Eagles ranked by Hooten’s magazine to finish eighth in 5A-West

Huntsville Eagles Assistant Football Coach Zack Wiggins goes over offensive strategies with the team during practice Tuesday morning.

Coaches in the 5A-West Conference picked Huntsville to finish last this fall, according to the annual Hooten’s Arkansas Football.

Elkins was picked to finish fifth in the 4A-4 Conference.

Harrison was tabbed as favorites to win the 5A-West this fall, followed by Morrilton, Greenbrier, Alma, Vilonia, Farmington, Clarksville and Huntsville.

“We don’t worry a whole lot about that,” Huntsville coach Matt Williams said of the ranking. “We’ll see how it all plays out. We do have a very tough conference. There’s no easy games at all, but we’re confident we can win some games and sneak up on some people.”

The Eagles last week took part in a 7-on-7 passing tournament in Branson, Mo. Huntsville will be in Branson on July 31 and Aug. 1 for a team camp. Daily varsity practice will begin on Monday, Aug. 5.

The Eagles have a final 7-on-7 event at Lincoln this coming Monday, the second such event in Lincoln this month. One planned for July 15 was canceled.

Williams said the Eagles faced tough competition in Branson.

“As far as getting better and finding a few more things out about the team, it was a good day,” he said. “They changed the schedule on us the night before and we got moved into a tougher pool. We were also missing a handful of players for different reasons. We didn’t win any matches. We competed and got better as the  day went on.”

Williams, in his first year as head coach, said the team is learning new things this summer.

“We are still learning on both sides of the ball,” he wrote. “Defensively, we are adjusting to some of the changes and we need to find more depth. Offensively, we are finding out about how people can help us in various positions.

“To us, that’s what summer stuff like 7-on-7 is for. We are trying to get better and prepare ourselves for September. We are doing that and continue to do that each time we go out.”

Huntsville last season finished 2-8 overall and 0-7 in the 5A-West. The Eagles will open the 2019 schedule on Friday, Sept. 6, at Gentry.

“We’re just going to go out and play hard and, you know, we really have nothing to lose, so we’re just going to play hard and see what happens,” Williams said.

Senior Eagle Jonathan “Bubba” Rodden was picked by Hooten’s as an Unheralded Star on the offensive line.

The coaches said Huntsville’s offensive line will be a strength this fall, while inexperienced skill players will be a weakness.

The 5A-West has the state’s top recruit for all classes in Morrilton quarterback Jacolby Criswell. Harrison running back Gabe Huskey is ranked as the state’s 35th top recruit while teammate Brooks Both, a linebacker, is 39th. Michael Powell of Clarksville is ranked 48th in the state.

Hooten’s has picked Pulaski Academy No. 1 in its preseason poll for Class 5A, followed by Harrison, Little Rock McClellan, Little Rock Christian and Morrilton. Wynne is picked No. 6, followed by Greenbrier, Little Rock Parkview, Batesville and Texarkana.

LR Christian beat Pulaski Academy in last year’s 5A State Championship game.

The Elkins Elks were picked by coaches to finish fifth in the 4A-4 Conference this fall. Ozark was picked to win the conference, followed by Dardanelle, Mena, Pottsville, Elkins, Waldron, Dover and Subiaco Academy.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Elkins coach Bryan Hutson. “Your bigger schools, your Ozark, Dardanelle, Mena, they’ve got good numbers. They’re a lot larger than us and they’re just reloading. I think the 4A-4 will really surprise people this year. Ozark is really good.”

Hutson said he has only two seniors on this year’s team. The Elks played at 7-on-7 camps in June and will take part in team camps throughout July in Bentonville and Springdale Har-Ber. Another team camp was scheduled for this week in Berryville.

Elkins is working three days a week, mainly on conditioning, he said.

“We graduated 18 seniors. We’re going to be young,” he said. “I think we surprised a lot of people last year. We had a real successful year, especially after having to move up in classification for the first time.

Hutson said his small senior class is highly unusual, especially for a Class 4A school. Normally a senior class makes up about a third of the varsity football roster.

“A lot of kids who are going to have to play on Friday night don’t have a whole lot of meaningful Friday night experience,” he said. “We’ve just got a lot of young guys who are going to have to play and that’s the way it goes. The kids’ attitudes have been really, really good so far.”

Senior Quinn McClain, a two-time All-State quarterback at Elkins, transferred over the winter to Fayetteville High School for the 2019 season. Hutson said junior Kain Johnson will step in for McClain.

“The quarterback we’ve got in there is really good and really capable of doing a great job,” Hutson said. “He’s a point guard on our basketball team. He’s just always been behind Quinn.”

The Elks finished 7-4 overall last year and 4-3 in the 4A-4. Elkins was fourth behind Ozark, Mena and Dardanelle.

Hooten’s picked Arkadelphia as its preseason No. 1 team in Class 4A.

Elkins will open the 2019 season on Sept. 6 by hosting Greenland. The Elks will visit Huntsville on Sept. 20 for a nonconference game.

The Arkansas Activities Association has moved Huntsville to Class 4A for the 2020-2022 cycle. They will compete in the 4A-1 Conference against Berryville, Elkins, Gentry, Gravette, Green Forest, Prairie Grove and Shiloh Christian. Pea Ridge is moving to the 5A-West.

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