Faulkner County teams emerged from preseason scrimmages healthy and confident of their strengths and more aware of their weaknesses.
"I told our kids you want to play good people because they can expose the things you need to work on," said Mayflower coach Jed Davis, whose Eagles scrimmaged Paris, a ranked Class AAA team in some polls.
All teams open the season next week with Vilonia the first to play in the First Security Kickoff Classic on Tuesday night at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Evaluating the scrimmages;
The Eagles scrimmaged a Class 3A team Little Rock Episcopal at Little Rock. No official score was kept in a format that went 15 plays on offense by each team, 15 plays on defense, then 10 and 10 and a regular, 12-minute quarter.
"There were multiple scores and we scored more than they did," said first-year coach Michael Carter. "We have improved from our team camp, and that’s what I was looking for. I felt like we made strides. I was pleased with the effort. We know what to do, now it’s going out and executing."
Carter was especially pleased with the defense, one of the Eagles’ major weaknesses in recent years.
"I was concerned about how we would react on defense," Carter said. "We came out and made some plays on defense. We have a ways to go but we have improved."
Carter was happy with the way quarterback Tanner Stevenson operated in the new Spread offense and said Chandler Ferrand had a good night catching the ball.
At Heber Springs, the Panthers scrimmaged a half against Central Arkansas Christian and a half against Heber Springs.
Greenbrier scored three touchdowns against CAC and gave up one. The Panthers’ outscored Heber Springs, 4-1. For the evening, Greenbrier scored on all but two possessions.
"We executed pretty well against CAC. They scored on their first possession and we stopped them after that. We played very physical and our defense chased the ball very well," coach Randy Tribble said. "We played very good team defense."
Greenbrier scored three touchdowns in the first quarter against Heber Springs.
The coach was pleased about how senior quarter Neal Burcham executed the offense.
"He’s not perfect, but he’s pretty good," Tribble said. "He did a good job getting the ball to the open guys."
Tribble said he was pleased how running back Austin Fischer played, both at running back and in the slot. JoJo Oluokon and Jesse May had strong games at receiver. He said Ryan Alexander and Paul Easley had strong efforts in both the offensive and defensive lines.
Linebackers Blake Henderson and Gavin Roberts receiver Seth Peters and offensive linemen A.J. Boyd were held out of the scrimmage with injuries. All but Boyd, who is questionable, should be available for the season opener at Beebe.
The Eagles scrimmaged Paris and Subiaco Academy at Paris. The first units went 10 plays on offense and defense against Paris, then followed the same format against Subiaco. Then, the second units followed the same format against the two teams. Then, Mayflower scrimmaged a 15-minute quarter with Paris and a 15-minute quarter with Subiaco.
"It turned out to be the longest scrimmage of my life," Davis said. "We got sluggish the last five minutes, and I was concerned about conditioning. Then, on the bus, I looked over the chart and we had played over 160 snaps. We had played the equivalent of a whole game and that’s why we were dragging."
In the 15-minute scrimmage, Paris prevailed 21-14.
"Paris is expected to challenge Paris for their conference championship and I was really pleased we matched up evenly with them," Davis said. "They are big and physical with a lot of speed. We were not ready for their option out of the double-wing but once we adjusted, we did pretty well."
The Eagles downed Subiaco, 28-7.
"I thought we dominated them on both sides," Davis said. "But in the scrimmage we got two different looks from a double-wing to the spread. Our offense started off slowly but got better as the scrimmage went on. Our new quarterback (Chris Crosson) kept getting better. That gave me a lot of confidence. He was nervous at first. Taylor Mathis (running back) ran well and broke tackles and it was nice to see he’s still in form."
Davis said he was pleased with the aggressiveness on the Eagles’ new attacking style of defense that produced several sacks, a tackle for loss, four interceptions and two recovered fumbled. Sophomore safety Bradley Chambliss had three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.
"Our front six on defense had a big night," he said. "They all flew to the ball and made plays. We gave up two big plays but we ended up running the player down before he scored."
Deric Parks, the Eagles’ standout offensive and defensive lineman, has missed five weeks with a knee injury and Davis said "we are crossing fingers he’ll be ready for our season opener against Marianna."
Davis continued, "I told the kids that I was pleased but Paris exposed enough things that I am not happy where we are."
The Eagles hosted Marion of 7A/6A East and prevailed 27-23.
"I was really proud of our kids; they did well," coach Jim Stanley said. "We were playing a team with 18 returning starters and I was happy we played with them."
James Sax, David Jauch, Kyle Wyatt and Micahel Atkinson all scored touchdowns and James Gardner kicked four extra points.
Trey Wyatt and Jacob Gammon recovered fumbles.
Stanley said linebacker/fullback Jacob Wiedmeier has missed two weeks because of injury but he hopes he could be available for the season opener.
"We’re now really have about three days to get ready for Sylvan Hills," Stanley said. "We’re intensifying our preparations."