2 â€˘ Friday, August 24, 2018
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Table of Contents Searcy Lions.........................................4 Harding University............................5 Harding Academy Wildcats.........6 Riverview Raiders.............................8 Arkansas Razorbacks....................10 Beebe Badgers..................................11 Rose Bud...............................................12 SWAC .....................................................13 Bald Knob Bulldogs........................14 Sun Belt................................................18 Lyon College......................................19 SEC Preview...................................... 20
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Bruce Guthrie / sports@thedailycitizen
According to head coach Mark Kelley, the Lions’ defense will be better in 2018. The varsity shut out Wynne in its benefit game in the first half on Aug. 16.
Searching for respect Lions hope to be the 6A surprise BY BRUCE GUTHRIE firstname.lastname@example.org
When the Searcy Lions took the field for the first time, officially, in the 2018 preseason, they did so without much state fanfare. Unlike those in Greenwood, Pine Bluff, or even Benton, the Searcy Lions aren’t getting much attention in statewide circles regarding their viability to contend for a 6A state championship, Please see LIONS | 9
Bruce Guthrie / email@example.com
The Searcy Lions are looking for numerous producers on offense, including receviers such as Bryce Dixon and others, in 2018.
2018 Schedule Aug. 24 @ Morrilton, 7 p.m. Aug. 31 vs. Sheridan, 7 p.m. Sept. 7 @ Batesville 7 p.m. Sept. 21 vs. Jacksonville 7 p.m. Sept. 28 @ West Memphis 7 p.m. Oct. 5 vs. Marion 7 p.m. Oct. 12 vs. Pine Bluff 7 p.m. Oct. 19 @ Jonesboro 7 p.m. Oct. 26 vs. Mountain Home 7 p.m. Nov. 1 @ Sylvan Hills 7 p.m.
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After two great seasons, Simmons, Bisons look forward to this season BY BRUCE GUTHRIE firstname.lastname@example.org
For Harding University head coach Paul Simmons and the rest of the Bisons, it is time to get ready to build off one of Harding’s most satisfying seasons in history. Most of these Bisons have experience in starting a new season in the shadows of a great previous campaign. The last time Harding suited up, it was in the Division 2 national semifinals at Texas A&M – Commerce, who wound up winning the national championship the next week in Kansas City. Simmons said the difference in this season and last season is the presence of senior leadershp. That leadership is especially present on the defensive side of the football. On offense, Simmons said the quar-
terback position which is the one most up in the air, is “definitely an open competition.” The hope that is with a new quarterPlease see BISONS | 7
Dedication & Determination
IS ALL IT TAKES!
The Bisons might have one of the better defenses in the conference in 2018, which is a big part of why they are picked to win the GAC championship in 2018.
2018 Schedule Aug. 30. @ Henderson St., 7 p.m. Sept. 8 vs. Southern Ark., 6 p.m. Sept. 15 @ Southern Nazarene, 1 p.m. Sept. 22 vs. Okla. Baptist (Family Weekend), 6 p.m. Sept. 29 @ Ark.-Monticello, 1 p.m. Oct. 6 vs. Ouachita Baptist, 6 p.m. Oct. 13 @ Southwestern Okla., 2 p.m. Oct. 20 vs. Northwestern Okla. (Homecoming), 2 p.m. Oct. 27 @ East Central, 4 p.m. Nov. 3 vs. Southeastern Okla., 2 p.m. Nov. 10 vs. Arkansas Tech (Senior Day), 2 p.m.
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Harding Academy head coach Neil Evans believes his defense has a chance to be very good in 2018. The Wildcats finished 2017 with a 7-5 record, including a four-game winning streak.
Wildcats hope veteran quarterback and salty defense will reap success BY BRUCE GUTHRIE email@example.com
All teams have questions going into a brand new season that they must answer. One question that the Harding Academy Wildcats don’t have to deal with is the starting quarterback. The Wildcats will march into 2018 with Davis Morgan at the helm of the offense. In 2017, Morgan got off to a bit of a slow start, but improved weekly and ignited the team’s offense. Morgan completed 209 of his 323 passing attempts for 3,089 yards and 36 touchdowns. He completed nearly 65 percent of his passes while throwing 12 interceptions which are bit misleading.
Morgan had a tough opener throwing three picks in the season opener against Highland, which was an ugly 12-9 win. Morgan settled in and didn’t throw an-
Davis Morgan threw for more than 3,000 yards in his first year as a starter for Harding Academy in 2017.
