Photographs by David Gottschalk
Springdale Har-Ber’s Max Pena (center) runs through drills Tuesday during football practice at Wildcat Stadium in Springdale. Har-Ber welcomed more than 150 players into camp this week as the Wildcats began preparations for the Aug. 24 season-opener against Pulaski Academy.
Sunday, August 5, 2018
SPRINGDALE -- The early start to the football season was an adjustment for coaches across the state.
Springdale Har-Ber coach Chris Wood said the new zero week schedule and a later dead period has been a challenge in getting his Wildcats prepared for the season-opener Aug. 25 at home against Pulaski Academy.
Prep Football Schedules
Pulaski Joe T. Robinson at Springdale High, 7 p.m.; Mansfield at Hackett, 7 p.m.; Melbourne at Charleston, 7 p.m.
Bentonville West at Owasso, Okla., 7:30 p.m.; Fayetteville at (St. Louis) St. John Vianney, 7 p.m.; Rogers Heritage at Fort Smith Northside, 7 p.m.; Pulaski Academy at Springdale Har-Ber, 7 p.m.; Johnson County Westside at Cedarville, 7 p.m.; Clarksville at Booneville, 7 p.m.; Cascia Hall at Gravette, 7 p.m.; Pea Ridge at Harrison, 7 p.m.; Magazine at Bigelow, 7 p.m.; Gentry at Dardanelle, 7 p.m.; Texarkana at Shiloh Christian, 7 p.m.;
Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington vs. North Little Rock at Bentonville, 4 p.m.; Midwest City, Okla., at Bentonville High, 7 p.m.
"The biggest thing was how the dead period fell this year," Wood said Thursday. "It pushed us to that whole first week of July to have to shut down. We didn't get back until July 9, and by then you are about five weeks out from benefit games."
Wood said his staff did a good job of adjusting to the changes.
"For us, it just refocused what we had to do," he said. "In July we just worked on getting our fundamentals and getting ourselves ready to go because we knew once we turned the calendar over and got to our helmet days that we'd only be about two weeks from benefit games. I'm excited about it, but you've got to be highly organized going into summer, and July is a very important month of prep as you get ready for your August camp and the little things like that."
The Wildcats reported around 158 players out for fall camp, Wood said. They have staggered practice times for the varsity and sophomore teams.
"I think our guys have gotten better every day, and that's all we try to focus on is a little bit of growth, get 1 percent better, and we're doing that," Wood said. "Our guys, they are getting physical, they are playing physical with just their shoulder pads on. They're just a bunch of sponges. They want to get better at what they do. We've got good chemistry. They really like hanging out with each other."
Har-Ber will join Bentonville High in a scrimmage at Tulsa (Okla.) Union on Aug. 16.
Bulldogs still dealing with injuries
Zak Clark is ready to get his entire roster healthy.
"We still have to get guys healthy and get everybody out," Clark said Thursday as his team wrapped up its fourth day of fall practice in Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium. "That's the big balance, how hard do you go. We've got five or six guys banged up, so it hasn't been real physical, but that will ramp up next week before we tone it down a little bit."
The Bulldogs will get an earlier jump to the season as they host Joe T. Robinson on Aug. 24, a Thursday. Springdale will host Shiloh Christian in a benefit scrimmage Aug. 14.
Clark said his team has shown progress since the end of spring and coaches have been able to move players around to find the best 11 players on each side of the ball.
"I feel like we are ahead of where we were at the end of spring, so that's good," he said. "We've settled into some spots, and there's more familiarity, and now we can move forward."
-- Chip Souza • @NWAChip
Tigers open with low numbers
Green Forest, which moves up to Class 4A this season, had just 13 players arrive on campus when preseason drills began Monday.
Those low numbers would send most coaches into a state of panic, but Tigers coach Bobby Bishop said his team's numbers will increase in due time.
"I think the numbers will be OK," Bishop said. "At Green Forest, it's a different world. We're 50 percent Hispanic, and a lot of our Hispanic kids are gone off to various states and various countries working. We also had some kids gone to an FFA convention.
"They'll filter in within the next two weeks. We're expecting anywhere from 25 to 35 kids when they all get here and we play our first ball game."
That's one reason why Green Forest elected not to play a week earlier when many schools jumped at the opportunity. The Tigers won't start their season until Aug. 31 with a home nonconference game against Yellville-Summit.
Lions still adjusting to new coach
Doug Greenwood was hired as Gravette's new coach May 17, which meant he didn't get to go through spring drills with his new team.
That has led the Lions to go through a learning process through the offseason period, and that trend has continued through the start of preseason workouts.
"I lived in the office for a while," Greenwood said. "I was trying to get over here and get things taken care of -- learning the boys, understand them and what was going on in the process. It's been a 'hurry up and try to catch up' situation here at Gravette."
Greenwood welcomed 36 players to the start of Gravette's preseason workouts Monday. The Lions are trying to install a multiple pro-style offense, which will utilize a number of formations and some motion, and an odd-man defensive front that can easily be adjusted to an even-man front if needed.
"We may be passing a little more than we have in the past," Greenwood said. "We have Tajae White at quarterback, and he is quickly learning our system and our passing concepts, and we're going to lean on our seniors on the offensive line. We have some big boys up front for a Class 4A school, and we're hoping they will produce."
