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Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 • A sports supplement to The Leader


Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

A Supplement to The Leader

A Supplement to The Leader

CONTENTS team analyses

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

features Razorback Jarrod Barnes.........................................7

Jacksonville’s HD Martin and Shawn Ellis. ..............16

Jacksonville Titans..............................................12

Lonoke’s Xavier Hodge..........................................22

Lonoke Jackrabbits..............................................20

Beebe’s Mason Walker and C.J. Cauldwell...............28

Sylvan Hills Bears..............................................30

Sylvan Hills’ Garrett Gilbert................................32

cheerleading squads Cabot. .................................................................6 Cabot dance team.................................................11 Jacksonville........................................................14

Team Schedules..............................................18-19


Cabot’s Adam Flores. .............................................8

Cabot Panthers....................................................4

Beebe Badgers....................................................26


On the Cover

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 • A sports supplement to The Leader

Cabot (clockwise from top), Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills, Beebe and Lonoke prepare for the 2017 football season. SPORTS EDITOR RAY BENTON EDITOR JONATHAN FELDMAN




Sylvan Hills. ......................................................33




Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017



A Supplement to The Leader

The Cabot Panthers are trying to rebuild while replacing 15 starters from last year’s quarterfinal playoff run.


hen graduation sees the departure of a school record number of college signees, including the first Division I signee in more than 30 years, it usually means a program in rebuilding mode. Add to that the loss of another returning starter to transfer, and two more to other extenuating circumstances, and the Cabot Panthers are planted firmly in that rebuilding mode. Bradley Morales The Panthers only have four returning starters on defense, the two defensive tackles and the two cornerbacks. There are only two returning on offense, and gone is quarterback Jarrod Barnes, who is now a freshman wide receiver for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Cabot had a small offensive line last year, but was able to somewhat mask that deficiency by spreading things out and letting the dynamic quarterback create in space. It’s a similar-sized line this year, only with less experience. A lot of Cabot’s success Dayonte Roberts will depend on how that unit pans out, and it’s an uphill battle against the toughest conference in the state, the 7A-Central. “Don’t let anybody tell you we’re in the driver’s


Mike Malham Year at school: 37th Record at school: 291-127-4

2016 Record: 7-5 Conf. Finish: 5th Off./Def. Returns: 2/4

seat,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We’ve got too many question marks right now. We’ve got to see how these guys are going to react when they get under those lights. We’re going to be a work in progress. And the schedule we got is tough. I only see one game I feel like I know we should win, and

that’s fair. They’re ain’t a slouch in this conference, and you look at our nonconference (Pine Bluff and El Dorado), they got athletes running around all over the place.” A team from the 7A-West has won every state championship in the largest classification since 2004, and that conference has developed the reputation for being the toughest in the state. But last year proved otherwise. While Fayetteville won the state title, the West was very topheavy. Only the top two seeds John Wiens won a playoff game. Meanwhile, Little Rock Central, which went 0-7 in conference play, beat 7A-West three-seed Bentonville-West by 24 points in Week 2 of the season. Later in the first round of the playoffs, Cabot, which was the six seed from the Central, rolled up 536 yards of offense and 62 points in a rout of that same team. Senior Cody Skinner was Barnes’ backup at quarterback last season, but he’s looking at a possible move to linebackCody Skinner er this year. The emergence of junior Tommy Oaks at quarterback gives the Panthers a weapon more similar to Barnes, and Please see UNPROVEN, Page 9

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Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017


The Cabot coaching staff includes Michael Bryant, from left, Michael Falcinelli, Matt Malham, defensive coordinator Randall Black, head coach Mike Malham, Jason Rogers, Brandon Jay, David Payne and Clark Bing.


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2017 Cabot varsity cheerleaders

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FAYETTEVILLE – Michael Smith laughed at the reporter desperately seeking his help. The Arkansas Razorbacks receivers  coach  knows he’d better get used to it. For if Razorbacks freshman receiver Jarrod Barnes of Cabot proves as good as Smith thinks Barnes will be, media from all over will besiege Smith for his assistance. Interviewing Barnes appears to parallel interviewing a POW determined to offer nothing beyond name, rank and serial number. So please, coach, give me something to pad this feature because Jarrod didn’t give me much. “Did you try pulling teeth?” Smith asked, chuckling. “You ain’t getting it from him, brother. He ain’t saying anything. He doesn’t say it at practice, meetings. He is quiet. Really quiet.” Barnes must have been among the quietest signal-callers ever quarterbacking while completing 39 of 49 passes for 689 yards and four touchdowns against two interceptions and as a 5-11, 172 guard directing Cabot’s basketball team to the 2016 Class 7A State Championship over Bentonville. If you wonder why Barnes catches and runs with the football instead of throwing it as a Razorback, consider he totaled nearly 2,000 yards rushing for his junior and senior seasons at Cabot and popped an 85-yard kickoff return and on defense returned an interception for a 47-yard touchdown. Only 5-11, 172 is just too small for a SEC running back. But Barnes showed during the summer preseason practices, like Jarrod Coach Bret Bielema and his staff thought he would when they recruited him, that he’s sufficiently fast, sure-handed and elusive to be considered for varsity receiver duty from the Aug. 31 seasonopener against Florida A&M in Little Rock through the entire season. “He’s going to be a good player,” Smith said. “He’s a kid with a lot of talent. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t have that type of talent.” The question is whether that talent is so needed to play right away or would be better served apprenticing with a redshirt year

to learn his new position and add some meat to that 172-pound frame. “He’s got to get comfortable not only with the physicality of playing at this level but understanding it’s OK not for him to be the greatest athlete on the field,” Smith said. “And things aren’t always going to go his way. But I’m impressed by the way the young guy has come here and approached it.” Bielema also seems impressed. “Jarrod is very smooth and very conscientious,” Bielema said. Barnes stands ready to do whatever he’s asked. “I’m just here to try to prove myself,” Barnes said. “If they think I can play, I’ll play. I want to play but it’s not my decision.” The important decision for him was Arkansas deciding it wanted him because he had long decided he wanted Arkansas. “When they offered I committed just a couple of days after,” Barnes said. “This is where I’ve always wanted to come since I was little. This is the only visit that I came on. I grew up an Arkansas fan.” How does he think it’s gone through the first scrimmage? “It’s gone good, I would say,” Barnes replied. “You just have to learn to adapt to the college life. I think we’re doing pretty good. Once we learn the plays and stuff it gets better. I’m fitting into the offense better than I thought I would.” While a finance major who took UA summer school courses, Barnes’ summer football curriculum includes Basic Blocking 101. “I played quarterback in high school so this the first I’ve ever Barnes blocked,” Barnes said. “But they teach you how to block.  So if you just listen to them, you’ll be OK.” What’s been the biggest adjustment? “Learning the plays because it’s a lot more difficult,” Barnes said. “It’s way more difficult than high school. You’ve got to come ready to work every day because if you don’t, you can lose your spot just like that. That’s way different than high school. High school you didn’t have to work that hard. Now you’ve got to work every play.” Barnes already has shown that he’s ready to work and whether starting this year or next, also ready to play.



Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

A Supplement to The Leader


or a player with a good This year, Barnes is ARTICLE BY sense of discipline, gone, and fullback is again RAY BENTON being given a directive the prominent piece of the • is enough motivation to do P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y Panther offense. When Flores what it takes to accomplish was told he would be the load DAVID SCOLLI the order. For a player with bearer, he immediately went exceptional discipline, simply being awarded to work to better meet the qualifications for a more prominent role is motivation enough the job. “I hit the weight room, and I drink proto become exemplary in that role. Such was the case for Cabot Panther tein every day because coach Malham told senior Adam Flores after he was told at the me before that I was going to play fullback,” beginning of offseason that he was moving said Flores. “I’ve gained a lot of weight, so from halfback to the feature position in Mike going to fullback after gaining 35 pounds, it’s easier to run up the middle than before. I hit Malham’s Dead-T offense, fullback. He spent his first two years of varsity the weights as hard as I could knowing what football at the halfback position, which is an (Malham) expected of me.” It hasn’t been the case the last couple years important role in the Dead-T. It’s also rare for a sophomore to find his way into the starting with Cabot spreading things out more for lineup at Cabot as a sophomore. But Flores Barnes, but in the past, it wasn’t unusual for shined from day one. His very first game as the fullback to get 30, 35 and even 40-plus a sophomore, Flores led the Panthers in a carries per game in Malham’s offense. Flores flourished his first two years as the 34-18 win over Conway with 17 carries for 147 yards. In his second game, a 40-33 overtime change-of-place halfback that hits the big win over Catholic, he again led the team with play. But gone are the days for 10 carries or 10 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns. even 17 like in his first two games. He knows Things started to level out after that, and the it, and he says he’s ready. “I’ve been ready since ninth grade,” Flores offense began revolving more around the Razorback signee Jarrod Barnes at quarterback, and the feature position of fullback. Please see FOCUSING, Page 10


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Unproven Continued from Page 4 thus some added versatility. Oaks (5-11, 187) was a project at quarterback in the spring and summer, but has shown rapid improvement since preseason began July 31. “We’re going to give him a chance,” Malham said. “He’s got a little elusiveness to him, got a good arm. He gives us a few more options if he works out. It still could be Skinner. He knows it better than anybody. And (Jessie) Windemaker is competing for it as well.” While Cabot may spread things out more for Oaks, the base offense is still the Dead-T, and that means fullback is the feature position. This year, that will go to converted halfback Adam Flores (5-8, 188). Flores has put on upwards of 30 pounds since last season when he started at halfback. As another offseason experiment, Malham worked Division I defensive line prospect Dayonte Roberts (6-2, 275) at fullback, but has not committed to using him on offense as of yet. One halfback will be Bradley Morales (5-7, 150). He wasn’t a starter last year as a sophomore, but did get some fairly substantial playing time. His classmate, Tadariyan Rogers (5-5, 145), has earned the other starting spot at halfback. Noah Sorrell is a 5-8, 155-pound senior who has moved over from defense and will get some carries this season. C.J. Long (6-2, 187) and senior John Wiens (6-3, 193) are the two returning starters in their positions from last year’s offense. Long is back at center, and Wiens will play tight end. He was the team’s leading receiver a year ago. Ayden Shurley (6-4, 200) will play the other tight end, and even could be the split end if Cabot decides to go just one tight, which it did a lot last year with Barnes at quarterback. The two guards are unknown quantities, especially after the lone returning starter transferred to Joe T. Robinson High School. Both are seniors. Colby Tolison (5-9, 185) and Ryan Travis (6-0, 183) have stepped into the starting role for that crucial pulling blocker position. The tackles are unproven as well, but do provide a little bit of size for the Panthers up front. Junior Jared Russell (6-2, 220) fits in on one side while senior Jacob Davis (5-7, 270) lines up opposite Russell. “The Russell kid is a good-looking kid,” Malham said. “He’s got a frame on him. He looks like a football player. Davis is a strong kid that can plow forward for us. We don’t have anyone else like him so he’s going to have to step up.” The defense will be anchored by the two returning starters in the trenches, Roberts and Jansen Hubanks (5-8, 218). Roberts has scholarship offers from Memphis, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe.

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 “We’re expecting a lot of out Dayonte,” said Cabot defensive coordinator Randall Black. “He’s lost some weight, gotten a little quicker. Hubanks is a strong, stocky kid who plays good technique, and made some big plays for us last year.” The two leading candidates for the third defensive line position were lost for varying reasons during offseason, but a pair of sophomores have emerged to impress Black – Hayden Matthews (6-1, 218) and Hunter Horka (6-1, 214). “One of them is going to start, and one will be the first backup,” Black said. “We feel pretty good about those young kids. We lost a couple and that hurt us, but these two have stepped up and are doing a pretty good job.” There are three leading candidates for the two linebacker positions as well. Junior Lucas Crumbly (6-1, 182) has solidified his role as a starter. Skinner (5-9, 164) and junior Justin Holland (5-7, 152) are battling for the other spot. “Crumbly leads the pack,” Black said. “He’s really physical and does a great job against the run. Skinner is strong and pretty physical, too. He’s got some catching up to do with learning the position because he’s been working at quarterback, but we’ve got to find a spot for him. He’s too good of an athlete.” Four players will provide some depth at the DE/OLB spot. On the strong side, Omero Garcia (5-9, 197) and Dylan Dowda (5-9, 174) are sharing time. On the open side, junior Isaiah Ogilvie (5-11, 154) and senior Ben McCullough (5-9, 169) have worked their way into the role. “None of the four have a lot of playing time at that position,” Black said. “But all four are workers.” Black is looking for solid play from his secondary this season. Seniors Bryce Billings (5-9, 146) and Austin Swackhammer (5-8, 163) are returning starters at cornerback. “They’re both good athletes that did a good job of us last year,” Black said. “This year I expect some leadership out of those two. We have to get better at talking and getting everybody on the same page, and being the only experienced players we have back there, they’re going to have to play a big role in that.” Justin Nabors (5-10, 155) didn’t start at strong safety last year, but played a lot. The free safety position will likely be filled by junior transfer from Oklahoma, Zhane Harper (5-11, 154). Windemaker has also looked good at that spot. “Harper played here in junior high, then left and then came back,” Black said. “We’re glad to have him back because he’s a player. Windemaker has also looked pretty good so we have some depth there.” Mason Martin returns as the place kicker and McCullough returns as the kickoff specialist from last year. Sophomore Rhett Thurman could also work into those roles.


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A Supplement to The Leader

Adam Flores races to the corner against Little Rock Central last season. He’ll be doing a lot more up the middle this season, moving from halfback to fullback.

Focusing Continued from Page 8 said. “I played fullback in ninth grade and wanted to get back to it. I’ve always rotated some at fullback the last two years, so it’s nothing really new to me.” Flores also understands that being the focal point of the offense means taking on a different sort of role. “The fact that I might be getting 35 to 40 carries a game will put a lot of weight on my shoulders,” Flores said. “So me to step up, and do the things it takes to do a good job for the team, I think will be an important role for me as a leader.” The fact that Flores’ mind went right to action instead of words doesn’t surprise the head Panther. “He’s a good worker,” said Malham. “He doesn’t say a lot, but he works hard. That’s really where his leadership comes into play.” Flores has been in love with football since he started playing in third grade. He’s never played any other sport and focuses almost all his recreational time around getting better at it. His love of structure and discipline are even apparent in his hobbies away from football. He’s a volunteer firefighter for CS and Z, a rural station for Campground, Sylvania and Mount Zion areas south of Cabot. He also likes hunting and fishing, but the next three months will be focused on his senior

campaign as the workhorse for the Panther offense. Cabot is being picked by everyone to make the playoffs, but no one expects much else from a team that lost so much talent from a year ago. Flores says that has, indeed, put a chip on the team’s shoulder. “It most definitely has,” Flores said. “Everyone knows we lost Jarrod, but we’re definitely going to surprise a lot of people. I’m certain of that. What we lack in athleticism, we will make up for with the size of this team’s heart and passion. I don’t know how it is anywhere else, but I know when it comes to Cabot football for this team, it’s not about the size of the player, but how much you want it.” Flores wants to play college football and has attended camps at Arkansas Tech, Ouachita Baptist, Harding and Arkansas State to try and get coaches to take notice of his abilities. Some interest has been shown, but no offers have come yet. “I want to play in college,” Flores said. “I think how my senior year goes will determine a lot of it, but I’m definitely trying.” If he meets the coach’s expectations, one of those offers may indeed come through. “He’s up to about 190, and he’s still a solid 4.7, maybe a little faster,” Malham said. “The main thing is he runs hard, pretty hard-nosed kid. He’s got really good vision, and he’s pretty quick. We’re expecting him to have a good year. He’ll have a good one if he has the type of year we think he can have.”