2018 Schedule Aug. 31@ Highland, 7 p.m. Sept. 7 @ Bald Knob 7 p.m. Sept. 14 vs. Heber Springs 7 p.m. Sept. 21 vs. Clinton 7 p.m. Sept. 28 @ Yellville-Summit 7 p.m. Oct. 5 @ Mountain View 7 p.m. Oct. 12 vs. Melbourne 7 p.m. Oct. 19 @ Marshall 7 p.m. Oct. 26 @ Rose Bud, 7 p.m. Nov. 2 vs. Cedar Ridge 7 p.m. other ball to the other team for over a month. Davis led the Wildcats to a four-game winning streak and finished his body of work in the postseason semifinals where they nearly toppled Junction City. Where there might be a different look for Morgan could be in that head coach Neil Evans could encourage his quarter-
back to run more. “We feel like we can be efficient throwing the ball, move the ball with that, but we feel like we’ve got to be able to run the ball to keep people honest,” Evans said. Where Evans is particularly excited is on the defensive side of the football.
Please see WILDCATS | 9
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BISONS CONTINUED FROM 5
back under center, the Bisons can renew the magic that saw Harding bounce way back from an 0-3, start including a gut-wrenching loss to Southern Nazarene in week three. “We lose to them in the last minute and a half, and that was just a punch in the gut,” De Los Santos said. “It wasn’t expected, and now we are down 0-3. We were wanting to win a national championship. It looks like all hope is lost. There is no way we are coming back from this.” An admittedly broken team simply went to work and won eight straight games to end the regular season. Harding didn’t lose again until it got to the national semifinals at Texas A&MCommerce. Preston Paden has a bit of a leg up after having to step in and start after the NCAA suspension of Terrance Dingle. “I don’t like the way [Paden] got his experience, but it has put him a leg up,” Simmons said. “He did a great job under the circumstances.” The Bisons return All-GAC rusher Cole Chancey, who Simmons said came back “in great shape” and is poised for another big year. The running back position should be very deep for the Bisons with incoming freshmen such as Hunter Van Lue and Jesse Honnas, whom Simmons said “crushed the conditioning tests.” 2018 could be just as interesting as last season with the Bisons carrying essentially the same schedule with the chances of avenging their three conference losses in the first month beginning with the trip to Arkadelphia in week one. Submitted Photo From there, the Bisons will face Southern Arkansas in the home opener and Harding’s Cole Chancey returns as the team’s leading rusher. The Bisons are Southern Nazarene. Two of the Bisons’ first three games are away from First Secu- looking to build off an 11-4 record in 2018 after making a national semifinals aprity Stadium. pearance.
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Flex appeal Raiders installing new offense for 2018 season BY BRUCE GUTHRIE
When the Riverview Raiders take the field on Aug. 24 against Brookland, they will look much different than in years past. Thatâ€™s because head coach Mike McCain has decided to switch from a spread offense to flexbone. After losing some key pieces to an offense that led the Raiders to their best season in several years, and after he got a look at what type of players were in the junior high system, McCain thought it best going forward to make the switch. The Raiders are coming off a sevenwin season having mercy-ruled their first three opponents in 2017. Where better to learn the ins and outs of the flexbone in Searcy than Harding Please see RAIDERS | 9
2018 Schedule Aug. 24 vs. Brookland, 7 p.m. Aug. 31 vs. DeWitt, 7 p.m. Sept. 7 vs. Highland, 7 p.m. Sept. 21 vs. Central Arkansas Christian, 7 p.m. (Homecoming) Sept. 28 @ Southside, 7 p.m. Oct. 5 @ Mills University Studies, 7 p.m. Oct. 12 vs. Stuttgart, 7 p.m. (Cancer Awareness Night) Oct. 19 @ Bald Knob, 7 p.m. Oct. 26 vs. Heber Springs, 7 p.m. (Senior Night) Nov. 1 @ Lonoke, 7 p.m.
Greg Davis / Special to the Daily Citizen
Griffin Miller and the rest of the Riverview Raiders are going through a transition into the flexbone offense. The Raiders host the Brookland Bearcats on Aug. 24.