-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
War Eagles adjusting to schedule change
Rogers Heritage coach Tony Travis, like many other coaches in Arkansas, isn't sure how playing a week earlier will affect his team, but he's trying to tweak the practice schedule to help his players be ready to play Aug. 24.
The fact Heritage opens the season at Fort Smith Southside is another concern, Travis said.
"It's a little hotter down there normally," Travis said. "As a coaching staff, we've talked about it a little bit. We start school on the 15th, and that's usually been our time to have a little hotter practices in the afternoon, but then we play the next Friday. So that's probably not enough time to get acclimated to that type of heat."
Heritage has more depth than it's had in recent years, which could help that issue, too, Travis said.
"We have that ability to roll some guys in there, and it not drop off," Travis said.
Travis likes the idea of playing a week earlier, and many of his colleagues have been calling for it.
"I think the excitement of starting a little earlier will be worth the sacrifice of not having that extra week of preparation," Travis said. "I think the big concern is 'Is it gonna be sloppy?' But we'll do this for two years and see."
Line depth key for Bearcats
Booneville coach Scott Hyatt said a lack of depth hurt his team in both its losses last season, but he's hopeful that won't be a problem this year.
The Bearcats lost just twice a year ago, both times to Pea Ridge and the final time in the Class 4A quarterfinals to Pea Ridge. But they dropped back to 3A this year and have gotten plenty of preseason attention.
Booneville already has been tabbed as a favorite to win the state title with plenty of returning starters and the drop in classification. But Hyatt said added depth in the offensive and defensive line could be the biggest key.
"We return all five starting offensive linemen, but some of them are on defense right now starting," Hyatt said. "We're trying to keep where we have a separate O-line and D-line. And then we think we've got enough we can rest as needed. If we could have done that last year against Pea Ridge, that would have helped us."
Hyatt said his team understands the tradition of success at Booneville and are confident in their abilities.
"I try to keep them from getting cocky, but they're a confident group of kids," Hyatt said. "They know when to play, when they've got to do it. Pretty football knowledgeable group."
-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Bulldogs expect carryover
Fayetteville is expecting a carryover after winning six of its final seven games last year when the Bulldogs finished 7-5.
"No doubt," said Billy Dawson, who is in his second year as the Fayetteville coach. "We found out who were late and played pretty well. That helped our confidence. We brought that into summer (workouts), and we brought that into (preseason) camp. Our kids are awesome, and we're on the right path."
Fayetteville lost some close games last season, including consecutive one-point defeats in overtime to Bryant and Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunn. So, finishing games has been a point of emphasis in off-season sessions for the Bulldogs.
"We're finding ways to practice it and help us get over that hump," Dawson said. "So, it's scripted into our plan every day. We lost four games last year in the fourth quarter, and we've got to get that fixed."
-- Rick Fires • @NWARick
Trophy at stake between rivals
The rivalry between two small schools near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border will be a bit spicier this season.
Lincoln and Westville, Okla., will meet at Wolf Pack Stadium on Aug. 31 in what is being promoted as the "State Line Standoff." A trophy will be awarded to the winning team.
Lincoln and Westville are longtime opponents separated by eight miles near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. Lincoln won 18-6 last year after losing 42-7 to Westville in 2017.
"We're calling it the 'State Line Standoff' and we've got a beautiful trophy we're going to be playing for," Lincoln coach Don Harrison said. "Whoever wins gets to keep the trophy for a year then bring it back the next year. Last year, it was a great game over at their place, and we're excited about the coming over here and playing for a trophy."
Lincoln will play for a second year on an artificial surface, and the Wolves recently built an indoor facility. The upgrades should help draw more interest in the program for the Wolves, who've finished 3-7 the past two seasons.
"We've got about 40 kids playing football in high school and about 30 in junior high," Harrison said. "Then, we have about 30 in seventh grade. We're still playing Class 4A football with (Class) 3A numbers but, yes, I think the new facilities will help."
-- Rick Fires • @NWARick
Panthers getting tough on third down
The Siloam Springs football team wrapped up its first week of fall practice Friday morning at Panther Stadium, and it was a productive week for the Panthers according to first-year coach Brandon Craig.
The team worked out in shorts and helmets Monday and Tuesday and then transitioned to half shell -- or shoulder pads for the rest of the week.
Craig said the Panthers are in the process of going back and installing their offense and defense again and cleaning and sharpening things up.
"I think the kids are grasping it a lot better the second time through and understanding how to do things a little bit cleaner, a little bit better," Craig said. "We're excited about that. We're also happy with their energy. I really liked their effort this week. They did a good job with that. We're just trying to continue to improve and move forward."
In particular, Craig said he was pleased with the Panthers' defensive unit and its work this past week.
"We put an emphasis on third down this week," Craig said. "Our kids really grasped the idea of how important third down is and getting off the field. I was really excited about that. We're still in the works of making sure every kid knows what's going on. So that's a process for us, making sure we can get as many kids developed as possible. That's still a work in progress. Overall I'm really happy about our tempo. I'm really happy about our defense grasping that concept of getting off the field on third down."
-- Graham Thomas • @NWAGraham
Sports on 08/05/2018
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