De­par­tures leave voids on Wild­cats’ de­fense

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL -

SPRING­DALE — News of former Har-Ber star line­backer Oliver Nasi­lai mov­ing away from the pro­gram over the sum­mer came un­ex­pect­edly to most in the 7A-West.

The Brigham Young Univer­sity ver­bal com­mit was the rock in the mid­dle of the Wild­cats’ stout de­fense a sea­son ago, col­lect­ing 61 tack­les, in­clud­ing 14 for loss, as Har-Ber claimed a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive con­fer­ence ti­tle and fin­ished 8-3. Nasi­lai’s de­par­ture was a “fam­ily need,” coach Chris Wood said.

The se­nior’s ab­sence now opens the door for others. New faces will take over at out­side line­backer as well af­ter All-State se­lec­tion Danny Dou­glas and Bryce Yates grad­u­ated. Wood says he has a hand­ful of op­tions ca­pa­ble of fill­ing those roles, and play­ers are ea­ger to prove them­selves.

“The thing about us is the next guy will step up,” the coach said. “We’ve got a num­ber of guys that are ready and chomp­ing at the bit, and it starts with your se­niors. We’ve got guys ready to play and con­trib­ute to this pro­gram.”

Se­nior Pay­ton Long (6-0, 190) recorded nine tack­les last year, in­clud­ing a sea­son-high four in Har-Ber’s 54-14 win against Jef­fer­son City (Mo.) He also re­cov­ered a fum­ble against Ben­tonville West. Trevor Alder­son (6-2, 225) has good size for the po­si­tion, im­press­ing coaches this the spring, and se­nior Alex Arce (5-9, 180) could see play­ing time as well. Alder­son to­taled 11 tack­les in six games last fall.

“They all want to be out there with those other 10 de­fen­sive guys,” Wood said. “They want to get af­ter it.”

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