11 Aug 2010 CONWAY CHRISTIAN: Championship in sight for Eagles
But the Eagles fought the battle of numbers, and that looks to be the same theme for 2010.
Despite that, their expectations remain high.
“I think if we don’t win (the conference title), we’re going to at least get second,” Coach Chuck Speer said. “Just with our returning skill positions, we shouldn’t lose that many games. The competition level is definitely higher (in the AAA) than in the private school leagues, but our boys compete. We could use more numbers. Last year we finished with 19 players.
“When you go up against teams with 19 seniors and you’ve got 19 total, it’s a battle. Right now we’ve got 23 on the roster, and unless we get some people transferring in, we’ll fight that battle again.”
But of those 19 players who finished the season, the Eagles return six starters on offense and seven on defense for 2010.
Speer said highlights from last season were conference wins over Two Rivers and Cutter Morning Star. The Two Rivers win secured the tie for second place in the league.
“We held on, basically,” he said. “We got up on them 36-8 at halftime, and they came back and we ended up winning, 36-34, stopping a two-point conversion at the end. We were fighting the injury bug and running out of players. Some of the sophomores and guys who didn’t play a whole lot had to step up and play and did just fine.
“That was a real good confidence builder real close to the end of the season.”
The Eagles’ losses came against Earle in non-conference play, Mountain Pine and Danville in league competition and Cross County in the playoffs.
Key seniors return in running backs Adam (Fuzzy) Ragland (5-8, 170), who rushed for 1,200 yards as a junior, and Bates Isom (5-8, 170), who ran for 1,000; and quarterback Kirby Powell (6-1, 220), who threw for 1,100 yards and rushed for more than 600.
Also projected to start on offense are senior Ashton Robinson (5-8, 185) at fullback; sophomore Andrew Dather (6-1, 160) and junior Jordan Legree (6-0, 160) at wide receiver; senior Forest McDougal (6-2, 240), a returning all-conference center; junior Will DenHartog (6-2, 240) and sophomore Daniel Hudson (5-10, 180) at the guards and juniors Will Sanderlind (6-1, 200) and Cory Harris (6-1, 210) at the tackles.
Speer said senior Jackson Wilson (5-11, 160) would be mixed in with the running backs.
“He’ll see a lot of playing time,” the coach said.
The defensive line will include McDougal at end, DenHartog and sophomore Pierson Castle (6-1, 190) at the tackles and Hudson at nose guard. Inside linebackers will be sophomore Seth Bickford (6-0, 185) and Powell; OLBs will be Robinson and sophomore Brandon Davis (6-0, 170). The defensive backfield will include Dather at safety and Legree and Wilson at the corners.
“We’ll have a lot of two-way starters,” Speer said. “Most of the teams we play will have a few go both ways, but not as many as we will.”
Speed is the strength of both offense and defense, he said. Size will be an offensive weakness; strength inside needs to be improved for the defense.
“Our (offensive) line will be outmatched every game,” Speer said, reflecting the lack of size. “We’ll have to get creative.”
He said players to watch would be McDougal and Dather.
“We moved Dather up as a ninth grader halfway through the season last year,” Speer said. “He’s real good, and we’re expecting big things out of him. He can go get the ball, for sure.”
Earle goes off the non-conference schedule, replaced by Arkansas Baptist. Cutter Morning Star, which got moved along with Danville from the league after realignment, will appear on the schedule as non-conference foes, as will Decatur, which replaces Little Rock Lutheran after that school closed. Poyen and Magnet Cove come in to the 5-2A.
5 Players to Watch:
Kirby Powell (Sr. QB/LB)
Adam Ragland (Sr. RB)
Bates Isom (Sr. RB)
Forrest McDougal (Sr. OL/DL)
Andrew Dather (So. WR/S).
Sept. 3 Arkansas Baptist
Sept. 10 Quitman*
Sept. 17 at Cutter Morning Star
Sept. 24 Two Rivers*
Oct. 1 at Mountain Pine*
Oct. 8 Hackett
Oct. 15 Poyen*
Oct. 22 at Hector*
Oct. 29 Magnet Cove*
Nov. 5 at Bigelow*
* 5-2A conference game