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despite their final four finish last season. “We are just trying to get the program where it’s in that elite status,” Searcy head coach Mark Kelley said. “You hear about the Greenwoods, the Pine Bluffs, the El Dorados, the Bentons and all that stuff. We are hoping they are throwing the Searcy Lions out there every year, and we hope to continue this year.” But anyone who goes over the roster from last year and compares who is suiting up for the Lions this week may notice there are a lot of names missing. “You look at the production we lost and it’s a ton,” Kelley said. Behind the arm of Mason Schucker and the hands of some speedy receivers, the Lions beat Lake Hamilton at home and El Dorado on the road in the postseason, but fell for the second time in the playoffs to Pine Bluff on the road. It was the fourth time in two seasons the Lions were unable to get past the Zebras. Gone is Schucker and here is Peyton Wright. Gone is Gabe Chapman, and here is Johnson Guthrie with Tony Young in the backfield. The Lions will be gunslingers again as they were last season with Wright and receivers led by Tim Williams. Kelley said day one was “awesome.” “We had the ninth-graders out here as well, and the tempo was really good,” Kelley said. “Lots of good energy. Now is just fine tuning.” First game is Aug. 24 at Morrilton.
“Right now if we stay healthy on defense, we are poised to be pretty good on that side,” Evans said. In fact, Evans is a bit out of his comfort zone by starting a freshman in his defensive backfield in Braden Oliver. “It’s big deal and he looks really good moving around out there,” Evans added. The schedule is a bit different for the Wildcats because they are now in a new conference. Bald Knob has moved up slightly as a nonconference opponent. They will face the Bulldogs on the road in week two. Add in new opponents such as Clinton, Melbourne, YellvilleSummitt, Marshall and Mountain View and the view on the other side of the line of scrimmage gets very different in conference play. A trip to Highland on Aug. 31 gets things going.
University. “We attended every playoff practice and most spring practices,” McCain said of how much time he and his team spent watching the Bisons. “I have Coach [Kenny] Wheaton on speed dial.” McCain said after his team’s final team camp at Benton Tuesday that his team is finally looking like it is ready to run a new offense. That transition has been especially tough on returning quarterback Griffin Miller. “He’s finally coming around,” McCain said. “It’s difficult going from a spread quarterback to going under center. He looked like he has bought in today.” Even though the Raiders have been about 60 percent run in the past, going to the flexbone has been tough. “We are not throwing the ball as much,” McCain said. “Although we were 60/40 run last year. I have been explaining to him and he is finally coming around.” Miller rushed for 963 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. With the change in a predominantly running offense, the running back position becomes especially critical as does offensive line play. The Raiders have three, including returning running back Baylee Dillin, who rushed for more than 500 yards last season. The Raiders will also count on Ashton Williams and Cade Trickey.
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Arkansas intent on a quick turnaround under Chad Morris BY KURT VOIGT AP Sports Writer
FAYETTEVILLE — Dre Greenlaw thought winning a minimum of seven games last season was a given for Arkansas. That false confidence is what made life even more difficult for the Razorbacks linebacker as hopes of a fourth straight winning record came crashing down. "About Game 7, you could feel the emotional drain start wearing on you," Greenlaw said of Arkansas' 4-8 record a year ago. "It was like, 'Dang, this is really happening.'" Greenlaw's disappointment was shared by many across Arkansas a year ago, resulting in the firing of coach Bret Bielema after five years and the hiring of Chad Morris away from SMU. Morris brings to Fayetteville a reputation as an offensive guru, thanks to his time as offensive coordinator at Clemson and how he rebuilt SMU's offense during his three seasons there. More than that, however, he brings hope to a program mired in one of the worst sixyear stretches in school history — and
Morris brings to Fayetteville a reputation as an offensive guru, thanks to his time as offensive coordinator at Clemson and how he rebuilt SMU's offense during his three seasons there. More than that, however, he brings hope to a program mired in one of the worst six-year stretches in school history — and by far its worst since joining the Southeastern Conference. by far its worst since joining the Southeastern Conference. It's hope even the upperclassmen have bought into, even if the turnaround takes longer than they will be around. "I think the future for Arkansas football is in great hands," said Greenlaw, a senior. Arkansas was picked to finish last in the SEC West this season, an indicator of just how far it had fallen by the end of Bielema's disappointing tenure. While the transition from Bielema's more-traditional approach to Morris' up-tempo look isn't likely to be perfect-
ed in one season, the Razorbacks have had just about all they can handle of finishing last in the SEC West. And last year's 1-7 record in the SEC is plenty of motivation to avoid another last-place finish. "We finished 4-8 last year, and everybody who was here last year is tired of hearing that," senior linebacker Randy Ramsey said. "We just want to come out and prove everybody wrong this season."
quarterback during his first preseason camp in Fayetteville alongside first-year offensive coordinator Joe Craddock. Sophomore Cole Kelley and junior Ty Storey seemed to be the top two candidates to replace graduated starter Austin Allen, though Morris isn't ruling out a freshman — or in-season changes at the position as called for. "Just because we get to the point where we do name one, it doesn't mean it's a lifetime contract," Morris said. "They've all got to keep pushing and getting better."
