Hayden Lessenberry wants two: Bryant two-sport star guns for year’s second state title
August 26, 2012
Three weeks before the Bryant Hornets took the field for their first football game of the year, senior quarterback Hayden Lessenberry was in New Orleans playing baseball.
Lessenberry’s American Legion baseball team, the Bryant Black Sox, after winning the state American Legion tournament, earned a spot in the American Legion Mid-South Regional Tournament in the Crescent City the second week of August.
The Black Sox didn’t fare so well in the Mid-South tournament, dropping both their games in the double-elimination tournament, but Lessenberry, who plays catcher for both the Black Sox and Bryant’s high school team, ended his 2012 American Legion season with a .313 batting average, 18 RBIs and 27 walks. Couple the American Legion success with a Class 7A baseball championship by the Bryant Hornets in the spring, and Lessenberry’s 2012 baseball experiences were mostly triumphant.
But now it’s time for football, and Lessenberry, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall and weighing 205 pounds, returns for his third year as the starting quarterback for the Hornets.
Bryant’s regular season was successful in 2011. The Hornets finished 8-2 and claimed a share of the Class 7A/6A Central conference title — the second consecutive conference title for the Hornets. During the regular season, Lessenberry threw for 1,963 yards and 16 touchdowns. During his sophomore year, when Lessenberry was the starter for every game except the season opener, he completed 99 of 153 passes for 1,357 yards and six touchdowns.
But in the first round of the 7A playoffs, Bryant lost by a touchdown to Fort Smith Northside, 42-35, at Hornet Stadium.
Lessenberry and the Bryant Hornets, led by head coach Paul Calley and returning seven starters on offense and four on defense, are ready for another shot at the state title. Even with baseball, Lessenberry got in a lot of football this summer. He lists his strengths as having a strong arm, his accuracy and his running ability, but noted that he has to remind himself to not force throws. He has also worked on other aspects of his game during the offseason.
“I’ve kind of changed up my release when throwing the ball ’cause we have a new offensive coordinator this year,” Lessenberry said. Calley brought in as the new offensive coordinator former Hornets star quarterback Lance Parker, who redshirted at Vanderbilt University in 2003 before transferring to the University of Central Arkansas and ending his college football career at Ouachita Baptist University, leading OBU to its first winning season since 1990 as a senior in 2008. Parker was hired after coaching one season as the defensive coordinator at DeSoto Central High School in Southaven, Miss.
“He’s real good,” Lessenberry said of Parker. “He’s taught me a lot of stuff [already]. He’s taught me about calling protections, reading defenses and just helped me out a lot overall.”
The Hornets will run the spread offense this year, Lessenberry said. “Some of the stuff we did in the offense before is still in the offense, but [Parker] brought a lot of his stuff with him.”
The terminology of the offense has changed, which was a challenge, Lessenberry said, but the team has done a good job of picking up the new offense and its play calling.
A new offensive coordinator is not the team’s only change. After a decade in the 7A/6A Central conference, the Hornets will play in the 7A/6A South conference, battling such powerhouses as El Dorado and Lake Hamilton — two schools that battled it out in the Class 6A final last year, with El Dorado beating Lake Hamilton 24-20. It was El Dorado’s third consecutive state championship, making the team only the ninth Arkansas football team, since the modern playoff era began in 1968, to claim three straight state titles.
The Hornets will play the two teams on back-to-back Fridays this fall: Oct. 26 against Lake Hamilton at home and Nov. 2 at El Dorado.
Some of the Hornets, led by Lessenberry at quarterback, got a view of their new competition during the Shootout of the South 7-on-7 Football Tournament this June, competing against teams such as Watson Chapel, Nashville and El Dorado.
“We did pretty well,” Lessenberry said. “We ended up making it to the championship bracket, and we lost in the semifinals to El Dorado. It was a great game, and we ended up losing on the last drive.”
When the football season ends for the Hornets, Lessenberry will once again turn his attention to baseball.
“I like football a lot, and I like baseball a lot,” he said. “It’s just kind of whatever season we are in is the one I tend to favor. I love both of them.”
He has received more interest from colleges to continue his baseball career at the next level, but “if football is the better opportunity, then that is what I will do,” he said. He’s unsure of a college major but said history is his favorite subject, especially World War I and World War II.
But before making history at Bryant, deciding on a college major and possibly choosing between football or baseball, Lessenberry has one more season as the starting quarterback for the Hornets.
“We’re going to go all out,” he said. “This could be the last time I play football for the rest of my life. I’m going to go out there and give it all I got and, hopefully, win a state championship. That is the goal. That’s the main goal of the team.”