After scrimmaging Fort Smith Northside on Friday, the Wampus Cats are turning their attention to the state’s No. 1 ranked team, Bentonville.
According to Conway coach Clint Ashcraft, the scrimmage with the Grizzles was eye-opening. Saturday the coaches reviewed the scrimmage against Northside, but then wasted no time with breaking down the film on the Bentonville Tigers.
"We found a lot of things we have to work on this week," Ashcraft said. "Our guys were just shell-shocked and big-eyed in the scrimmage. I thought that we really played slow. I think the guys had to do too much thinking instead of carrying out an assignment because it didn’t seem natural to them."
Friday’s scrimmage was the first time that the Cats had an opportunity to show off their new offense and defense against another opponent in full gear. Conway participated in a few team camps this summer going against other teams in drills, but full pads could not be used at those team camps.
"We’re having to re-evaluate some of guys at some of the positions," Ashcraft said. "We thought that some of them were going to be able to get the job done. Maybe we need to keep looking. I’m not sure. It looks like we have to scale back on some things, so the guys can get a better grasp on what we’re doing, and play faster."
The Cats will have a few days to prepare for the first chapter of the Ashcraft era Friday in Bentonville. The last time Conway went to northwest Arkansas to battle the Tigers, it didn’t turn out to well for the Wampus Cats. In fact, coach Barry Lunney Sr.’s bunch built a comfortable 21-0 halftime lead before winning the game 35-6.
Eyes are going to be fixed on Tiger Stadium on Friday as the No. 1 team in Arkansas takes the field. But, Ashcraft said his group is not going to back down to the challenge of facing the heavy favorites.
"I think we couldn’t have asked for a tougher opponent to open the season against," Ashcraft said. "They have one of the top teams in the state, especially in 7A football. They have 150 kids out, and they’re well-coached. We’re just gonna have to put blinders on and go in there to win the game."
During the scrimmage, the Cats’ first offense didn’t score a touchdown, but the starters on defense gave up two touchdowns. Conway’s second-team offense managed to score twice on short touchdown runs by Corven Alexander and quarterback Aaron Latta.
One of the biggest questions for the Cats going into this summer was who would start the season as the starting quarterback. After Conway’s senior bowl, which is a big intrasquad scrimmage that capped spring practices, Conway assistant head coach Scott Schwartz said they were looking for a leader to emerge at quarterback. It only took a couple of weeks into the summer season before the Cats’ coaching staff found their guy. In the middle of the summer, Ashcraft said that Xavier Acklin had stepped into that leadership role at quarterback. And last year’s starting quarterback, Chase Calcagni was moved to receiver. Patrick Mann and Latta are getting snaps at quarterback with the second team.