LAKE HAMILTON WOLVES: No matter the season, Wolves always eyeing playoff possibilities
James K. Joslin
August 26, 2012
“We expect to do well. Of course, our goal is to win the conference championship and make the playoffs,” coach Jerry Clay said. “Then, we want to win every week in the playoffs and win the state championship. We’re in a tough conference, but we’re the defending champs, and we expect to be right there again.”
That’s the status quo with a tradition-rich program like 7A/6A South power Lake Hamilton, even when there are still missing puzzle pieces with the season looming just weeks away.
“A big question mark right now is the lack of experience in our secondary,” Clay said. “We have Cody Smith. He’s a two-year starter. And there are seven or eight others. We just don’t know for sure who will be playing. We’ve seen some pretty good efforts in 7-on-7. So, someone will step forward.”
While Clay is confident in that arena, he is more confident of his personnel in the trenches.
“We feel like our linemen on both sides of the football are our strength, our front seven. We’ve got some pretty good blocking linemen on offense. We just need our linemen to stay healthy,” Clay said.
A roster of around 60 includes a double handful of seniors that will be counted on to lead the way for a large sophomore class.
Among Lake Hamilton’s leaders is senior lineman Trey Martin, a three-year starter who earned all-state honors a year ago and is a college prospect with an offer to play collegiately at the University of Lousiana-Monroe. Other good linemen include seniors Gavin De Los Santos, Thomas Dutton and Zach Sandlin and junior Spencer Magby.
At linebacker, look for junior Chris Eastburn and senior Joey Wilkerson to make some plays.
Other names of significance are juniors Trevor Mittelstadt, Alec Young, Levi Ringstorf, Stephen Shirley, Kyle Jessie and Hunter Lipton; and seniors Jerry Chancelor and Zach Davis.
Martin, Davis and De Los Santos are big linemen. Otherwise, coach Clay said, “They are not as big, but they’re still good, and they can move pretty well.”
Chancelor and Jessie are coming off injuries that the coach hopes won’t keep them sidelined into the regular season.
Meanwhile, another Jessie — Kyle’s senior brother, Clay — will be taking the snaps at quarterback. He, Eastburn and Smith had a “good summer of 7-on-7,” the coach said.
“There’s some big anticipation for the opening game,” Clay said during preseason drills. “We’re spending a lot of practice time for that.”
That’s because Lake Hamilton’s Week 1 opponent is North Little Rock, a school from the state’s top classification of 7A that has several players with Division I potential, including running back Altee Tenpenny who has orally committed to the University of Alabama.
“They’ve got a lot of speed, and it’s a game we look forward to,” Clay said, emphasizing that the early-season matchup will assist Lake Hamilton in assessing itself before the Wolves attack the conference portion of their schedule.
As usual, the 7A/6A South will not be easy. Pine Bluff, Texarkana, El Dorado and Lake Hamilton have generally been pushing one another for the top spot in each of the past few years. Plus, the coach said, “Benton should be much improved. They’ve had two or three good junior-high teams in a row. And, 7A Bryant is now in our conference. They’ll play in the 7A playoffs. But, they’ll be a tough opponent with about twice the enrollment of everyone else in the conference. So, that’ll be a big change.”
For Clay, however, all the questions, concerns and conjectures lead right back to the point of attack — the line of scrimmage.
“I think that our front seven has a good, tough attitude. That’s going to be the key,” the coach said. “These guys are the kind of guys that are going to do what it takes. They are team players who really try hard at everything they do.”