This seems like a good week to play crosstown rival Springdale Har-Ber (1-3, 0-1) simply because it means Springdale won’t have time to dwell on a tough 40-35 loss to Heritage. Obviously Springdale will be up to play Har-Ber. The Wildcats have won seven straight in the series and is coming off an impressive 42-7 win at Rogers High to open 7A-West play.
Springdale safety/receiver Zach Burton (knee) is still day-to-day. He missed the Heritage game after getting hurt returning a kickoff early in the second half at Bixby, Okla.
Coach Shane Patrick on Burton’s status: “He’s better than he was last week. He will be back. It’s just a matter of when. It could be this week. Could be next week. I don’t think it will be this week, but I’m hoping for next week.”
Burton is still tied for fourth in the conference with 13 catches with fellow Springdale receiver Chris Owens, despite missing Friday. The Bulldogs still threw for almost 270 yards, but his absence was apparent and affected the offense at times.
The pass game has been really good three of the four games. Junior quarterback Fuller Chandler has a 7A West-best 902 yards, which is almost 300 more than the next closest player in the conference. Springdale has stretched the field vertically with a ton of success in every game except for Alma. Sandoval and Owens are first and second in the conference in receiving yards, respectively. They’ve continued to be tough covers, even the last few weeks when opposing defenses know what’s coming.
Patrick on the issues the duo presents for opponents: “If they try to roll to one of them, they leave the other one. So it makes it difficult for teams to load up on one guy. At Bixby, they literally walked a linebacker out and put him in Chris’ face and played a guy over the top of him at times trying to take him away. They struggled covering Salvador. You can’t double more than one guy and still cover everybody else and be solid enough against the run. So we like defenses to have that problem.”
Owens and Burton are getting recruiting attention from Central Oklahoma and Pitt State. Owens will play basketball in college, but he has offers from both. College coaches aren’t as familiar with Sandoval since this is his first year contributing on varsity, but he should start getting some interest if he keeps up this productive pace. He’s on track to have more than 1,000 receiving yards.
The biggest issue with the offense is turnovers. The Bulldogs have eight this year (five interceptions, three lost fumbles), which is tied for second worst in the conference. They’ve had three games with three or more turnovers.
The defense has actually done a decent job forcing turnovers. They’ve created six through four weeks, which is pretty solid. But overall, the unit has to be much better. Springdale is allowing 478.8 yards per game and is ranked last in the conference in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and rush defense. Bulldogs have given up 40-plus points in three of four games.
There have been several tweaks in the first month of the year designed to improve the defense. Springdale switched to a 3-4 scheme after the season opener against Greenwood, then started sophomore linebackers Kamryn Dickerson and Kender Bolkeim against Heritage. Dickerson finished with six tackles, including two for loss. Bolkeim had three tackles, one for loss.
Patrick on the whether the sophomores will continue starting: “We’ll see. Just to be honest with you, I don’t know for sure. I think Kamryn’s locked in. We thought he played really well. The other sophomore did some good things and then it kind of got bigger than him at times. So we’ll see how practice goes this week for who we’re going to start at that position.”
Senior Jaime Argueta played linebacker and defensive end against Heritage after solely playing linebacker all through spring, fall practice and the first three weeks. He finished with seven tackles against the War Eagles and is tied with junior linebacker Sam Robinson for the team lead with 34 this year.
Patrick on Argueta’s future role: “We just thought that he was struggling a little bit with being able to move well enough at linebacker. So you put him at defensive end and he moves pretty good for a defensive end. And we need some depth there, too. We’re trying to find the best use of the kids that we have.
One bright spot for the defense has been the play of junior safety Jorge Alba. He’s third on the team with 27 tackles and also has one tackle-for-loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and one pass breakup. He made a great one-handed interception Friday, then lined up at running back and caught a 50-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route. There will be a feature on him in Thursday’s papers.
Springdale got its other starting safety back against Heritage in junior Gavin Schmidt. He finished with five tackles after missing the previous two games because of a shoulder injury sustained against Greenwood.
Patrick on Schmidt’s performance: “He did OK. He’s a little rusty. He could see himself getting out of position and all, but I feel like he’ll be much better this week.
Alba, Sandoval, senior cornerback Ced Oliver, senior left guard Adam Thompson, senior center Daniel Salas and senior right tackle Jose Ambriz graded out best against Heritage.
Springdale at Har-Ber, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
Jimmy Carter is an award-winning sports reporter for NWA Media. His primary beat is Springdale High. He also covers Huntsville and Greenland. He is a Tulsa native and a University of Arkansas graduate.