By MARK BURKE

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

VILONIA — The Vilonia Eagles will have several new faces on the defensive line, but senior Chris Calhoun won’t be one of them.

Instead, Calhoun will be back at defensive end for the third straight year and returns as the only starter on the Eagles’ defensive front. He plays both sides of the ball, as he also fills the left guard position on the offensive line.

But defense is what really makes Calhoun stand out. Vilonia, which gave up around 26 points per game en route to a 7-4 season, switched to a 4-2 defense in the spring. Calhoun is one of the leaders Eagles coach Jim Stanley is relying heavily on.

"He has great focus," Stanley said. "He understands the position and how to play it."

He’s also found the end zone from his defensive end position. He returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown in last season’s matchup with Alma.

The Eagles had their share of tough breaks last season, which ended with a first-round loss to Batesville in the Class 5A state playoffs. But with the start of another season and a good deal of experience back, Calhoun is optimistic about Vilonia’s chances in 2011.

"We’ve got a lot of returning people," Calhoun said. "We’re going to step it up a notch this year."

The trick?

"We’ve got to keep mentally strong and not make mistakes," Calhoun said.

Calhoun added a strong work ethic through the offseason and spring practices has helped the Eagles make strides toward more positive results.

"We work really hard in practice and are all mentally tough," Calhoun said.

Just like their defensive leader.