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• 11

The 2017 Cabot High Varsity Dance Team The 2017 Cabot High School varsity dance team includes co-captain Emily Smith (front, from left), captain Meagan Wallace, co-captain Allison Smart, Savannah Wiggins (middle row), Mackenzie Clem, Jayden Shelton, Diamond Roby, Ashley Sims, Shayne Clem, Carly Woods (back row), Allison Page, Pamela Powell, Emily Evans, Ashleigh Dickerson, Lauren Underwood, Hannah Jones and Chloe Hefley.

12 • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

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Jacksonville High School is a 5A school by enrollment, but the football team will be playing in an exclusively 6A conference this season, due to an erroneous and unjust ruling by the Arkansas Activities Association.



f there is one word that could best summarize the 2017 Jacksonville football team, a good choice would be “underdog.” The Titans are coming off a rough 2-8 season and will continue to play in the 6A classification despite 5A enrollment numbers. A ruling by the Arkansas High School Activities Association two years ago stuck Jacksonville with 100 percent of the old North Pulaski High School enrollment despite projections that said only 40 percent of NPHS students in grades 9-11 would be attending Jacksonville. Now that NPHS is closed and Jacksonville has its own school district separate from Pulaski County, the numbers are even worse. Only 17 percent of eligible NPHS students went to Jacksonville, while 78 percent went to Sylvan Hills. Still, the AHSAA continued to count 100 percent of NP’s last enrollment against Jacksonville for its three-year average. That means the Titans will be playing against much larger schools for the next three years. “It’s an uphill climb for us, no doubt,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “But we got some competitors. They’re going to give it all they got. I can tell you that.” Jacksonville’s roster will be smaller than most of its opponents, but there are some players. The two load bearers on offense return in quarterback Harderrious (HD) Martin and running back Shawn Ellis. Martin, however, won’t necessarily be lining up at quarterback for every play this year. Junior Shavarrious Curley has emerged in the


BARRY HICKINGBOTHAM Year at school: 4th Record at school: 8-22 2016 Record: 2-8

Conf. Finish: 7th Off./Def. Returns: 7/4

offseason as a capable signal caller with good footwork and speed. Sophomore Daidai Haynes, who led the ninthgrade team last year, is not as fast, but showed surprising passing efficiency in summer camps and 7-on-7 competitions.

“HD is such a dynamic athlete we’re looking at different ways to be creative and get him the ball in space,” Hickingbotham said. “He’s going to have to tote the load for us in one form or another. He’s a special athlete.” Ellis will be standing shoulder to shoulder with Martin in the offensive backfield, and will be the one to take most of the handoffs on the read-option. Both players were All-State last season, and Ellis rushed for more than 1,000 yards. The receiving corps is perhaps the largest unit on the team, but it’s the smallest member that has made the biggest strides this offseason. Xavier Scott only stands about 5-6, 140, but he’s been one of the most impressive receivers for the Titans this summer. The junior missed most of last season because he lost academic eligibility. But he appears to have made a dramatic turnaround. “He’s been a big surprise for us,” Hickingbotham said. “The kid has worked really hard. He’s finally understanding you got to put the classroom and athletics together. You can tell he’s got a desire to play the game. He’s become as hard, or maybe the hardest worker we’ve got. He’s got work ethic and speed that’s hard to duplicate. I’m happy for him because I can see him maturing as a young man. I truly hope he has some success because he deserves it.” Scott will mostly be in the slot. Split wide could be any number of players, including a senior who has also improved tremendously. Please see TITANS, Page 13


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Continued from Page 12 Deboious Cobbs has added height, weight and speed to his list of attributes, and almost as important, tenacity. “Cobbs is another kid that’s had a great summer,” Hickingbotham said. “He’s had some good camps, some great exposure. His size and speed fit the bill for college, and he’s become more physical. He was a little timid last year, but something’s clicked with him. He’s got a real chance to take it to the next level if he keeps working, and he’s one of them that’s always been a good worker.” Juniors Jordan Johnson, Isaac Johnson and Broderick Lacy will be heavily involved in the passing game. So will senior Hunter Childress, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Sophomores Brandon Mosby and Sacorey Allen could also be involved. In the trenches, junior Caleb McCoy is the talent leader among linemen. He has wowed scouts who were at Jacksonville to see some of the aforementioned skill players. “We had colleges come out here, trying to get guys like Ellis, Martin, Cobbs and some of those other seniors some exposure, help them get a foot in the door” Hickingbotham said. “Everyone one of those coaches would always ask, ‘who was that guy?,’ talking about McCoy. And

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 it’s not just his size. There are a lot of big dudes playing line in high school. It’s his foot quickness. He’s got an opportunity to be a special player and for sure play at the next level at some level. He’s just a junior. He’s still figuring it out, but he’s got loads of potential.” Brandon Barnes and Jacob Toney are seniors and returning starters from last season. Seniors Trey Allison, Brandon McGwire and Xavier Wymer will start on the inside. Sophomores Dylan Trentman and Matthew Estes are also athletic with prospects of seeing major time on the field. Being that Jacksonville is battling a numbers issue compared to its conference, most of those guys figure on both sides of the ball. Senior Marquez Casey has stepped in as a solid starting defensive end. “I think he’ll be good,” Hickingbotham said. “He’s had a great summer. He’s quick, got body, good size, he’s aggressive. He’s got a chance to be a good one.” Senior Marcus Etherly is the starting nose guard. Andrew Ashley could figure in at the linebacker position. “He’s does a great job,” Hickingbotham said. “He’s a 4.0 student, the kind of kid you love to have in your locker room.” Ellis will also likely have to play linebacker, while Martin will play sometimes at safety. Nearly everyone is learning positions on both sides of the ball.

Senior Nathan Poole and junior Tamod Tyler figure in as fullback/linebacker players. “We got a long way to go,” Hickingbotham said. “Especially up front. The big guys are going to have to step on both sides of that ball, and they’re going to have to be in shape to do it. That was the focus the first five days of preseason practice. Our bodies have to be right, be in condition, and it stays an emphasis until our benefit game when we can see how we react with running so many both ways.” While there are uphill battles, one area that’s not as bad as last year is the progress of the offense at this point in the process. Last year, Jim Stanley spent most of the offseason installing the double-wing offense he ran as head coach at Gosnell and Vilonia, and then left at the end of the school year to go to Sylvan Hills. This year, the team will run the same scheme it has worked on since offseason started last December. “We’re going to be multiple,” Hickingbotham said. “And I think the kids are getting a bite on it. I definitely feel like defensively we’re in a much better spot. Bryan Eagle is back as our coordinator, and we haven’t changed much scheme wise. We’re not as far along offensively, but we’re better off than where we were this time last year. So we’re going to keep working.”

Deboious Cobbs will be a key player for the Titans this year.

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Jacksonville dance team

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Jacksonville coaching staff

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

• 15

JEFFREY SMITH/Leader photo

The 2017 Jacksonville coaching staff includes trainer Cody Walker, from left, offensive line coach Jordan Driver, running backs coach Bobby Evins, defensive coordinator Bryan Eagle, head coach Barry Hickingbotham, wide receivers and assistant ninth-grade coach Matt Boeving, head ninth-grade coach Donny Lantrip, defensive line coach Zach Sloan and defensive backs coach Larry Burrows.

