HARDING ACADEMY: Francis, Wildcats all-in for state championship

Classification: 2-3A
Coach: Roddy Mote
Last Season: 11-2 (7-0)

In 2011 Harding Academy continued to do what Harding Academy does — post double-digit wins and make a deep playoff run.

Harding Academy senior quarterback Will Francis. (Bill Patterson photos)

The Wildcats swept through 2-3A play with a perfect record but fell to eventual 3A state champion Charleston in the playoffs.

The Wildcats are in good hands for 2012 behind returning all-state quarterback Will Francis (6-4, 205). The senior — a 2012 501 Football Team honoree — threw for 3,549 yards and 38 touchdowns a year ago and looks to do more of the same this fall.

Harding Academy junior running back Trevor Smith.

“God has blessed Will with athletic tools and ability,” Coach Roddy Mote said. “He works hard to maximize his gifts. He’s like having a coach on the field. He has a great understanding of our offense, and he has great arm and a physical presence about him that makes him hard to defend.”

Francis has several able options at receiver in the Wildcats’ Spread offense — juniors Trey Davis (6-0, 200) and Kohl Blickenstaff (5-11, 170) and senior Hunter Gentry (5-10, 150).

“We have three returning starters on the offensive line and should have adequate depth up front,” Mote said. “On defense, we lost four real good high school football players at our level in Seth Ransom, Jace Davis, Tyler Tucker and Landry Shipman. The injury in the off-season to Trent Finley will really hurt us.

Harding Academy senior lineman Hunter Bowen.

“There are a lot of question marks at the linebacker position. Trey Davis is a returning starter at inside linebacker. Isaiah English has worked hard in the off- season and is the only outside linebacker with any kind of game experience.”

The Wildcats face some new foes in the realigned 2-3A.

“Bald Knob and Perryville replace Arkansas Baptist and Brinkley,” Mote said. “Barton is coming off a great year. Mayflower has some very good young players and will be strong. Riverview and Bald Knob have been playoff teams the last few years and will likely push toward the top of the conference. Rose Bud is confident that they’re as talented as they have ever been and expect to turn the corner this year.”

501 Football Team 2012 –

Will Francis

(Mike Kemp photo)

Classification: Senior

Position: QB

On the field: He is well respected by his teammates and considered the spoken leader of the football team. He plays with great humility and has a desire to honor God through his participation in sports.

Off the field: He pursues excellence in all areas of his life — spiritually, physically, academically and socially.

Community work: He visits the Sunshine School every Monday during the academic year and spends time with the children there. He participates in a community outreach program called “Bisons for Christ.”

Sportsmanship: Although he is extremely competitive, he’s able to keep things in perspective. His character and reputation are more valuable to him than any personal achievement or team success.

Classroom: He is a very humble and caring person. He is a servant. That’s his style of leadership.

Expectations: I expect Will to be Will. I don’t know that I have any higher expectations for Will than he has placed on himself. He prepares for success! I expect that he will have an outstanding senior year.