VILONIA: Eagles establishing stability under Young

Conference: 5A West
Coach: Ron Young
’15 Record: 5-6

Despite the instability of an abrupt coaching change just before the season, the Vilonia Eagles maintained steady play in 2015, earning the final playoff berth out of the 5A West.

Ron Young enters as Vilonia’s head coach for 2016, looking to bring stability to the program.

Senior quarterback Luke Gordon. (Todd Owens photos)

“The 2015 season was filled with adversity,” Young said. “But the Eagles pulled together as a team and made it to the playoffs for the first time in the seniors’ varsity career.”

Another area of stability for the Eagles this fall is at the quarterback position. Senior Luke Gordon started every game last fall, passing for 2,234 yards. Juniors Michael Morris and Braden Westby will lead the Eagles’ ground game. Senior Nick Howard returns at receiver after hauling in 482 receiving yards last fall. He’ll be joined in the receiving corps by juniors Tyson Wertz and Cody Mitchell. Starting offensive linemen include senior Matt Foster (center), junior Matt Malott (guard), junior Ethan Gasaway (guard), senior Nick Gentry (tackle) and senior Julius Price (tackle). Senior Bryce Garrison returns to handle kicking duties after earning all-state honors at the position as a junior.

Coach Young has done a lot of shifting around on defense this offseason, trying players in new positions to find the right fit for his 4-2 defense. Senior Cameron Simpson (tackle), junior Christian Gardner (end), senior David Reyes (end) and senior Spencer Coffman (nose guard) will start on the defensive line. Gentry starts both ways and mans one of the linebacker spots. Senior Brailand Cobb mans the other starting linebacker position. Seniors Chris Bass (corner), Ty Johnston (corner), Kaleb Madden (safety) and Jacob Otto (safety), and junior Triston Milligan (safety) fill out the secondary.

“We have experience and leadership at the quarterback position, which will go a long way in achieving success this season,” Young said. “Our defense will be young and untested. We have a great group of seniors and returning starters at skill positions. Our all-state kicker is returning. Replacing our linebackers and secondary is a weakness.”