16 • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

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wo contrasting personalities share one key attribute, competitiveness and a bond that has been forged by years of competition. Jacksonville seniors Harderrious (HD) Martin and Shawn Ellis are going to be the key work mules for the Titan football team this year, but they’re not just teammates. They’re thick as thieves on and off the field. In separate interviews, they came up with the same word to describe the relationship. Brothers. As two of the best athletes in their age group growing up, the two became natural competitors. Ellis’ competitive nature comes more naturally, but it pulls something deep from within Martin that makes him better, even if he seems frustrated at times. “He’s always trying to battle me,” Martin said of Ellis. “He’s always making everything a battle – literally everything. Who’s going to get to the field first? Who’s going put their shoes on first after practice? It’s just everything. That’s my brother, though. He don’t like to lose at all, but I don’t like to lose either, so he motivates me.” Ellis is also motivated by Martin. “It’s really like a childhood relationship,” said Ellis. “Growing up together, spending so much time together, might as well call him my brother. Everybody looked at us growing up as the only two that can compete with each other. So we were always competitive at everything. I’m always looking at him, seeing what he’s doing so I can try to do it better. That’s no grudge against him. It’s just motivation for me.” Martin is a two-time All-State player after being thrust into the starting quarterback position as a sophomore when both of the other two quarterbacks went down with injury. Standing shoulder to shoulder with him in the offensive backfield is Ellis, who made AllState last year. He is also a three year starter at running back this season and will likely see some time at outside linebacker this year for a depth-challenged Titan team.

ARTICLE BY RAY BENTON PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID SCOLLI Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham regularly praises the 5-foot, 205 pound bruising back. “He’s a hard-working kid that you’re going to get maximum effort out of every time,” Hickingbotham said of Ellis. “I don’t like asking guys to go both ways, but he realizes whatever it takes to make the team successful. He knows he’s not going to be out there every snap (on defense).” “I like defense all right,” Ellis said. “It’s mainly just helping the team out any way I can to win more games than last year.” Martin could also play a little bit of safety this season, though he admits to preferring cornerback. “I probably like offense better than defense, but only because on defense I’m playing safety,” Martin said. “I’m just back there chilling at safety. Corner is a lot more fun, but it takes a lot more energy. So safety is best for the team right now.” Martin could also split wide on offense instead of taking the snap. It’s a welcome change for Martin, who is being recruited as a wide receiver, and sees it as his most natural position. “I love the idea of playing receiver,” Martin said. “That’s what I want to play, and that’s what (college scouts) say I am.” Both players see that last year’s Titan squad had a larger roster and more athletes, but both think this year’s team can out-perform the disappointing 2-8 season of last year. “I know we’re small, and we’re going to have to play teams bigger than us,” Martin said. “I still feel like we can bounce back. I think we have more leadership this year. Last year everybody was kind of lazy. Some people were barely coming to practice. This year, there’s not too many that miss. Most people, most of the main ones, are here every Please see BATTLE, Page 17

Shawn Ellis, left, and Harderrious Martin are fierce competitors and longtime teammates for Jacksonville football.

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Battle Continued from Page 16 day. And I don’t think anybody is fazed by playing the bigger schools or scared of anyone. I like playing on the big stage.” Ellis had similar insights. “Last year, we had more ability, but this year we have more hard-working people,” Ellis said. “Hard work beats lazy talent any day. This senior class right here, we try to bond everybody on the team. We try to talk and make it a family. So I think this team is going to play together a lot better than last year.” Neither player would assert any personal goals for the season, but just the goal of being a better team than last year. Individually, though, both have taken part in several college camps, hoping to earn scholarships and continue their playing careers. Both were invited to the Razorbacks’ game against Alcorn State in Little Rock last year and stood on the sidelines with the team, but neither has received an official offer. They have gone to camps at Southern Arkansas University, Memphis University, Harding, Missouri Western, Arkansas Tech and UA-Monticello. Martin has always had elite speed, but not much The read option, in which quarterback Harderrious Martin either hands off to Shawn Ellis or keeps will be a chance to show what he can do at wide staple of the Jacksonville Titans’ offseason this year. Both are returning All-State players from 2016. receiver.

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Ellis ran a 4.7 40-yard dash the last time he was clocked but has been working hard on his strength and speed all offseason. “I’m way stronger than last year working with coach Sloan, and he got me faster, too. I’ve been working on explosion drills, getting my footwork better. Coach Edmonds is helping me with stuff, too. I think the offers will start coming this year when they see how much better we are.” Both players have some talents that perhaps aren’t as obvious as the ones displayed under the lights on Friday night. Martin likes to dance, although not necessarily to Ellis’ flute. Ellis plays the flute for his grandfather, Herman Clark, of Newport. “He taught me to play,” Ellis said. “He knows how to play everything. He lives in the country, and I love to go up there and go hunting with him and hang out with him. When I’m not with my brothers or girlfriend, I’m hanging with him. “His favorite words when I’m playing for him is, just go with the flow. You hear me playing, just join in and make it sound good,” Ellis said. Ellis also keeps still keeps some advice he heard from his grandmother, Doris Balentine, long ago. “Before every game, I like to eat pickles,” Ellis said. “My grandma used to say pickles make you stronger. So I follow her advice.”

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The Lonoke Jackrabbits are enthusiastic and optimistic about the season after adding about 20 players to its roster from last season and working hard all summer to turn things around.



side from most of the personnel, there’s little that’s similar between last year’s Lonoke football team and the 2017 version. There’s a new head coach, a new offense, a new defense, a new approach and a lot a more players. It all adds up to supreme optimism about the prospects of turning around a tumultuous 2-8 season from a year ago. The head coach, Taggart Moore, isn’t technically new, but he’s officially new. He took over on an interim basis after former coach Doug Bost’s sudden midseason departure. He has been on the Lonoke coaching staff four years, most recently as the defensive coordinator before accepting the interim head coaching position. Lonoke won its first game with Moore at the helm but lost the last five and already-low numbers continued to dwindle Braidon Bryant as the season progressed. Lonoke finished the season with just 31 on the roster but didn’t let that or the difficult season get in the way of an exuberant offseason. “A lot of bad things happened and it was a rough season last year,” said Moore, “Kids got injured, started losing, started getting down. We felt like we weren’t as good as we should be. We knew we weren’t. So the kids worked their tails off this offseason. They got stronger than ever before, got in better condition than ever before. And we got some depth this year. Kids know they’re not going to have to play every down.” The Jackrabbits saw about a 65 percent


Taggart Moore

Year at school: 1st Record at school: 0-0 2015 Record: 2-8

Conf. Finish: 7th Off./Def. Returns: 6/4

increase in numbers from the low of 31 last season, to 51 on the roster this year. That means only a handful of players going both ways, and hopefully on a spot-play basis. “We’ve got three defensive lines we can put in, three running backs, two tight ends. It’s the most depth we’ve had since I’ve been here. I mean, we’re up 20 kids, that’s always going to help.”

Moore ran a 4-2-5 defense as coordinator, but that will change to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Jack Keith, who was formerly the head coach at Carlisle. “It was just because of our personnel,” Moore said of the defensive change. “We got that big nose, and we think a pretty good group of linebackers. So that’s what we’re going with.” Anchoring that defensive line is one of the biggest play- Daniel Seigrist ers in the state. Senior Keyunta Hatton stands 6-2 and 442 pounds. He squats 600 pounds. “He’s huge, but you’d be surprised how well he moves around in there to be that big,” Moore said. “And he’s a good kid, too.” Michael Hodges is the Mike linebacker and will call the defenses on the field. He’s a returning starter at 5-9, 227. Junior Jackson Ward is the other inside linebacker. He’s put on about 20 pounds since last season, and is up to about 180. Michael Hodges “Both of those guys worked really hard to get stronger and get in better shape,” Moore said. Eshawn Brown is, according to the head coach, “probably the best athlete we got.” Please see REVAMPED, Page 25

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Go Jackrabbits!