Arkansas was 114th in the country in scoring defense a season ago, allowing 36.2 points per game. The Razorbacks hope to improve this season because of the return of experienced players such as Greenlaw and Ramsey, along with junior defensive lineman McTelvin Agim. The biggest change, however, has been the addition of first-year defensive coordinator John Chavis , the former Texas
Morris has yet to name a starting
Please see MORRIS | 16
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Bruce Guthrie / firstname.lastname@example.org
Beebe has experience on both offensive and defensive lines coming into 2018.
Micheal Long / Special to the Daily Citizen
Beebe hopes to break a playoff drought with one of the most experienced teams in head coach John Shannon’s tenure.
2018 Schedule Aug. 24 @ Greenbrier, 7 p.m. Sept. 7 vs. Lonoke, 7 p.m. Sept. 14 @ Vilonia, 7 p.m. Sept. 21 @ Parkview, 7 p.m. Sept. 28 vs. Watson Chapel, 7 p.m. Oct. 5 @ White Hall, 7 p.m. Oct. 12 vs. Pulaski Academy, 7 p.m. Oct. 19 @ Maumelle, 7 p.m. Oct. 26 vs. Fair, 7 p.m. Nov. 1 vs. Little Rock Christian Academy, 7 p.m.
Entrenched Badgers Shannon believes experience will be key for Badgers BY BRUCE GUTHRIE email@example.com
When Beebe head coach Mike Shannon talks about his 2018 Badgers, one word comes to mind. Experienced. One might say the Badgers are a bit grizzled. 13 of Shannon’s 20 seniors are threeyear starters. Every spot on the offensive Please see BADGERS | 15
12 • Friday, August 24, 2018
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Changes lead to different direction at Rose Bud BY BRUCE GUTHRIE firstname.lastname@example.org
After a very promising season at Rose Bud High School for its football program, it’s been somewhat of a tough summer for the Ramblers. It started right after All-Star week. When the dead period began, the first blow arrived. Head coach Chris Norton, who had led the Ramblers to within one win of a playoff berth and a 4-6 record, abruptly resigned to take over at Perryville. That day was also new superintendent Luke Lovins’ first official day on the job. With no real pool of candidates to pick from to replace Norton, mostly because of the timing of his resignation, Rose Bud chose to allow assistant coach Scotty Starkey to take over the football program on an interim basis. The next problem was participation. Along with Norton, players began transferring or dropping out of football altogether.
That prompted the district to cancel football after the nonconference schedule meaning after week three, the Ramblers become a junior varsity team only and will play only a JV schedule. After nearly a month of practice and a week into the school year, Rose Bud now stands at 17 players, meaning one injury will likely cancel the season altogether. The Ramblers forfeited one game in 2015 and six games in 2016.
The Rose Bud Ramblers will play a three-week schedule beginning Aug. 31 against Quitman. Rose Bud finished last season at 4-6.
2018 Schedule Aug. 31 Quitman, 7 p.m. Sept. 7 @ Cutter-Morning Star, 7 p.m. Sept. 14 vs. Western Yell County, 7 p.m.
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SWAC features new look after several coaching changes BY JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala — Grambling State’s Broderick Fobbs welcomes his new coaching peers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference — and any new ideas they bring with them. Half the league’s 10 programs have new leaders going into this season, though most of them have been around for a while as assistants. “There are going to be guys that bring different defenses, there are going to be guys who bring different offenses and do things differently in another way that maybe you haven’t thought about,” said Fobbs, whose Tigers have won the past two SWAC titles and 26 overall. “So I’m always intrigued by that because it gives you an opportunity to learn as well. “I look forward to it. Change always makes you better when you accept it the right way.” SWAC schools, like many others around the country, are banking on it. Besides the five new head coaches, Grambling will have a new quarterback with the departure of two-time league of-
The new head coaches range from Mississippi Valley State’s 33-year-old Vincent Dancy to Alabama State’s Donald Hill-Eley, who has 12 years experience as a head coach. Former Grambling offensive coordinator Eric Dooley has taken over at Prairie View A&M and ex-Alcorn State assistant Cedric Thomas is the new head man at ArkansasPine Bluff, where he played. fensive player of the year DeVante Kincaid. Four-time defending SWAC East champion Alcorn State has a revamped coaching staff, including the hiring of former West Virginia star Pat White as quarterbacks coach. The new head coaches range from Mississippi Valley State’s 33-year-old Vincent Dancy to Alabama State’s Donald Hill-Eley, who has 12 years experience as a head coach. Former Grambling offensive coordinator Eric Dooley has taken over at Prairie View A&M and ex-Alcorn State assistant Cedric Thomas is the new
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Please see SWAC | 16
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head man at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where he played. Former Hampton coach Connell Maynor is the only one of the five to come in from outside the league. He has taken over at Alabama A&M. “We got a lot a lot of coaches with lot of wins from wherever they’ve gone,” Alabama State’s Eley said. “When they were coordinators they had great segments, whether it was offense or defense. And if they were head coaches, they had great success. I think that kind of experience will help the conference.” Dooley seems to be taking over the
program on the most solid footing at Prairie View, with the other four teams coming off losing seasons. “I’ve had an opportunity to play against this team so I knew what type of players they had,” Dooley said. “But then I also knew my mind-set coming in. I thought it was a great program, a program right where it needs to be. We’re not in a rebuilding stage. We want to compete this year.” Here’s a look at the SWAC’s coaching changes, with last year’s records and the newcomers’ track records:
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With numerous losses from last season due to graduation, the Bulldogs will have to replace numerous starters on offense, including quarterback. The Dogs will put Johnson Capps under center to start the season.
