There has been a major overhaul of the Conway High football system.
Since the Wampus Cats came back from Christmas break, they’ve witnessed changes made to football program almost on a daily basis.
Conway has gotten a new synthetic field turf in John McConnell Stadium. The Cats have gotten new Under Armour uniforms, both home and away. Another one of the most noticeable changes is on the playing field. The Cats have scrapped the predominantly run-oriented, wing-T offense for a balanced spread attack. Defensively, Conway’s playbook thickened, adding more man and zone coverage. And, the tempo of practice has quickened.
"Just bringing in a new coach brought excitement," Wesley Hoover said. "The new uniforms are awesome, and the turf looks great. All the changes just have made us work harder. It inspires us that we have people behind us making all of this possible. We’re ready to go."
Junior Marquez Massey wants Conway to again be a feared football powerhouse in the state. He believes all of the changes that the coaching staff has made in practice are pushing the Cats in the right direction.
"We’ve just been hitting it real hard," Massey said. "It’s definitely more up-tempo this year. Last year, practice was really slow, so we weren’t used to that at first. But, now everybody has gotten acclimated to our fast way of doing practice with the periods."
"All of the changes have been wonderful," Fadil Prelvukaj said. "First of all, with the new turf, it just looks great. It’s a much different atmosphere with how coach Ashcraft does practice. Practices used to be very cut-and-dry with some breaks. Now, the pace is fast, and there are no breaks, which is going to help us in the games. We don’t have water breaks, but there is always water around if we need it."
Prelvukaj continued, "We consistently have periods. It’s nine of them on both sides of the ball and we have to go through all of them. It’s just a really nice way of practicing. Coach Ashcraft has made a lot of nice changes. We’re actually passing the ball now. Linemen have a responsibility now instead of just getting on the ground and hitting the man in front of you. We actually have to think a little bit."
Two other of Prelvukaj’s fellow linemen are Austin Cole and Dylan Polk. Polk, who has the responsibility of making the line calls before the snap, is penciled in as the starter at center for the Cats’ season opener at Bentonville.
"It’s been different for me because last year I was a sophomore and I didn’t get to play, but now I get to play with these other seniors," Polk said. "It’s been a new experience for me with using the new running and passing games. It’s all quite interesting. We’re all contributing to make sure that our O-line stays firm in our run blocks and pass protection."
Cole, who is set to start at a guard position, echoed many things Polk said.
"Last year, we barely worked on pass protection, so we didn’t have a good grasp on it once coach Ashcraft came," Cole said. "Since starting in the spring, that’s pretty much all that we have been doing, so we expect to go out there and give the quarterback plenty of time. We like how we have the field spread out now, and they don’t know what’s coming. We have all type of screens, just a bunch of stuff loaded in our playbooks."