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verything about Lonoke’s Xavier Hodge may not be exactly as it appears all the time, but on the football field, what you see is what you get. When Hodge dons the purple and white on autumn Friday night, he looks like a bruising running back, and that’s exactly what he is. It’s why he has been given nicknames like Beast Mode and Freight Train during his high school career. He rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a junior last season, despite it being a difficult one for the Jackrabbits. At 5-9, 224 pounds and running a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, Hodge is a load to bring down for opposing defenses. The fact that he is the strongest player on the team makes things even more difficult for opponents. Hodge competed up in a statewide weightlifting meet over the summer, and still finished in second place. “He should’ve been in the 225-pound class, but he went up against the 240 guys and got second place,” said Lonoke head football coach Taggart Moore. “If he’d have stayed in his weight class he would have won it. He’s a 355 bench, 565 squat guy. He’s our strongest.” Physical attributes are a big key to on-thefield success, but what helps set Hodge apart is his approach to the game. “I have a passion for the game,” said Hodge. “I pray I go to the NFL. I love the game, and I want to do it for as long as I can and hopefully go all the way.” Lonoke suffered through a tumultuous season last year. It started with a tiny roster of about 35 players. There was a mid-season coaching change and a bevy of injuries that reduced the roster to just 31 by week four. It all helped lead to a 2-8 season. While Hodge’s reputation of a power runner is earned after plowing his way to 1,400 yards during that season, it’s one Hodge himself thinks is inaccurate. And he thinks he will prove it this season. “We’re coming out of the Flex (offense),and we have more athletic people,” Hodge said. “I think we’ll be able to open things up, which gives me a chance to show what I can do. I have speed, too. I’m a versatile back.” Moore says the Jackrabbits can line up in several formations this year, but it will operate primarily from the pistol formation with Hodge as the lone running back. “He could find himself getting 25, 26, 30 carries a game,” Moore said. “He’s going to be a huge part of the what we do.” While he was the leading rusher, he didn’t

Lonoke senior running back Xavier Hodge has various personal motivations for wanting to become a professional football player. get that many carries in very many games, but he’s not concerned about it. “I’ve always carried the load, so it’s nothing new to me,” Hodge said. “I think by the end of the year last year, I was getting it about that much. I’m looking forward to it.” Hodge also has a reputation on his team as a talker, but he says that’s just because of his genial personality. He says he displays his leadership by example. “I’m a senior so I’m trying to develop my leadership skills,” Hodge said. “I’m not a big talker. I usually don’t talk at all. I try to lead by example. You know, do the work, give everything on every play.” It’s precisely in that reputation as a jovial extrovert where Hodge says most people get it wrong. He considers himself a fiercely private person. “It’s weird because I’m a people person, but I’m anti-social,” Hodge said. “I’m friendly

and real vocal, but I’m not an open person at all. And sometimes, you can’t get them off of you. Say for instance, you really want to be alone, but you can’t run away from people. It’s hard to explain. So, I like people, but I don’t let people get to really know me. I like being alone, too. I sleep a lot.” One place Hodge is never uncomfortable is on the gridiron, and one thing he’s not conflicted about is winning and losing. He expects to do a lot more winning this season. “Basically that’s all we’re focusing on,” Hodge said of he and his teammates. “We have more speed this year. We have more size. We have more people. I think we have better leaders on the team this year. Everything is so new; it’s just a matter of coming together. That’s the only thing we’ve been stressing.” Hodge also has some personal reasons for his drive for success. The son of Antwan and Jolanda Brown keeps his parents and broth-

ers and sisters at the front of his mind. “My family is my motivation,” Hodge said. “I want to be a success for them. It’s a small percentage of us playing at this level that make it to the next. You got to work harder than anybody else and give it your all. And I want to do something in my future, make my living doing something I love.” Hodge attends St. John’s Baptist Church with his family and carries the lessons learned there into his daily life. “I’m a religious guy,” Hodge said. “I’m a Christian. I pray every night because nothing is promised. Anything can happen so I don’t take anything for granted.” But he does dream big. Along with the long-term goal of being one of the select few to play in the NFL, his short-term goal this year would also be considered unlikely by most. “A championship is the goal,” Hodge said.

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Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

• 23

Lonoke coaching staff The 2017 Lonoke football coaching staff includes wide receivers and junior high assistant coach Chris Foor, from left, offensive coordinator Nick Smith, defensive coordinator Jack Keith, head coach Taggart Moore, junior high head coach Tyler Shaw, defensive backs coach Tyler Tarrant, offensive and defensive lines coach Brannon Kotch and linebackers and junior high assistant coach Jeremy Brown.

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Lonoke cheerleaders The 2017 Lonoke High School cheerleading squad includes senior co-captain Brooke Allwhite, from left, senior Taylor Carr, senior captain Hannah Abshure, junior Presley Wintz, sophomore Rosie Garringer, senior Jayda Phillips, sophomore Emily Clark, sophomore Regan Bradley and senior Heather Bowden

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Revamped Continued from Page 20 Brown, a 6-2, 215-pound senior who runs a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, was injured in the second game of the year in 2016 and missed the rest of the season. “He would’ve been a stud for us last year, so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do,” Moore said. “His size and speed combination is very rare.” Carson Devinney is one of just two sophomore starters, and he will line up at the other outside linebacker position. “He plays with a motor,” Moore said. “He did everything for the junior high last year. We knew coming would be a good one.” About four different players have rotating at the two defensive end spots, and Moore says Keith and the staff are comfortable with all of them. Antonio Earle is 5-10, 220 junior that fits the bill and has solidified one of the end spots.

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 “He’s got of fullback body, but he plays well with his hand on the ground.” Jacob Miller, Connor Linton or Aiden Badar could play the other DE at any point. “We have enough depth this year, we only have one really going a lot both ways, but we feel like those three can help us there and help us in other areas as well. So we’re still trying to figure out who’s best and where, but I feel good about the options.” The Jackrabbits have some experience in the secondary. Both cornerbacks started as sophomores last season — Terry Moore and Dalton Smith. Junior Braidon Bryant will handle the Rover duties. He is one of the team’s fastest players. D’Angelo Noid will play strong safety. He was a basketball-only kid last year, but brings some athleticism from the court. On offense, Daniel Siegrist will run the new offense, which will be based on the pistol formation but could be almost anything. “If you can think of a formation, we can line up it in,” Moore said. “I wanted to be able to do anything because I’ve been a defensive coordinator and that’s the hard-

est thing to prepare for.” Siegrist has a good combination of arm strength and mobility, but it’s his grasp of the system that impresses Moore the most. “He understands what we’re doing and he commands the huddle,” Moore said. “That’s a big thing for me. He’s not going to wow you with his speed. But I want a guy in there, where they know he’s the man in charge. Daniel has that, and he’s throwing the ball better. He’s done great.” Responsible for that short shotgun snap will be senior Hunter Clark, who is a returning starter and a team leader. Flanking Clark on the right side will be Colton Catton (5-10, 225), a junior Moore says is the team’s third strongest player. At left tackle will be 5-11, 250-pound senior Jacob Miller. At left guard is Peyton Lamb, a player Moore says has made tremendous strides during offseason. At left tackle is James Bryant, who has started the last two years. The workhorse for the offense is senior fullback Xavier Hodge. The 5-9, 224-pounder is coming off a 1,400-yard season, and they were bruising yards.

For a different kind of threat, Lonoke will bring in sophomore Devontae Adams. “Hodge is our No. 1 back, our strongest overall player,” Moore said. “Adams is a scat-back type, real shifty. He’ll be a good change of pace for us.” Hodges could also see some carries at fullback, and a possibly a little at tight end, too. Starting at tight end is Connor Linton, who came back to Lonoke after spending a year at Cabot. His brother, Morgan Linton, had a successful career after walking on for the Arkansas Razorbacks. “Connor is as sure-handed as they come,” Moore said of the 6-3, 226-pounder. “He’s big, he’s strong, can run, can block. He’s the prototype tight end. But he could also split wide for us, too.” Bryant will most often be the man in motion. He could line up in several positions and is the team’s best deep threat. Another athletic addition to the team is Noid, who transferred from North Little Rock last year, but had to sit out because of the 365-day rule. “Braidon is our speed-motion guy and out deep threat,” Moore said. “DeAngelo also has good athleticism. He’s a basketball player and has great hands.” Ethan Mulligan is the possession receiver. “He’s our best hands catcher and best route runner,” Moore said.


