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No secret that Rockets want to run

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Photographs by Staton Breidenthal

Little Rock Catholic senior running back Samy Johnson returns to lead the Rockets after a 2017 season in which he ran for 1,292 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Little Rock Catholic could be an offensive juggernaut this fall.

The Rockets feature one of the state's best running backs in senior Samy Johnson, and a foursome of solid receivers will give opponents difficulty. But there are question marks at quarterback and on the offensive line that may keep Catholic out of the playoff picture.

Rockets at a glance

COACH; John Fogleman

CONFERENCE;7A-Central

2017 RECORD; 4-6

KEY RETURNEES; RB Samy Johnson (5-10, 186, Sr.) DE Jordan Eddington (6-1, 221, Jr.) CB Bryce Stine (5-9, 152, Jr.) FS Nathan Johnson (6-3, 170, Jr.) OLB Nicolas Gonzales (6-0, 199, Sr.) WR/FS William Plafcan (6-0, 170, Sr.) FS Grant Smithson (6-0, 150, Jr.) MLB Trevor Karther (5-10, 195, Sr.) CB Mason Lane (6-0, 165, Jr.) G Garner Hodge (6-0, 240, Sr.) G Caleb Sanders (6-0, 235, Sr.) WR Thomas Stabb (5-10, 155, Sr.) OL Samuel Plafcan (6-3, 220, Jr.) MLB Lance Hockersmith (5-10, 215, Jr.)

SCHEDULE

Aug. 31;at Sylvan Hills

Sept 7;Jacksonville

Sept. 14;Jonesboro

Sept. 21;at Cabot*

Sept. 28;Bryant*

Oct. 5;at Fort Smith Northside*

Oct. 12;North Little Rock*

Oct. 19;Fort Smith Southside*

Oct. 26;at Conway*

Nov. 1;at Little Rock Central*

  • denotes 7A-Central Conference games

"There's a big deal with protection and with the guy throwing the ball," said Catholic Coach John Fogleman, whose team averaged 26.7 points a game in 2017. "That's an ongoing battle here, but I think every coach will tell you they need more linemen."

Senior Cooper Monroe and junior Jordan Eddington are battling it out for the starting quarterback position. Monroe has the experience; Eddington has the stronger arm. Fogleman said if the season started today, both would play.

"Some people say if you don't have a clear choice, you're looking at trouble," Fogleman said. "But at least there is some competition. I believe you can be better at any position if you have some competition."

No matter who earns the starting quarterback role, Johnson will be the focal point of the Rockets' offense.

"Everybody revolves around something, and that's who we're revolving around," Fogleman said. "As long as we've got him, that's what we're going to do."

Johnson ran for 1,292 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He also caught two TD passes.

"He's got really good balance, and he's kind of deceptive in his strength," Fogleman said. "If you get a bad angle on him and he gets into the open, I haven't seen anybody run him down from behind. It's just a matter of creating holes for him."

Receiving targets are seniors William Plafcan and Thomas Staab, and juniors Nathan Johnson and Robert Bavon.

Plafcan hauled in 24 passes in 2017 for 378 yards and 4 TDs. Bavon suffered a broken finger in the summer of 2017 and did not play until Week 10. Nathan Johnson started at free safety last season. Staab started last season as a slot receiver, and "he isn't a tall guy, but he's shifty and he runs really good routes."

"Obviously we've got a good running game, but there will be teams geared up to stop the run," Fogleman said. "We have to remain being a balanced team."

The Rockets can point to their linebackers as the backbone of their defense. Senior outside linebackers Trevor Karther and Nicolas Gonzales compiled 97 and 77 tackles, respectively, in 2017. Junior middle linebacker Lance Hockersmith came up with 75 tackles as a sophomore.

"Trevor is really, really good ... and Nic is probably one of the most overlooked players we have," Fogleman said. "Nic has worked hard in the weight room the last three years, and he works extremely hard on the field. Any time we did stuff at a team camp it seems like the other coaches would ask 'who's that?' "

Catholic started four sophomores in the secondary in 2017, and opponents took advantage of the Rockets' youth.

Coach John Fogleman

"Big plays were a problem last year," Fogleman said. "But with the year of experience, we should be improved."

The Rockets start their season Aug. 31 at Sylvan Hills.

Sports on 08/04/2018

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