2018 Schedule Aug. 31 vs. Valley View, 7 p.m. Sept. 7 vs. Harding Academy, 7 p.m. Sept. 14 @ Harmony Grove, 7 p.m. Sept. 21 @ Mills University Studies , 7 p.m. Sept. 28 vs. Lonoke, 7 p.m. Oct. 5 @ Stuttgart, 7 p.m. Oct. 12 @ Heber Springs, 7 p.m. Oct. 19 vs. Riverview, 7 p.m. Oct. 26 vs. Central Arkansas Christian, 7 p.m. Nov. 2 @ Southside, 7 p.m.
Bald Knob will move up in classification and with that move up comes more difficult competition.
Basement Bulldogs? Bald Knob set to prove it belongs in new league BY BRUCE GUTHRIE firstname.lastname@example.org
BALD KNOB — All the motivation that was needed for the Bald Knob Bulldogs’ football team came before the first day of preseason began. The coaches of their new 2-4A conference picked the Dogs to finish dead last
in the new league. “We hear it 10 times a day,” Bulldogs’ head coach Randy Johnston said. “We expected it, but we are using it for everything we can use it for.” The Dogs admittedly find themselves Please see BULLDOGS | 15
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line and the majority of the defensive line are experienced players, if not starters. “These kids have been baptized by fire,” Shannon said. That is because for several weeks in 2016, Badgers were dropping due to injury and most of them were severe enough to lose for the season. An experienced offensive line will block for two-time All-State running back Taylor Boyce, who rushed for 929 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. In the league that Beebe now resides in, it will need all the edges they can get. While Sylvan Hills and Little Rock McClellan are gone, it are replaced by Watson Chapel and White Hall on the schedule. “I feel like, especially in the last two years, it’s been one of the toughest conferences in Arkansas for 5A,” Shannon said. Pulaaski Academy is the four-time 5A champion with two of those state title wins coming against McClellan. Add in the surge of Sylvan Hills and Little Rock Parkview and Shannon has an
BULLDOGS Pulaaski Academy is the four-time 5A champion with two of those state title wins coming against McClellan. Add in the surge of Sylvan Hills and Little Rock Parkview and Shannon has an arguement. argument. “I think last season starting in Week 3, we played a Top-10 six weeks in a row,” Shannon said. The Lions’ and Bears’ exodus does not give the Badgers cause to exhale. Both the Bulldogs and Wildcats have made deep runs in the playoffs in recent years. White Hall finished 2016 at 9-3 after going winless the season before. Watson Chapel has won eight games in each of the last two seasons. 2018 begins on Aug. 24 at Greenbrier.
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in tough waters facing the likes of Southside Batesville, CAC, Stuttgart and Heber Springs plus rival Riverview. To get them ready the Dogs face Valley View in their opener before taking on Haskell Harmony Grove in the home opener and Little Rock Mills before embarking on a torturous conference slate. What will get the Dogs through the tough road? “Thirteen seniors,” Johnston said. “They are leading the right way, consistently showing up every day with the right mindset and I think that’s going to be a difference maker for us.” The big changes in how the Bulldogs look start under center, or at least in the shotgun. Johnson Capps leads the offense not only with his arm, but with his legs as well. “With Johnson we can really extend things with the run game with him,” Johnston said. With any team in transition upward into a new class, Johnston said it’s the
lack of numbers that has him concerned the most. “I think it’s like any 3A school moving up for the first year, depth is what’s going to kill us,” Johnston said. “If we run into a bunch of injuries, we are going to be like any other small school going into 4A. We’re going to struggle.” The Bulldogs have a winning tradition, and while finishing first isn’t necessarily realistic, they don’t feel like they are nearly nice enough to finish last. Beginning Aug. 31, they intend to prove that to their first opponent at Valley View.
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II championship game in 2012 and went 45-6 with three consecutive Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles. Maynor’s resume also includes stints as a body double in the movies “Any Given Sunday” and “Remember the Titans.”
Alabam State (5-6) Notable: Made a midseason coaching change. Old: Brian Jenkins was fired after an 0-5 start, going 10-17 in two-plus seasons. New: Donald Hill-Eley, was promoted after going 5-1 as interim head coach. Had 12-year run at Morgan State end in 2013 after winning 59 games and being named the 2002 MEAC coach of the year. He’s hoping to complete his PhD in December.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-9) Notable: Allowed 33.2 points per game last season. Old: Monte Coleman, fired after going 40-70 in 10 seasons.
New: Cedric Thomas, a former Pine Bluff player. Was defensive backs coach for Alcorn State, which won the last four SWAC East titles.
Mississippi Valley State (2-9) Notable: Lost its last four games last season. Old: Rick Comegy’s contract wasn’t renewed after he went 6-38 in four seasons. New: Vincent Dancy, a 33-year-old who had been the team’s defensive coordinator since 2015. The former Jackson State assistant and player had been named interim head coach last November.
Prairie View A&M (6-5) Notable: Turned to the SWAC’s most successful program for a new coach. Old: Will Simmons left for Florida A&M after going 21-11 in three seasons. New: Eric Dooley spent the last four seasons as Grambling State’s offensive coordinator. The former Grambling wide receiver has also worked at Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southern.
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A&M assistant. Chavis won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach while at LSU in 2011, and Arkansas' defensive players have embraced his belief of putting opposing quarterbacks under constant pressure.
O-line woes Arkansas' weakest area a year ago was its offensive line, which was 113th in the country while allowing an average of 2.92 sacks per game. The line has also been Morris' top concern during the preseason, thanks to a knee injury that will keep senior Deion Malone out for the season. Also, junior Colton Jackson is likely to miss the first six games after offseason back surgery and freshman Dalton Wagner is out for at least a week after surgery to remove his appendix.
Season opener Arkansas opens its season by hosting Eastern Illinois on Sept. 1. The game will be the first in Razorback Stadium after its $160 million renovation, bringing its capacity to more than 76,000.
Arkansas had been scheduled to host Michigan this season, but the Wolverines pulled out of the game two years ago — leaving the Razorbacks scrambling to fill out their schedule. In place of Michigan, Arkansas will travel to face Colorado State on Sept. 8 before hosting the Rams next year. For the Razorbacks to reach a bowl game in Morris' first season, they likely must sweep their non-conference games against Colorado State, Eastern Illinois, North Texas and Tulsa. The SEC slate includes home games against Alabama and LSU and road games against Auburn and Missouri.
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Sun Belt Conference opens new era with title game BY BRETT MARTEL Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — The Sun Belt Conference is entering its final football season under the leadership of commissioner Karl Benson, who took over at a time of major transition and uncertainty for the league. Benson — who at 66 has decided to step down next summer — expects the action on the field this fall to show how far the Sun Belt has come since his arrival in 2012, when everything from membership, facilities, TV contracts and bowl affiliations were different. “The Sun Belt for so long has been labeled as the bottom of the 10 conferences and that’s no longer the case,” Benson recently asserted. “We have established a brand. We’ve established credibility.” This season will be a historic one for the 18-year-old league, which will have its first championship game between the winners of two newly formed, five-team divisions that were designed to foster geographic rivalries and make travel easier for fans. The East Division consists of Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Troy. In the West, it’s Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama and Texas State. “It’s a great thing,” third-year Louisiana-Monroe coach Matt Viator said. “The NCAA is about opportunity, and two teams in this league will get another op-
portunity when they play in the championship game.” The Sun Belt also didn’t want to risk poor attendance at neutral site game. The team with the best league record, or which wins any necessary tie-breakers, will host the Sun Belt title tilt. “When you think about the championship game being played on a home campus, and what that can mean to a team, that makes the regular season more valuable,” Benson said. “The conference season takes on added meaning.” Some other Sun Belt story lines in 2018: REPEAT FAVORITES — Appalachian State and Arkansas State are preseason favorites to win their respective divisions after being among the more dominant forces in the league the past several seasons. Troy and Louisiana-Monroe were predicted secondplace finishers in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, marking a considerable increase in expectations for ULM. The Warhawks went 4-4 in league play last season and 3-5 the season before that. Troy is coming off a strong 2017 that included a victory in the New Orleans Bowl. Appalachian State will field an unproven quarterback. Sophomore Zac Thomas appears is in line to take over for four-year starter Taylor Lamb. Arkansas State has profited from coaching stability; Blake Anderson is in his fifth year. “There’s a lot of excitement around our squad,” An-
