Photographs by Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JIMMY JONES
Bryant quarterback Ren Hefley (12) is shown in this photo.
Originally published October 12, 2017 at 02:28a.m., updated October 12, 2017 at 10:55a.m.
The top team in the state will be missing their starting quarterback for the remainder of the regular season.
Bryant junior quarterback Ren Hefley fractured his clavicle in his nonthrowing shoulder (left) in the Hornets’ 35-20 victory at Little Rock Central on Friday night.
Hefley, who has passed for 1,492 yards and 16 touchdowns, is expected to miss five to six weeks, Bryant Coach Buck James said. He could return for the Class 7A playoffs, which begin Nov. 10, but the Hornets are in the mix for one of two first-round byes in the 7A-Central Conference.
For James and the Hornets (6-0, 3-0), the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s No. 1 overall and Class 7A team, it’s a big loss to one of the highest-scoring offenses in the state.
“Anytime you lose a starter, and especially your quarterback, it’s a devastating blow,” James said.
James said Bryant will use seniors Cameron Vail and Reid Mobley, and sophomore Jake Meaders at quarterback in place of Hefley.
“We have to go on and play football,” James said. “We have guys who have practiced and prepared for it.”
Bryant is off to its best start since 2014 when it began the season 8-0-1 before a Week 10 loss to Conway. James said the Hornets couldn’t ask for a better start, but with what he calls his team’s meat of the schedule ahead — Fort Smith Southside on Friday, at Cabot on Oct. 20, North Little Rock on Oct. 27 and at Conway on Nov. 3 — there’s no time for Bryant to rest.
“I want to see us buckle together and play for each other and our team,” James said. “I want us to play extremely hard and play fast and play sound football.
“We’ve shown spurts of that this year. But I’d like us to be more consistent.”
Finding its way
Russellville Coach Jeff Weaver believes the Cyclones are on track to where he wants the program to be under his watch.
Weaver, who replaced Billy Dawson earlier this year, took over a program that won the Class 6A state championship a year ago but lost key seniors in quarterback Cale Fulsom and wide receiver Caleb Stokes. The Cyclones have new coordinators, with former Maumelle coach David Farr in charge of the offense and longtime Pulaski Academy defensive coordinator Todd Wood presiding over the defense.
After a 1-2 start in nonconference play with losses to Morrilton, 21-20, and Springdale, 31-28, Russellville (3-3) is 2-1 in the 6A-West and has won two in a row with victories over Sheridan, 28-14, and a 40-35 triumph at Lake Hamilton on Friday.
“We’ve spent a lot of time learning who we are,” Weaver said. “We’ve got a new offense, new defense and new special teams. The last couple of weeks, we’ve been really close to breaking out, and we feel like we’re getting better.
“We’re gaining our identity and gaining our confidence.”
Part of Russellville’s success in 6A-West play can be traced to a quarterback switch.
Weaver moved junior Rhett Adkins to wide receiver and put senior Ryan Talley, one of the Cyclones’ top receivers, at quarterback.
Talley has passed for 597 yards with 8 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He completed 29 of 39 passes for 309 yards and 4 touchdowns Friday at Lake Hamilton.
“What Ryan does such a good job of is distributing the ball to different guys,” Weaver said. “Seven guys caught passes last week. It frees us to move the ball around more.”
Russellville hosts the Democrat-Gazette’s No. 1 team in Class 6A, Greenwood, on Friday.
Best start ever
Southside Batesville is 6-0 for the first time, but Coach Kenny Simpson is keeping things simple for his Southerners.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Simpson, who was the school’s first coach in 2006 when the program started. “But we’ve got some big games coming up.”
First up for the Southerners, 3-0 in the 2-4A Conference, is a trip to Mustang Mountain in North Little Rock to face Central Arkansas Christian.
CAC (0-6, 0-3) has won all three meetings with Southside Batesville, all in the past three seasons. Although the Mustangs have not won a game this year, they have Simpson’s attention with the Wing-T offense.
“Tommy [Shoemaker] is a great coach,” he said. “They look like they are young and they are. But they’re in every game. They’re really playing for him.”
Southside Batesville finishes the regular season with road games at Heber Springs (Oct. 20) and at Baptist Prep (Nov. 3) and a home game in-between against Helena-West Helena on Oct. 27.
The Southerners are led by two-way starter Caden Huskey. The junior running back and strong safety has been instrumental in the Southerners’ success, accounting for 9 touchdowns — including 8 rushing — and recording 65 tackles.
“He has a nose for the ball,” Simpson said. “We use him in our heavy packages. He makes the most of what he’s been given. He fits in with everybody else.”
Southside Batesville made its first playoff appearance last season, winning at Booneville in the first round before losing at Joe T. Robinson. Simpson said that experience helped his program.
“We feel like we’re a pretty good team,” Simpson said. “We want to be one of the elite teams.”
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