Malvern: Defense will be key early for Leopards

Malvern busted out of the gates in 2010, winning five of their first seven games. But momentum waned for Malvern in the last few weeks, and the Leopards lost a heartbreaker at Dumas, 49-47, in the first round of the playoffs.

“We lost too many close games where special teams played a role in the outcome,” coach John Fogleman said. “We peaked too early.”

The highlight of the Leopards’ season came in a Week 6 victory over then undefeated Ashdown. The Leopards were coming off an overtime loss from the previous week and beat the Panthers, 17-0. Ashdown had not been scored on leading up to that game.

Junior Austin Warford (5-11, 190) is back at quarterback after throwing for 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He’ll have a bevy of senior options at wide receiver, including Briseton Barnes (6-1, 179), Marcel Bedford (5-10, 164) and Dajour Dawn (5-11, 175).

Junior Trey Broughton (6-0, 290) and senior Quante Walker (5-10, 168) lead the Leopard defense at defensive lineman and linebacker, respectively.

“Our defense will need to carry us until the offense comes around,” Fogleman said. “If our offensive line comes through, we have a chance to have a pretty good team. Pulaski Academy is the team to beat in [the 7-4A] and probably the team to beat in the 4A classification.

“Nashville will probably give PA a run and then it’s a scramble for the rest of the final playoff spots.”