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Prep Football Report

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New player making splash for Fayetteville

FAYETTEVILLE -- A first-year player is taking pressure off first-year starting quarterback Darius Bowers.

Bowers, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior, is excited about the emergence of senior receiver Jon Conley, who hasn't played football since he was a freshman at Ramay Junior High.

"Jon Conley is going to be a great asset for us," Bowers said. "He's fast and agile, and I don't think one person can tackle him. Jon always shows flashes of what he can do, whether it's a little screen pass, or a fade route, we always want to get him the ball because he can do something with it.

"He can be a difference maker for us. He's a weapon."

Conley (6-1, 170) comes from a family steeped with athletic ability. His father, Mike Conley Sr., is a former world champion in the triple jump. His brother, Mike Conley Jr., stars for the Memphis Grizzlies and is one of the highest paid players in the NBA. His sister, Sidney Conley, is an All-American sprinter at Kansas.

Still, Jon Conley has had to overcome a learning curve in his return to the gridiron and credited first-year Bulldogs coach Billy Dawson and his staff with easing him into the offense.

"The coaches have done a good job of helping me," Jon Conley said, "They're really putting everything in front of me to where it's simple for me to where I know my job on a particular play, so it's been good."

Jon Conley said he needed the time off "to get my body right" after a couple of injuries. Now, he said the biggest challenge is getting into "football shape and being able to take hits, run and catch in pads and that kind of thing."

Dawson said he's hopeful Jon Conley can contribute in a major way to an offense that returns four starters off last season's state championship team.

"Jon has been out a few years, so he's just learning the game," Dawson said. "We hope he can give us a vertical threat on the edge and he's pretty physical, too. I've enjoyed watching him progress through the spring and now to where we are."

Youth breeds competition for Mounties

ROGERS -- The Mounties spent most of the opening week of practice focusing on fundamentals, but that's necessary with just six returning starters and a large number sophomores pushing for playing time, coach Mike Loyd said.

"The football field doesn't care how young you are," Loyd said. "It's gonna respond to how tough you are and what kind of will and determination you have. We've got 18 or 19 kids that have not played on Friday night. Fundamentals are still the most important thing outside of just being a competitor."

Loyd praised the work of several sophomores: Receivers Nathan Hahn and Mason Ross, and linemen RJ Long and Elijah Bigham.

"The tempo picked up when they got in there especially Mason and Nathan Hahn," Loyd said. "Seniors Collin McWhorter, Hunter Hawkins and Andrew McGlynn were good leaders. We're excited about the Dakes -- Garrett and Tanner -- coming out. Garrett's a big 6-4, 6-5 frame who can run and jump."

Loyd also pointed out the competition for starting spots are more intense than a year ago.

"It's a little different now that we've got two, three and four deep in some spots," Loyd said. "Last year, if you're walking around and had a heartbeat and you ran out here, you probably got a chance. It's exciting times for Rogers. Even this ninth-grade group is really competitive."

Rogers will shift practice from the morning to 7-9 p.m. in the evening this week with a controlled scrimmage scheduled for Friday evening.

War Eagles eye edge in intensity

ROGERS -- Coach Tony Travis liked his team's intensity to finish the first week of practice, but there were at least a couple of situations that drew his ire.

"We need to be more intense," Travis said. "In most cases when we hit the field on Friday night, the edge is not going to be in our favor as far as size. So we need to be intense. But we've got to be smart about it. When the intensity draws the official's flag that's counterproductive. And we had a couple of those issues."

A few War Eagles could see some action on both sides of the ball, including seniors Trey Kitterman, Jay De La Rosa, Dylan Qualls and junior Ty Graser. But Travis said it won't be all the time.

"Trey and Zach Brown both played well at quarterback this week," Travis said. "We're playing Zach and Jay both offense and defense. That will give our defense a little boost. Those guys are a little faster. Kitterman's playing a little linebacker. Ty Graser ran the ball real well."

Defensive end Landon Evans has dropped some weight in the offseason and moves better now, Travis said. Jheovany Hernandez, who saw action last season at defensive end, was not at practice this week, but is expected to be back on Monday.

Junior linebacker Carter Christian is rounding back into form, after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a junior varsity game and missed the last half of last season. Senior Liam Alderson came out for football for the first time, but his speed and athleticism will likely help in the secondary, Travis said.

"He's learning on the fly," Travis said. "We're tickled to death to have him. He's an intelligent young man, but he doesn't have the experience on Friday."

Heritage will go in full pads this week and a controlled scrimmage is slated for about 8:30 a.m. Friday.

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."

Threats emerge in Red'Dog backfield

SPRINGDALE -- Red'Dogs coach Zak Clark spoke highly of his sophomore class during the spring and summer months.

Running back Darrell Parchman was one of the first names mentioned when discussing the group, and the shifty sophomore has already made waves prior to seeing his first varsity action. In July at the Southwest Elite 7-on-7 Showcase, Parchman's name began to spread.

Lined up alongside senior quarterback Layne Hutchins, the running back caught a pass in the flat, stuck his right foot in the ground and juked left, leaving defenders falling out of the play as he trotted into the end zone untouched.

"He catches the ball really well and will be the first running back I've had that is a dangerous threat (catching the ball) out of the backfield," Clark said.

