VILONIA: Youth turns to experience for Eagles this fall

“Greenwood is always up there,” Vilonia Coach Jim Stanley said. “You’ve got to play very good against them. They’re well coached. Alma is on the way up. There are a lot of different teams there; it’s always a good league to play in. You have to work really hard. You have to play good or get beat. It’s tough to play on the road in this league.”
But the Eagles had a bevy of young players forced into quick service in 2009, during which they finished 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the West. A year later, the team could reap the benefits.
“Last year we had a very, very young team, with mostly sophomores starting, so it’s a lot easier this year,” Stanley said. “We’ve got a lot of experience back. With a year under their belts, they’ve all gotten bigger and faster.
“It’s a little more comfortable for me as a coach.”
The experience will be a strength, but lack of depth is the major weakness.
“Our weakness is always depth,” Stanley said. “If we get a couple of key players hurt, it devastates us. We go from being competitive to struggling.”
Six starters return for the Eagles’ Double Wing offense and six more for the 4-4 defense. They helped Vilonia reach the Class 5A state playoffs with the fourth seed from the West. The Eagles fell in the opening round to the eventual state champion, Monticello, 31-0.
Three-year starters include Drew Knowles (6-0, 180), who moves to quarterback from defensive back; Zach Mitchell (6-1, 180) at free safety; and Jordan Ruple (5-9, 225) on the defensive line.
Stanley said Knowles started five games at QB as a sophomore, finishing with a 5-0 record.
Expected to round out the starting offense are junior James Sax (6-1, 210), who moves to fullback from running back as junior Jake Wiedmaier (5-10, 230) moves his focus to linebacker; junior Trey Lewis (5-9, 175), a returning starter, at running back; and senior David Crume (5-9, 165) at the other RB.
Junior Jake Anderson (6-2, 275) started a couple of games at tight end last year and moves to center in 2010. Senior Derrick Dunn (5-10, 280) moves from center to guard. Junior Zach Ballard (5-9, 215) is likely a go at the other guard.
At press time, right tackle was up for grabs, Stanley said, among senior Ryan Holbrok (5-10, 210), senior Brandon Heston (5-10, 210) and junior Aaron Kratz (5-10, 210).

“They’re all doing really well,” he said. “They’ll all play. Kratz is probably the leading candidate.”
Senior Lukas Kyzer (5-11, 225) is set at left tackle. Seniors Tyler Bradley (5-9, 170) and Brad Thomas (6-3, 210) will vie for the wide receiver spot, but Stanley said Thomas might start at defensive end instead.

Defensively, Ruple and junior Chris Calhoun (5-11, 240) are set for the ends, with Wiedmaier available at linebacker, where he played last year. Kratz and junior Davie Jauch (5-10, 200) are among those battling for the other linebacker spots.

Senior Brandon Anible (5-9, 175) returns at cornerback, with senior Zac Mann (5-10, 180) at the other slot. Mitchell, a three-year starter, returns at free safety.

The rough 5A-West gets the Eagles playoff-ready if they can get there. That’s the major motivation again this fall.

“Making the playoffs is always the goal,” Stanley said. “We sure are trying hard.”

Huntsville comes into the West this year as Central Arkansas Christian moves to the Southwest.

“We go from a 30-minute trip to a four-hour trip,” Stanley said. “We’ve got four hours to Siloam Springs, three-and-a-half to Greenwood, four to Huntsville, three to Harrison. Our road trips are pretty difficult.”

5 Players to Watch:

Zach Mitchell (Sr. FS)
James Sax (Jr. FB)
Drew Knowles (Sr. QB)
Jake Wiedmaier (Jr. LB)
Chris Calhoun (Jr. DE)


Aug. 30    Sylvan Hills
Sept. 10    Wynne
Sept. 17    Beebe
Sept. 24    Huntsville*
Oct. 1    at Alma*
Oct. 8    at S. Springs*
Oct. 15    Morrilton*
Oct. 22    Greenwood*
Oct. 29    at Harrison*
Nov. 4    at Greenbrier*
* 5A-West conference game