Dean, Rams charging toward deep playoff run

by Levi Gilbert

The Hot Springs Lakeside Rams started the season with three straight losses, but the Rams proved resilient. Lakeside finished 6-1 in 5A South play, punching a return trip to the playoffs with the No. 2 seed.

Next up for Lakeside is Little Rock McClellan in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

“We have to have a great week of practice and be the more aggressive team to beat McClellan,” said Caleb Dean, a senior wide receiver for the Rams.

Dean was selected to this year’s 501 Football Team — 26 players representing all 11 counties of the 501. The team, sponsored by First Security Bank and First Service Bank, boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field. Dean was nominated by his head coach, Jared McBride.

“On the field, Caleb is tough, dependable and a great route runner,” McBride wrote in his nomination. “Off the field, he’s genuine, spends time with younger kids and volunteers.

“He’s the first one in and last one out. He puts in extra work. His mother passed away last year, and he came to practice after the funeral to be with his teammates.”

Dean has been playing football — the only sport he participates in competitively — for the better part of a decade.

“I’ve just always loved watching football, and it made me want to start playing,” Dean said.

Dean and the Rams won the 5A South in 2015 and finished in the second round of the 5A state playoffs. The Rams came close to repeating as 5A South champs this fall, dropping the title with their single 5A South loss to White Hall.

Dean has provided the Rams with a big-play threat at receiver during his high school career (he earned all-state honors last fall as a junior). In the first 5A South game against Camden Fairview, Dean pulled in 224 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.

No matter what happens in the 5A state playoffs for the Rams, this season will mark the end of high school football for Dean, who graduates in May. “I’ll miss the bond that our team shares,” Dean said.

At Lakeside, Dean is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Partners Club. When he’s not on a football field or in a classroom, Dean likes to spend time on the lakes around the 501. After high school, Dean plans to attend the University of Arkansas.

Dean and the Rams play host to Little Rock McClellan in the first round of the 5A state playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday.