VILONIA: Great offseason propels Eagles

Conference: 5A West
Coach: Ron Young
’16 Record: 5-5

Despite moving under its third head coach in three years, the Vilonia Eagles were steady in 2016. As the season progressed, the Eagles settled into the new leadership of Ron Young and were playing their best ball by season’s end.

“We did not achieve to our expectations, and injuries to some key players affected our play,” Young said. “Our last game against Greenbrier, we held them to their lowest point total for the season and fell just five points short in defeating them. It set the tone for our tremendous off season and has carried into this season.”

Nine starters return to the Vilonia offense, led by senior running backs Isaiah Rocha, Ben Duff and Michael Morris. Rocha averaged almost six yards per carry last fall. Tyson Wertz and Clay Kellett are back as the top receiving targets at wide receiver and tight end, respectively. Levi Arendall, Ethan Gassaway, Trenton Hetherington and Matt Malott bring starting experience to the offensive line. Other projected starters include Jordan Britton (quarterback), Steve Ault (receiver), Hayden Cooper (guard) and Michael Alexander (tackle).

“We have a better understanding and execution of our offense,” Young said. “We have 26 seniors with experience at the skill positions on offense and defense.”

Seniors Christian Gardner and Devin James return at the defensive end spots, and three starters return in the secondary: Cody Mitchell, Triston Milligan and Colton Bolin. Wyatt Millikin and Chandler Shearer look to hold the interior spots on the defensive line. Hetherington and Drew Killough protect the middle of the field as linebackers. Zeke Bell and Todd Gibson hold down the other defensive back positions in Vilonia’s 4-2 defensive scheme.

“Our defense ranked in the Top 3 in our conference last fall,” Young said. “Our team weakness is lack of experience and depth on defense.”

The Vilonia High School Cheer Team: seniors Madi Prosser (front, from left), Randi Park, Hannah Millsap, Grace Weatherley; Ashlyn Maynard (middle row), Aly Roberts, Marlie Smith, Halleigh Harrod; Coach Judy Cox (back), Lydia Grace Outlaw, Madeline English, Heidi Aldridge, Shelby Ellison, Amber Sturtz, Kaylee O'Lone, Emma Eastham, Kalissa Campbell and Coach Lisa Evans.