points per game while giving up 19.
“When you play that way as a team, you are going to win a lot of football games,” Ashcraft said.
Six starters return for Conway’s spread offense, including good numbers of linemen and receivers. But with just the one starter back for the 3-4 multiple defense, that is a potential weakness.
Expected starters on the offensive line include senior Brannon Kotch (6-1, 254); senior Bryton Booher (6-8, 295); junior Blane Joyner (6-1, 239); junior Jagger Barnett (6-1, 280); and senior Jalon Pearson (5-11, 263). The backfield will include seniors Cody Rhoades (5-9, 194) at quarterback; Jeff Anderson (6-0, 217) at tailback; and Quincy Wardlow (5-7, 205) at H-back. The receiving corps will include senior Slater Smith (5-11, 199) at tight end, senior Brandon Cox (5-7, 150), senior Tim Boyd (5-9, 163), junior Quinton Wyrick (5-5, 151) and junior Sidney Moore (5-10, 156) at wide receiver.
Defensively, the line will be anchored by senior Marcus Wright (5-10, 219), junior Cortez Akins (6-0, 207) and senior Jerrell Credit (5-10, 202). Linebackers will include senior Austin Morgan (5-10, 183), senior Paul Revis (5-10 197), juniors Justin Vinson (5-9, 196) or Landon Hood (5-8, 196), and junior Jackson Smith (5-8, 184). The secondary will include senior Devin Dooley (5-6, 132) and junior A.J. Burton (5-7, 155) at the corners and senior Tanner Blumhorst (6-0, 172) and Colin Condit at safety.
With realignment, it’s a new 7A/6A Central this fall, with Fort Smith Southside, Greenwood, Little Rock Catholic, Fort Smith Northside, Russellville, Little Rock Parkview and Little Rock Hall joining the Wampus Cats.
“You don’t really know what to expect, but going off tradition, you know Fort Smith Southside and Greenwood are going to be very tough,” Ashcraft said.
After five state championships in the last seven years, Greenwood moves up from Class 5A.
Ashcraft said the Wampus Cats don’t have a particular game circled as make-or-break.
“We want to get better each week and, hopefully, be playing our best ball in November,” he said.