Prep Foot­ball Re­port

Low num­bers to im­pact team depth, Gravette coach says.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Chip Souza Rick Fires con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Gravette foot­ball coach Bill Har­rel­son (cen­ter) in­structs his play­ers Wed­nes­day dur­ing prac­tice in Gravette.

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