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derson said, highlighting a roster full of “guys that we’ve recruited and watched grow up over a four and five-year period. I think it’s our most athletic team. One of our most experienced teams.” BOWL CREDENTIALS — During each of the last two seasons, the Sun Belt tied its record for bowl wins with four, finishing second in bowl winning percentage among all 10 FBS conferences. Since the 2014 season, no conference has a better total bowl winning percentage (.611). The Sun Belt’s 11 bowl wins during that span exceeds those by the American Athletic Conference (10) and the Mid-American Conference (6). JUDGING JUSTICE — Arkansas State senior QB Justice Hansen is back for one more season after being named the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He set single-season Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference records for passing touchdowns (37) and total offense (4,389 yards) last season. His 3,967 yards passing were the third most in Sun Belt history. He also has been named to pre-season watch lists for the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards. REGIME CHANGE — There are three new head coaches in the Sun Belt. Billy Napier takes over at LouisianaLafayette, as do Steven Campbell at South Alabama and Chad Lunsford at Georgia Southern. Lunsford served as interim head coach at the end of 2017, going 2-4 after replacing Tyson Summers.
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Lyon enters 2018 with new coach Special to the Daily Citizen
BATESVILLE — The Lyon College football team has continued to progress year in and year out since returning to the gridiron for its first season of competition back in 2015 following a 62year hiatus. In 2017, the Scots posted their first winning record at 6-5 and will look to continue their upward trend during the 2018 season under the direction of first-year Head Creehan Coach Casey Creehan. “As a football team, we want to embrace the process, enjoy the grind and try to achieve our personal bests on each and every day,” said Creehan. “We expect great effort in every aspect of our program and look forward to competing each Sat-
2018 Football Season Good Luck to all White County Teams
urday.” Creehan was named the third head football coach in program history this past December. He brings with him 19 years of coaching experience between the collegiate and professional football levels. Prior to his arrival at Lyon, Creehan most recently served as the defensive line coach for two years with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Creehan brought on Clint Kent, Calvin Powell, Nick Sheehan, Beaux Gipson, Casey Frost, Mike Gregory and Josh Oliver to the staff as assistant coaches. Kent will work with the defensive backs and as the strength and conditioning coordinator. Powell was named as the offensive line coach and the run game coordinator. Sheehan will lead the offense as the offensive coordinator. Gipson will coach the wide receivers, while Frost will serve
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After progressing to a winning record in 2017, the Lyon Scots will have new leadership in 2018 with the hiring of Casey Creehan as head coach. as the defensive line coach. Gregory will act as the associate head coach, the special teams coordinator and will work with the quarterbacks. Oliver will help coach the linebackers this season. Lyon added over 60 new players to the
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Alabama, Georgia could be on SEC collision course — again BY JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer
Georgia coach Kirby Smart gave mentor Nick Saban and Alabama a run for their money in the national championship game — and did it again in the offseason. Smart brought in the nation’s top recruiting class and stayed on point with Saban-like messages about guarding against complacency and embracing the pressure of high expectations while dismissing potential as “dormant ability.” “We can’t allow complacency to slip into our program and slip into our staff because I know that will eat away at the core fundamentals that we started to believe,” Smart said during Southeastern Conference media days. Clearly a sentiment Saban would endorse. Alabama and defending SEC champion Georgia could very well be on a collision course for a championship again, though it’s more likely to be a meeting in the league title game this time. The Tide didn’t win the West last season after falling to Auburn in the regular-season fi-
nale. The Crimson Tide approaches the season widely regarded as the favorite to win a sixth national title in the last decade. That overtime win over his former defensive coordinator’s team did leave Saban with a months-long quarterback controversy: Heralded championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa vs. two-year starter Jalen Hurts . But neither mentor nor star pupil wanted their teams dwelling on that game or last season. “We’re constantly looking for the next edge...” Smart said. Saban’s message to his team: “Forget about what happened last year.” The league welcomes five new head coaches, including Saban disciples Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M and Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee. Fisher returned to his SEC Western Division roots from Florida State after past stints at LSU and Auburn with a 10year, $75 million deal . The primary SEC West challenger to Alabama might be defending champion Auburn, which returns quarterback Jar-
rett Stidham and has one of the league’s most talented defensive lines. But Fisher’s Aggies return 15 starters and Mississippi State has 17 back. South Carolina and Dan Mullen’s Florida seem the most likely to challenge Georgia in the East. Some other things to know about the SEC in 2018:
The favorites East: Georgia. The clear division frontrunner after making it to the brink of the Bulldogs’ first national title since 1980. Kirby Smart must replace tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, along with linebacker Roquan Smith and six other defensive starters. Quarterback Jake Fromm is back after an impressive freshman season (presuming he faces down a challenge from five-star recruit Justin Fields ). West: Alabama. With enviable quarterback options and strong front lines, the Tide remains the team to beat — even after a runner-up division finish to rival Auburn. The Tide defense must replace eight NFL draft picks and the en-
tire starting secondary. Tailback Damien Harris is a stalwart in the offense.
Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia. Baker had nine pass breakups last season to go along with three interceptions, including one in the national championship game. A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi. Might have a hard time matching his huge 2017 numbers (75 catches, 1,252 yards, 11 touchdowns) if only because of QB Shea Patterson’s departure. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama. Anchors the defensive line after racking up 8.5 sacks as a sophomore. Drew Lock , QB, Missouri. Led the nation with an SEC-record 44 touchdown passes, while flirting with 4,000 yards. First-team All-SEC quarterback. Deebo Samuel , WR/RS, South Carolina. Tied for the team lead in 2017 with six touchdowns — three receptions, one run, two kick returns — despite breaking his leg in the third game. Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn. His Please see SEC | 21
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COACH CONTINUED FROM 18
had 20 players named to the All-Central States Football League teams. Among those 20 all-conference selections, 14 of them will return for the 2018 season, including first-team All-CSFL running back Titus Nelson and first-team offensive lineman Tyler Vanlandingham. Nelson finished as the Scots' leading rusher last season, netting 606 yards on the ground on 143 totes and 11 rushing touchdowns. Nelson tied the school record with 11 rushing touchdowns in a single season, and his four rushing scores against Texas College
in the season finale tied former teammate Fabian Buenrostro for the most in a single game in program history. Vanlandingham played a pivotal role in the Scots’ success last season as the top offensive lineman on the team. The Scots will enter the 2018 season as a member of a new conference – the Sooner Athletic Conference. Despite joining a new conference, the Scots will see very similar opponents on their schedule this year. After the CSFL disbanded following the 2017 season, the conference’s membership shifted and joined the SAC. South-
western Assemblies of God, Wayland Baptist, Langston, Oklahoma Panhandle State and Texas Wesleyan are all full-time members in the SAC, while Lyon, Arizona Christian and Texas College joined the league as associate members. Last month, the SAC held its first-ever Football Media Day inside the Davey O’Brien Sports Lounge at The Fort Worth Club in Texas. At the Football Media Day, the SAC announced its Preseason Football Coaches’ Poll, which had the Scots in a tie for fifth with Wayland Baptist. The SAC also announced its preseason awards at the event. Sophomore punter/
kicker Ignacio Gomez was named as the Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year. Gomez connected on 9-of-12 fieldgoal attempts and 37-of-39 extra-point attempts while averaging 39.5 yards on punts to make the All-CSFL team last year. The Scots are set to open the regular season on Aug. 25 at Missouri Baptist, while their home opener will take place on Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. against Arizona Christian in their first Sooner Athletic Conference game. Season tickets and reserved parking spots are still available for this season.
SEC CONTINUED FROM 20
3,158 passing yards as a first-year starter ranks second in school history. Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State. Tied for the league lead with both 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. The sack total was the highest by a Bulldogs player since 2005. Devin White, LB, LSU. Led the league with 133 tackles and was SEC defensive player of the week four
bama cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. are among the potential impact newcomers.
New faces Texas A&M’s Fisher, Florida’s Mullen, Mississippi’s sort of new Matt Luke, Arkansas’ Chad Morris and Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead . Also Alabama has six new assistants, including the coordinators on both sides of the ball. On the field, Georgia tailback Zamir White and Ala-
On the hot seat With five new head coaches, there are fewer in precarious situations. Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason enters Year 5 seeking his first winning season. Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and LSU’s Ed Orgeron might be in some jeopardy with big drop offs.
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