A fan in the stands at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium recorded the play. The seven-second video was later picked up by a Facebook group, "Football from Overtime." Since July 24, it has 190,000 views and more than 2,000 comments.

Springdale, with one week of fall camp down, feels good about its depth at running back. Junior Garrett Vaughan rushed for 443 yards and three touchdowns last season, including a score in Springdale's playoff loss to Bryant. Jonathan Lopez provides a home run threat out of the backfield as well.

"(Parchman) is pretty electric. He'll fit into the mix somewhere either at running back or corner," Clark said. "(Vaughan's) body is starting to change. He's a smart kid we can do a lot with. He and (Lopez) have both put on some weight and are stronger than they were."

Wolverines' experience paying dividends in second season

BENTONVILLE -- While most teams begin their preseason workouts Monday, Bentonville West coach Bryan Pratt used that day to get meetings with players and parents out of the way before the Wolverines hit the field Tuesday afternoon.

"Football has changed since I played a long time ago," Pratt said. "Back then, you had the two-a-days and the all-days because you had so much stuff to get in before the season started.

"With all we do during spring ball and during the summer, it's not like we haven't done anything. You still have four weeks before your first scrimmage, so you have plenty of time to get things in. It's a long grind, when you also add the length of the season."

Things have been noticeably different as West begins its second season. Pratt said he notices a sense of maturity around his team that wasn't there last season when everything was new.

Many Wolverines were getting their first taste of varsity action at this time last year, but the experience they earned from that inaugural campaign has carried over to this season.

"We talk about stacking good practices together," Pratt said. "The more you can stack together, the better you are. Through the first three days, we've had high intensity practices, and we have a energetic team that is a little more focused than we were last year."

West has slightly more than 100 players dressed out -- compared to 70 at this time last year -- but summer injuries have left their mark, particularly on the Wolverines' defense. Linebackers Sebastian Caniglia, Hunter Swoboda and Levi Rutherford all are on the sidelines to begin fall drills.

Caniglia, West's leading tackler last season, hopes to return during the second half of the season as he recovers from a knee injury he suffered at a Tulsa team camp, while Swoboda and Rutherford could be back before the season opener Sept. 1 against Pryor, Okla. Swoboda, a transfer from Pulaski Robinson along with his brother Tucker, was hurt during a combine in Little Rock, while Rutherford is recovering from offseason surgery.

Tigers' offense shines in full-pad practice

BENTONVILLE -- Bentonville High's offense put on a display Saturday morning as the Tigers scrimmaged to go along with the first day high school teams could practice in full pads.

Seniors Nathan Lyons and Kam'ron Mays-Hunt connected on a 50-yard pass on the third play, then hooked up again four plays later for a 10-yard touchdown. Each of Bentonville's three offensive units scored a pair of touchdowns against its defensive counterparts in the 90-minute workout.

"We've been excited about the way our offense has been operating," Tigers coach Jody Grant said. "I think we're farther along, offensively, than at this point in previous years. I think it has a lot to do with how our quarterbacks operate and the leadership of that group.

"Defensively, we do great things and a lot of neat things, but the consistency is a concern right now. We have some stuff we have to clean up, but we're excited where we are at right now. Our kids are practicing hard."

The younger players also had their chances to shine. Zach Lee, a lanky sophomore receiver who is still "new to the game," caught a pair of touchdown passes, and Grant thinks he could find a role on Friday nights.

Grant also pointed out Landon Beeler, who along with Tyler Johnson has been moved over to work some on the defensive side. Lyons, who mostly played receiver last season but saw some limited action at quarterback, continues to draw praise from Grant and the coaching staff for his play.

"His leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, how he's handling the offense -- it's awesome," Grant said. "Hopefully we can continue to do that, and I think people will realize the Bentonville Tigers have a dang good quarterback."

Bentonville will begin its second week of workouts at 6 a.m. Monday through Wednesday, then hold its second scrimmage Friday morning.

Quarterback's improvement key for Farmington

FARMINGTON -- Coach Mike Adams has been encouraged by the decision making of seniors Trey Waggle and Caleb Williams.

Waggle (6-0, 170) is entering his second year as the starting quarterback and, with eight starters back on offense, should be able to generate more than the 18 points per game averaged last season. He completed 50.8 percent of his passes for 1,250 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year.

"He's gotten better over the summer," Adams said. "He's a great athlete and throws the ball really well; his big issue has been decision making. Some decisions that cost us turnovers, and he's improved on that and continues to work on it. That's a positive sign."

Williams (5-9, 190) rushed for team-high 423 yards on 109 carries as a junior and will be aided by four returning starters on the offensive line.

"Caleb Williams has really impressed me," Adams said. "He's making better decisions as far as cuts and being more aggressive by running downhill. He's a sprinter on the track team and he's a 300-pound bencher, so he's got a lot of strength.

"When he decides to plant that foot in the ground, he can be a load, so that's a positive."

Adams plans to "keep fresh legs" in the backfield with Williams backed up by seniors Jared Oskey and Javin Jowers, and juniors Reid Turner and Dimariae Donovan. Oskey averaged seven yards per carry last season while Turner had a team-best four rushing touchdowns. Jowers, who starts at cornerback, can line up at receiver or running back while Donovan is "a little guy, but really, really quick and has a really good jump cut that can make people miss."

Sports on 08/06/2017

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