‘Tight-knit’ Eagles look to spoil Panthers

by Levi Gilbert

While the Vilonia Eagles’ playoff hopes were dashed last week, the Eagles and senior Nick Gentry still have something to play for in the regular season finale — the chance to keep rival Greenbrier from winning the 5A West. Playing spoiler to the Panthers is exactly what Vilonia would like to do.

Gentry, a senior offensive lineman/linebacker for the Eagles, was selected to this year’s 501 Football Team — 26 players representing all 11 counties of the 501. The team boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field. Gentry was nominated by his head coach, Ron Young.

“He has a great knowledge of the game, great attitude, determination, physicality,” Young wrote in his nomination. “He’s selfless. Off the field he leads by example and is punctual and dependable. On the field, he’s a team player with outstanding character and self-control. He was selected by his teammates to be an Eagle Club leader.

“His work ethic, character and tenacity — he demonstrates the core values we expect for our program.”

Gentry started playing tackle football in the fifth grade after growing up watching football with his father.

“My dad told me stories about him playing, so that got me excited about playing,” Gentry said.

While above .500 at 5-4 on the season, the Eagles struggled in 5A West play with a 2-4 conference record heading into the season finale. They can’t make the playoffs, but they can prove to be a thorn in Greenbrier’s side with an upset. If the Panthers win (and get some help with an Alma loss), they could win the 5A West and earn the No. 1 playoff seed.

“We have to play a flawless game from all aspects,” Gentry said. “There cannot be any costly mistakes. We have to play with a lot of intensity and emotion to beat Greenbrier.”

Whether the Eagles get a win or not, it will mark Gentry’s last football game as a Vilonia Eagle.

“We are a tight-knit brotherhood and have each other’s backs in any situation,” Gentry said. “The thing I will miss the most about high school football is the brotherhood; never again will I have the type of bond that I have with my guys. Early morning workouts, the long hours in the heat of the summer, fighting together for a victory — when you go through things like that together, it builds a special type of bond. That’s what I will miss the most.”

Gentry will throw shot put for the track team this spring. When he’s not playing sports, he can most likely be found hunting or fishing in the 501.

Vilonia takes on the Panthers in Greenbrier Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.