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The Lonoke Jackrabbits huddle on the sideline during their season-opening win over Carlisle last year. They will open this season at Carlisle on Sept. 1.

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26 • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

A Supplement to The Leader

The Beebe Badgers will try to get back to the Class 5A state playoffs after missing them last season for the first time in 10 years. They play in the tough 5A-Central Conference.


onditioning and avoiding injuries will be two big keys for the Beebe football team this season. The Badgers are trying to get back to the playoffs after failing to qualify last season for the first time in 10 years, and they’ll have to do with several people playing on both sides of the ball. The Badgers have good senior leadership, but a very small senior class. There is Khalil Anthony a large and talented class of juniors, and a few a sophomores who could figure into the mix. Still, several names were mentioned for multiple positions when head coach John Shannon went over his preseason twodeep on Aug. 11. “It’s a concern,” said Shannon. “Playing 5A football you’d like to have 22 starters, but at the same time we have to get our best on the field. Hopefully some of these younger kids can start stepping in and do some spot play Connor Bieker as they get a better understanding of what we’re doing and get more comfortable in there. We’ve discussed it many times in the coaches’ office, and we finally decided we’re


John Shannon Year at school: 11th Record at school: 58-53

2016 Record: 4-6 Conf. Finish: 5th Off./Def. Returns: 3/4

going to put our best out there and see what happens.” Beebe’s starting quarterback returns, but he won’t be the starter this year. Senior Mason Walker

will move to safety and senior C.J. Cauldwell (6-0, 150) will be the quarterback. The two actually shared time at quarterback last year, with Mason running the base formation and Cauldwell called on to run the spread. Cauldwell had some catching up to do in the strength and scheme departments after taking his sophomore season off, but did so as the backup last year and has earned the Noah Jolly starting role for the senior year. “He’s the better athlete, and we think he gives us a better chance to make things happen,” Shannon said. “On top of that, Walker is the better safety as far as reading the offenses and always being in the right spot. So I feel like we got the better player in both positions.” Another player that lost his starting job last year and then got it back this season is fullback Kahlil Anthony (5-10, Taylor Boyce 175). He was moved from fullback, which is the feature position in Shannon’s Please see FIGHTING, Page 29

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Beebe coaching staff Beebe coaching staff includes, Justin Edwards, from left, Tim Harrison, defensive coordinator Shawn Robertson, head coach John Shannon, Jim Wooten, Jerry Price and Mark Pinkerton.

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28 • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

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Beebe seniors C.J. Cauldwell and Mason Walker have remained best friends while competing throughout their high school careers for the starting quarterback role for the Badger football team.



ason Walker and C.J. Cauldwell have played leapfrog for four years as starting quarterback for the Beebe Badgers. Walker was Cauldwell’s backup for the Badger freshman team in 2014. Cauldwell then took a year away from football in 2015. Walker worked as a backup at the beginning of his first year of varsity football, but found himself thrust into the starting role when injuries struck the starter. Walker played four games before suffering his own season-ending injury. Cauldwell returned for his junior season, but Walker had surpassed him in strength and conditioning, as well as knowledge of

ARTICLE BY the base Dead-T option could, in some players, offense of head coach create some animosRAY BENTON John Shannon. ity among competitors. • Cauldwell still posNot so with Walker PHOTOGRAPHY sessed the pure athand Cauldwell, who leticism that made him have been good friends BY DAVID SCOLLI starter freshman, and since sixth grade, and so played quarterback his junior year when- describe their relationship today as “best ever the team switched from its base offense friends.” to its wide-open two-minute offense. Shannon sees the nature of the relationAfter a year in the weight room and two ship as unique. full offseasons to get prepared, Cauldwell will “What makes it such an interesting deal be the starting quarterback when the Badgers is, they’re best friends,” Shannon said. “No open the season Sept. 2 against Greenbrier. matter which one is starting or playing at a A back-and-forth competition like that given time, the other one is supporting and

encouraging him. They’re together all the time. I’ve never seen anything like animosity from either of them. They’re just always there for each other.” Moving out of the starting quarterback role doesn’t mean Walker won’t be on the field. Before having to take over the starting quarterback role as a sophomore, he started at safety. He’ll be moving back to that position this year, but also provides Shannon with a backup that the head coach is comfortable with and confident in. “C.J. is a special kind of athlete,” Shannon Please see SUPPORT, Page 34

A Supplement to The Leader

Fighting Continued from Page 26 Dead-T offense, to halfback a few games into the season. “He seems to be faster, and he’s definitely stronger,” Shannon said of Anthony. “He’s hitting the hole a lot quicker and a lot harder than I’ve ever seen him. He always had the ability to make something happen when he got to open field, but wasn’t always real sure or ran real tough between the tackles. But something’s clicked with him. “Kahlil has had the best preseason of any kid on the team this year, on both sides. I don’t like my fullback playing defense a whole lot, but he’s going to play some defense just because he’s looked so good in preseason camp.” Junior Taylor Boyce returns at halfback. He had the unusual accomplishment of being both a sophomore and a non-fullback who led the team in rushing last season. “Taylor is our big-play guy,” Shannon said. “We think after a year in the weight room he’s going to be even better, and he was our best running back last year. So we’re expecting big things out of him, even though he’s not very big himself.” Boyce (5-6, 150) runs a 4.55-second 40-yard dash, but it’s not just his speed that

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 impresses the Badger head coach and OC. “He sets up blocks and reads blocks better than any kid I’ve ever coached,” Shannon said. “That’s saying a lot with some of the backs we’ve had through here.” The other halfback position will be filled by multiple players. Senior Connor Bieker (5-10, 157) was the main one last season but will have a couple of other roles this year, and so will share time at halfback. Junior Luke Oakley (5-9, 146) and junior Jacob Loyd (5-6, 147) will also see carries this season. Callie Neal (5-10, 175) is another junior that started all 10 games year at center, and returns at that spot this season. Senior Joseph Davis (5-9, 206) and sophomore Maverick Payne (6-0, 245) will start at the guard positions, but junior Cameron Gooden will see time there as well once he returns from a health-related absence, Shannon said. Quinton Johnson (6-3, 274) is another junior that started as a sophomore. He returns at right tackle. Junior Noah Jolly (6-1, 285) moves from guard to tackle this season. “He’s our strongest player, and he moves good for a big kid,” Shannon said of Jolly. “His footwork is getting better, and we feel like he has a chance to be really, really good.” In the two-tight set, Shannon and the

Khalil Anthony runs over a Harding Academy defender last season. Beebe scrimmages at HA on Tuesday.

coaching staff are leaning towards sophomores Ethan Ward (6-1, 215) and Logan Pipkins (6-0, 192), but seniors Cade Harlin (5-9, 216) and Wade King (5-10, 205) could figure into the mix as well. “The two seniors have looked pretty good there, but they’re our two starting defensive tackles as well,” Shannon said. “We don’t want them over there every play. So the sophomores are going to get a chance. Tight end is really one of our question marks right now.” If Beebe opens things up and splits one end wide, junior Alex Boyce (6-3, 185) will likely be the guy, although Bieker and Oakley could play split end as well. While King and Harlin have secured the two defensive tackle positions, the nose guard could be by committee. Johnson, according to Shannon, has looked the best, but he doesn’t want to play his starting offensive tackle too much on defense. Sophomores Logan Bowman (5-10, 200) and Skyler Cranford (5-8, 205) will also spend time in the middle of the defensive line. “The sky is the limit for Skyler,” Shannon said. “He’s strong as all get out and runs really well. He’s probably a 4.6 guy. He’s just learning to play nose guard, but we’re hoping as the season progresses he really comes on. We’ve seen flashes that he has a chance to be really good.” The epicenter of the Beebe defense is inside linebacker Brayden Healy (5-5, 170).

