Both Mountainburg and Cedarville will be looking at new faces on the field at both teams look to replace last season’s senior class.
Cedarville football coach Kevin Lea was able to get on campus in time to begin evaluating his football team during spring drills. Which, for the first-year Pirates coach, will be important once Cedarville starts August practice.
"To me, it’s all about player evaluation," Lea said. "It’s all about who can play and who can’t. We’re going to be doing a few things different offensively and a few things different defensively. We don’t have Dylan Shelton anymore, who was a great drop-back passer. We’re going to do more option and miss direction."
Lea moved over from Lavaca, where he served as an assistant, to a program that ended the 2013 season in on a down note. The Pirates started 5-0 last season but finished 5-5 before forfeiting some wins. The Pirates, who will end spring drills June 6, started spring practice with 45 players.
Lea’s first order of business was move wide receiver Cruz Ray to quarterback.
"He’s a solid leader and he has a strong personality," Lea said. "I also like the fact that’s a multi-sport athlete. I hate that the world’s come to specialization."
The Pirates also return All-Conference receiver Abraham Hernandez.
Hernandez, who placed 17th overall in the recent Arkansas High School Decathlon, had 28 receptions to lead Cedarville’s offense with 482 yards and eight touchdowns.
Lea said he wants his players to adopt a "team first" attitude.
"I think most importantly we want the kids that are going to sell out for the program," he said.
Coach Tom Harrell’s Dragons will again be a little top-heavy when it comes to underclassmen this coming season. Quarterback Quency Pixley, who passed for 570 yards (33-of-54) at the end of the 2013 season, was among 25 players in camp, Harrell said. A sophomore, Pixley started the final three games of the 2013 season.
The son of two-time all-state Mountainburg quarterback Bobby Pixley, Quency led the Dragons’ junior high squad to an 8-1 record last fall. He passed for 15 touchdowns and ran for four more.
"He has pretty good bloodlines," Harrell said.
Harrell, who has amassed a 64-42-1 since 2004, will have five starters back, including Pixley.
Mountainburg will also bring back junior running back Samuel Copeland, the team’s leading rusher. Copeland rushed for 667 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught nine passes for 95 yards, tops among underclassmen. Clayton Stephenson provided a second punch on the ground as he covered 579 yards on 92 carries with nine touchdowns. Stephenson also had 66 tackles (49 solo) with 1.5 sacks and an interception.
"Our complete focus was on the offensive line," he said. "Trying to find replacements for those that graduated."