Prep Football Report
Low numbers to impact team depth, Gravette coach says.
GRAVETTE — Gravette coach Bill Harrelson is fighting the same issue a lot of schools across the state are — low numbers.
The Lions opened practice last week with about 36 players, which Harrelson said is about 15-16 fewer than what the program normally has.
“We’re normally at 50-52 players,” Harrelson said. “Last year we had 52, but even that was down.”
Harrelson said he could not pinpoint one particular reason why the participation numbers are lower, but cited several factors as likely causes.
“Football is not for everybody,” he said. “We all know that. I feel like we sugar-coat it as much as we can, but we’ve got what we’ve got.”
The fear of concussions and the potential for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) are factors that many coaches across the country are saying is driving down the number of high school football players. But Harrelson said he does not believe that is the case at Gravette.
“I have not had one kid say, ‘My mom does not want me to play football,’” he said. “There’s probably some out there. We’ve had several go straight basketball, we’ve lost a couple to grades, a couple have moved off. But I haven’t had anybody say ‘I’m scared of getting a concussion.’”
Harrelson said the decrease in numbers will be seen in team depth, something that becomes more important as the season moves on and players get banged up.
“We basically lost an entire scout team,” Harrelson said. “But we’ve been real pleased with what our kids have done this season. They’ve done a great job and we’re looking forward to the season.”
The Lions will join with Greenland for a tri-team scrimmage Aug. 21 at Farmington. Gravette opens the regular season Sept. 1 at Ozark.
Elks don’t anticipate drop-off in 2017
ELKINS — Elkins still has much to prove after going 9-3 and winning its first conference championship since 1993.
Are the Elks for real or a onehit wonder after losing 17 seniors, including standout players such as Jake Strode and Colton Vaught? Clinton is picked by league coaches to win the 3A-1 Conference despite losing 28-14 to the Elks on their home field last year.
“That was a big class for us, but we’ll have 11 seniors this year that saw a lot of action last year,” Elkins coach Chad Harbison said. “Strode and Vaught put up some big numbers, but these kids who are coming back flew under the radar a bit. We expect a big year from a guy like Lee Evans, who played safety and wide receiver for us.”
Harbison also likes the potential of sophomore Quinn McClain, who’ll replace Strode at quarterback. McClain saw some varsity action late last fall after leading the junior Elks to an 8-2 record and a conference championship.
“He’s a good athlete who can run and throw it a mile,” Harbison said. “He’s just got to show it in a game.”
Elkins opens the season Sept. 1 at Shiloh Christian.
Pirates undergo attitude adjustment
GREENLAND — Greenland is hard at work in trying to erase the memories from last season when the Pirates lost six games, including 45-0 to Clinton and 56-15 to Elkins.
“Our attitude and work ethic is a million times better,” Greenland coach Lee Larkan said. “We worked the kids harder and made it tougher on them and they responded.”
Larkan cited junior Levi Vaughn as a prime example of the Greenland players who’ve rededicated themselves to football. Vaughn is a basketball player who also joined the Pirates in off-season drills.
“Levi was at the front of every sprint when we were running the hills and he was in on every tackle during practice in the spring,” Larkan said.
Vaughn will start at linebacker and be the backup quarterback for the Pirates, who open the season Sept. 1 at home against West Fork.
Tigers still have plenty of talent
PRAIRIE GROVE — Replacing top players is no big deal at Prairie Grove, which has won four of the past five 4A-1 Conference championships.
Quarterback Zeke Laird and wide receiver Isaac Disney are among those who graduated after leading the Tigers to a 12-1 record last season. But there are talented players who return, including running back Anthony Johnson and tight end Demarkus Cooper.
Dustin Burton is a senior who should see increased playing time in the backfield and at linebacker for the Tigers.
“[Burton] is strong and strongwilled,” Prairie Grove coach Danny Abshier said. “With Cooper, we’re going to move him around on offense rather than just having him sit out there at tight end. He’s got excellent hands and we’ll try to use him like we did Dylan Soehner when he was here.”
Prairie Grove opens the season Aug. 29 at Farmington.
Gravette football coach Bill Harrelson (center) instructs his players Wednesday during practice in Gravette.