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Another junior, two-year starter Healy draws extreme praise from Shannon. “He’s the leader on defense,” Shannon said. “He’s our leader for everything. He gets us lined up. He reads better than anybody else,ww and he’s that guy that goes harder than anybody else all the time. He ain’t the biggest sucker in the world, but he’ll hit you with everything he’s got.” Senior Daniel Eskandarian will likely be the other starting inside linebacker. He has progressed tremendously since last year. “He’s a kid that had never played football until last year,” Shannon said. “He’s has done a good job and picked up a lot in a short amount of time.” Neal will also play some inside linebacker. Alex Boyce and Oakley will start at outside linebacker, but Anthony and junior Ahmad Nelson (6-1, 185) will also see time there. Walker and Taylor Boyce will be the two starting safeties, with Cauldwell playing spot duty as well. Juniors Gage House (5-5, 115) and Dalton Pruitt (5-4, 135) will share time at cornerback with Bieker fitting in as well. Bieker could also be the punter, along with Cauldwell. “Connor Bieker could be all over for us,” Shannon said. “As a junior last year he started kind of slow. He just kept getting better and better. We’re counting on him for a lot this year.”


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The Sylvan Hills Bears have a roster of more than 100 and believes it can remain among the best in 5A despite the loss of a standout quarterback of the last two seasons.



ome might be tempted say that a football team trying to replace a two-year starting quarterback who is 6-3, 200 pounds, runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash and throws a spiral tighter than the E Street Band on the final leg of a worldwide tour would be in for a down year. Some might say that about the 2017 Sylvan Hills Bears, but some might be wrong. There is no doubt that former SH quarterback Jordan Washington will be hard to Anthony Chairez replace, but his replacement is one of the least concerns for this year’s Hillside Bears. Sylvan Hills High School, which is experiencing an explosion in student population and is in the early stages of a massive campus makeover, has its eye set on a season it believes can be similar to the 9-2 season it experienced last year with Washington as the focal point of the offense. SHHS head coach Jim Withrow is among those who believes this year’s team can at least equal the production of last year’s squad. “I really don’t know if we’ll be better than last year’s team or not,” said Withrow. “But I truly think if we can keep working at it and working at it as hard as we have been, we can be a lot better than people think we’re going to be.” Last year’s Bears suffered one unfortunate loss, and one inexplicable loss. The Bears were 7-0 when they went to eventual state champion Pulaski


Jim Withrow Year at school: 10th Record at school: 52-46

2016 Record: 9-2 Conf. Finish: 2nd Off./Def. Returns: 3/5

Academy, and whipped the Bruins in every facet of the game except the scoreboard. That was the unfortunate loss. Sylvan Hills out-gained PA by more than 100 yards, held the Bruins to, by far, their lowest yardage total of the season (284) and utilized a ruthless pass rush that made PA’s vaunted passing game unthreatening. If not for a senseless unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and an inexplicable interception return for

a touchdown in which the PA defensive lineman’s forearms reacted like fly paper to a Washington pass from 24 inches away, Sylvan Hills would’ve beaten the west Little Rock private school that enjoys offering tuition scholarships to the city’s best athletes. That was the unfortunate loss. The inexplicable one came in the first round of the state playoffs, when the Bears lost 36-35 to 5A-South three seed Watson Chapel, after leading 21-0 midway through the secDaelyn Fairrow ond quarter and having the ball first and goal at the WC 1-yard line. The Bears fumbled crossing the goal line, and Chapel scored before halftime. So instead of leading 28-0, and needing only one more touchdown and extra point to invoke the mercy rule, the Bears led 21-7 at the half, and ended up losing on an untimed two-point conversion at the end of the game. All that, according to a this year’s SH team, is part of a bygone era. It’s a popular belief in Sherwood that the Bears were the best 5A football team in the state last year. It’s also understood that nobody Lucas Parham remembers the best team, people only remember the state champion. That’s why this year’s Sylvan Hills squad has more on its mind Please see POISED, Page 31

A Supplement to The Leader

Poised Continued from Page 30 than who played quarterback last year. “We have a chance,” Withrow said. “I’ll be totally honest with you. We’re deficient in a couple spots, but if we can figure a way to get around it, we can be in the mix when nobody expects us to be.” While replacing such a remarkable quarterback might seem like one of the logical deficiencies, it’s not, according to the head Bear. “Ryan is going to do a great job,” Withrow said about starting quarterback Ryan Lumpkin. “I’ve been excited about his ability since he was on the ninth-grade team. We just haven’t been able to showcase him at quarterback because of Jordan. He doesn’t have the size and speed Jordan has, but he’s an outstanding high school quarterback. He just needs the chance to prove it. I’m very excited about his potential.” The Bears will line up in the shotgun spread, and Daelyn Fairrow will handle most of the handoff duties at tailback. He and

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

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Deon Youngblood could share time between tailback and slot receiver. “We’ve been having an ongoing debate,” Withrow said. “We’re trying to decide which one is the tailback and which is the slot guy. I’ll be honest with you, I think Deon Youngblood is a different kind of guy. Daelyn is one hell of an athlete, and he’ll get a lot of looks, but Deon, I think, is the best route runner I’ve ever coached. He understands coverage better than anyone I’ve ever coached. If there’s a team out there that throws the ball every down, he can be one outstanding slot guy for them. “You’ve got to understand, I’ve almost always taken up with the quarterback when there’s been a dispute about a route. We had a play this summer in 7-on-7, where Deon broke off a wheel route. Ryan threw it deep and got upset about it, but I told him, Deon was right. You just got to look at it. He knew what was happening in the coverage. When you have a kid as strong, as quick and as fast as he is, that understands defenses like that, that’s invaluable. We’ve got some guys with better measurements, but he’s a guy that’s going to catch on somewhere, and they’re going to get a steal.”

Daelyn Fairrow makes a catch during the Bears’ win over Little Rock Parkview last season.

Sylvan Hills senior Deon Youngblood picks up big yardage against Jacksonville last season.


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32 • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

A Supplement to The Leader


Coaches think the interior will be a team strength this year. There’s size, depth and experience up front for the Bears, and Gilbert has always been one of the leaders. “When he walked on campus as a sophomore he was already stronger than most the people we had out at the time,” Tipton said. “You add that kind of strength, and the fact that he loves to down in the line and get physical, you got a football player. Our strength is probably up front, and it’s partly because of having him back and 100 percent. We have a group that’s been there, and they’ve all gotten better.” Gilbert has gotten even stronger since last season, and did it while dropping weight. “I got stronger, but I got faster, too,” Gilbert said. “I dropped about 10-15 pounds. I was running like a 5.5 40, but now I’m running a 5.0 flat.” Gilbert worked to shed the pounds and gain the speed in an effort to make college


lready known as a player who loves the grind and fighting in the trenches, Sylvan Hills’ starting left guard Garrett Ross Gilbert has had to learn to fight through life’s tragedies at a young age. Gilbert is a three-year starter for the Bears and comes from a long line of Sylvan Hills linemen. His father, grandfather, two uncles and maybe even his great-grandfather (Gilbert wasn’t sure), all played football for the Bears. It’s given him a passion for the game and taught him about toughness and grinding through a difficult game, but a catastrophe right after the start of his junior season almost did what no opposing defensive lineman could do — bring him down. Two days after the Bears’ season-opening win over Catholic High, Gilbert’s mother, Andrea Cantrell, was killed in an auto accident. She was living in Amity (Clark County) but had come to Sherwood for his first game of the season on a Friday. She died that Sunday. “I had just seen her at the Catholic game,” Gilbert said. “It was just hard. When I heard about the accident, I didn’t know it was real at first. To come to terms with it was just real hard. To deal with the fact that she was dead, it’s just tough.” Gilbert is the son of Gary Gilbert and lives with grandparents. According to his position coach Denny Tipton, he’s always had a noseto-the-grindstone approach to the game, but he now says his approach to lots of things has changed since the tragedy. “It checked my outlook on life and football,” Gilbert said. “I cared about football, but I didn’t care about it like I do now. I didn’t really care about anything like I do now. It changes your outlook. You don’t take things for granted.” On the field at SHHS, Gilbert has always been formidable. While not a regular starter as a sophomore, he did start some games and got a lot of playing time. He was a force inside for the Bears as a junior, until a high ankle sprain in Week 7 slowed him down. “He was probably our best lineman last year,” Tipton said. “When he ended up getting hurt, he kept playing but he never really got back to 100 percent healthy. But the thing I love about him is that he’s going to give 100

