Departures leave voids on Wildcats’ defense
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.”