Please see FAMILY, Page 35



Sylvan Hills senior Garrett Gilbert has a new outlook since tragedy struck his family last September. percent on every single play.” Along with that aggressiveness has come some football sophistication, and not just with Gilbert, but with the whole line. “I think we have a lot more chemistry on the line than last year,” Gilbert said. “We

talk a lot more. We’re noticing blitzes and stuff like that and calling them out and communicating with each other better. It started getting a little better towards the end last year, but right now we’re knowing what to do and where to go.”

GO BEARS! Sherwood Alderman

Marina Brooks


A Supplement to The Leader

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

• 33


Continued from Page 32

Sylvan Hills varsity cheerleaders The 2017 Sylvan Hills cheerleading squad includes Carson Beeching (front row, from left) Sarah Phillips, Jade Denson, Cory Tessman, Katrina Gray, Anna Snyder, Krista Sullivan (middle row, from left), Cassadee Dunlap, Lexi Brown, Macey Barnum, Tana Oaks, Graemme Withrow, Thayla Howard, Abby Ahne, Miranda Chambers, Carlton Ketzscher (back row, from left), Stevie Smith, Trinity Smith, Mya Talbert, Erin Vaden, Ashlynn Bowman, Tyswela Murphy, DiKailyn Toles and Catey Ketzscher.


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34 • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

A Supplement to The Leader


C.J. Cauldwell, left, will start at quarterback this season while best friend and classmate Mason Walker starts at safety.

Continued from Page 28 said. “If he had stayed with it he would’ve been our starter his sophomore year. Mason’s best attributes are, he’s just a great leader and does everything fundamentally sound. “C.J. has had a year to get caught up and get stronger in the weight room, and we feel like he gives us a better chance to make big things happen without all the mistakes he made his junior year. But we know if we have to – knock on wood – we can put Mason in there, and he can move the offense.” Cauldwell and Shannon didn’t have the same answer for where Cauldwell’s biggest improvements have occurred. “Throwing the football,” Cauldwell said. “I’ve gone to a bunch of camps and worked with college coaches. I’ve just tried to work on the things they’ve taught me, and I think I’ve gotten better.” The coach cites Cauldwell’s decision making as his biggest improvement. “Running the option is where I can see a big difference,” Shannon said. “That’s why we’re confident enough to just go ahead and name him the starter. He had that bigplay ability last year, but sometimes he didn’t get it right. Either by making the wrong read, or trying to do too much and making the wrong decision on whether to pitch or keep, he’d end up giving us a negative play. “His ability to make the reads and then make the right decisions is way better than last year. He is throwing it better, too, and we’re happy about that. But the biggest thing to me is how well he’s running the option.” The son of Chris and Krystal Cauldwell, C.J. is a much more reserved personality than Walker, and he’s working on becoming a team leader, not just the offensive engineer. “I’m a senior, and I’m the starting quarter, so I try to be a bigger leader for the younger players,” Cauldwell said. “If we’re getting down or tired or something, I just have to talk to them more and pick them up.” Walker, whose parents are Rodney and Terra Walker, is no slouch of an athlete. He’s made his share of big plays on both sides of the ball in his two years with the team, but his natural leadership qualities are invaluable to a team, according to the head coach.

“He’s just such a positive kid and everyone responds to him really well,” Shannon said. “He’s happy with it, I think. He started at safety his sophomore year. He likes defense, and he’s a good safety. We knew going in, whichever one wasn’t the quarterback was going to have to play safety. I’m happy with it because I feel like we got the better player in both positions. Mason is outstanding as far as reading knowing where things are going. He’s that kind that’s going to be in the right spot every time, and that’s crucial on defense.” Shannon’s instincts about Walker are correct. “To me, it’s really just about how can I help the team,” Walker said. “I’ve always been a defensive guy, and I’m glad to go back on defense. I missed it. There’ll be things I miss about quarterback, too. But I’m happy about it.” Walker also verifies that there is no animosity about battling his best friend as the leader of the offense. “I really don’t think it’s ever been a battle,” Walker said. “We’re best friends. We do everything together. So it’s been way more of a ‘your success is my success’ kind of a thing, you know. “I’m more of a vocal person and C.J. is more reserved, so I can help in that way. He throws the ball really well. He’s got a great arm. To put it simple, he’s just got a better arm than me. So basically I’ll help my team any way I can and do whatever I can do. When it’s my turn, it’s my turn. When it’s not, I’ll cheer for anybody else. I just want us to win.” More than once, Walker expressed dismay at how last season unfolded. It was the first time in 10 years that Beebe didn’t make the playoffs. There was one game in particular that weighs on him, and that was the 11-point loss to Little Rock Christian Academy. “We lost by 11, and we failed twice to get it in at the goal line,” Walker said. “It was a rough year. I definitely don’t want to be that class that doesn’t make the playoffs two years in a row.” Starting so many sophomores also means returning a lot of starters. Walker sees the talented junior class as a catalyst for success this season, and he’s excited about the prospects. “Our senior class is tiny,” Walker said. “I think there are only 10 of us. So the juniors are going to be crucial for sure. And they’ve gotten so much better. I’m anxious. I’m kind of not looking forward to the season being over, it being my last year, but I’m ready to get it started because I think it’s going to be a good one.”

A Supplement to The Leader

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

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Family Continued from Page 32 coaches take notice. He wants to play college football, but hasn’t received much interest to date. “I have to get my ACT up a little bit,” Gilbert said. “Once I do that, and show what I can do on the field, I think someone will offer me.” Don’t count Sylvan Hills head coach Jim Withrow among the skeptics of Gilbert’s ability to play in college. “The big thing right now is getting him some looks,” said Withrow. “We’re working on getting some coaches in here to see him, because I know he can play at the next level. He just needs somebody to give him a chance. He’s an ornery ole lineman, and he’ll work for you.” Tipton’s praise of his ability was even higher. “If he were 6-2, he’d be getting DI looks,” Tipton said. “They tend to overlook you when you’re 5-9 or so, but he’s a football player. There ain’t no one out here that can whip him, and we have some pretty big boys out here. Whenever we do one-on-one stuff, he never gets whipped.” So take strength, extra speed, work ethic, drive, a love of the game, the motivation to earn a scholarship and the added motivation of playing for a lost mom, and you have Gilbert’s approach to the 2017 season. “It really motivates me to think she’s watching me every day,” Gilbert said. “So I’m kind of dedicating the season to her and our memories.” Sylvan Hills offensive line coach Denny Tipton says Garrett Gilbert is one of the strongest, and perhaps the toughest, player on the team this season.

Wishing all of our area teams the best of luck in 2017! Cabot Panthers

Jacksonville Titans

Sylvan Hills Bears


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36 • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

A Supplement to The Leader

2017 High School Football  

Preview of area high school football teams including Cabot, Jacksonville, Beebe, Lonoke and Sylvan Hills.

2017 High School Football  

Preview of area high school football teams including Cabot, Jacksonville, Beebe, Lonoke and Sylvan Hills.