ALMA — A competitive field of teams will again compete in the 9th Lumber One 7-on-7 Showcase at Alma on Friday.
“We’re excited to bring that kind of caliber football teams for a big 7-on-7 tournament,” Alma Coach Rusty Bush said. “We think it’s one of the best. We have an elite field of football teams.”
Bentonville, Bentonville West, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Rogers Heritage of the 7A-West will be among the teams as well as neighboring schools Northside, Southside, Greenwood, and Van Buren will compete in the tournament in addition to host Alma. Green Forest and Barton round out the field.
The round-robin schedule will begin at 9 a.m. with single-elimination bracket play starting at 2 p.m. The championship game will be played at 4:30 p.m.
“In the afternoon, we’ll have a single-elimination tournament,” Bush said. “All of those northwest Arkansas schools and the River Valley teams, there is some really good talent coming into Alma for sure.”
The tournament will feature top returning quarterbacks Bryce Perkins of Van Buren, Joe Trusty of Alma, Hunter Houston of Greenwood, Carter Hensley of Rogers Heritage and Jake Casey of Bentonville West. Other teams like Northside, Fayetteville and Springdale are filling quarterback positions.
Tournament director Bryan Smith has run the tournament since he started it in Charleston and moved it to Alma four years ago.
“He does a phenomenal job of communicating with those coaches and putting on a first-class tournament,” Bush said. “Bryan and the Alma community have really taken this upon themselves and made it a great tournament. Our administration and our school district, people love coming to that place and playing in that facility.”
Fayetteville won last year’s tournament with a 36-20 win over Southside in the championship game after finishing pool play 4-0-1.
Alma will also participate in a team camp at Hendrix College on June 6-7 and will go against Conway, White Hall, Fayetteville, Farmington, Little Rock Mills, and Bryant.
Hillbillies Stay Close to Home
Ozark will participate in five team camps over the summer and forego 7-on-7 tournaments.
“We’re lifting and getting our sprint work done outside,” Ozark coach Jeremie Burns said. “Then we work on our different skills in their group.”
Ozark participated with Mena, Two Rivers and Charleston on Wednesday in a team camp at Charleston.
Landon Wright, a three-sport athlete, returns at quarterback and leads the Hillbillies while several running backs had good runs on Wednesday.
“Landon Wright has been playing basketball and baseball, but he’s had a good spring,” Burns said. “Eli Masingale had a couple of big runs. Kyle Archer had some big runs. M.J. Parker and Todd Williams caught touchdown passes.”
Masingale finished third in the 182-198 weight division in the state weightlifting meet in May with a combined 600 pounds in the power clean and bench press.
Ozark currently has 56 players out and 61 in junior high.
“Our numbers are good,” Burns said. “We’ve got some big classes coming through right now.”
Ozark will spend the summer looking to shore up an offensive line that was depleted by graduation.
“We’ve got some stuff to work on especially up front on the offensive line,” Burns said. “We’re tinkering with some stuff to see what the best combinations are especially at center and the offensive and defensive lines. We’re trying to find out if we can play some guys one way instead of two ways if we can get away from it, and keep them fresh. We rotated everybody to get them on the field. We’ll do that the first couple of camps and then towards of July start cutting back and specialize a little bit more. Right now, we’re trying to get a look at everybody.”
Ozark will return to Charleston for an 8-school team camp on June 6 and a 10-school team camp on June 13, and is at Pottsville and at home in July for team camps./
Ozark goes north to the 4A-1 in the new two-year conference alignment to join an all northwest Arkansas conference. Ozark opens the season with a scrimmage game against Alma on Aug. 15.
Max Washausen begins his seventh season at Cedarville, the second longest tenure in 42-year history of Cedarville football, with a challenge to his seniors.
“This group is every eager,” Washausen said. “They can be the very first class to make the playoffs three consecutive years. This past group didn’t make it as sophomores. We’re looking for this group to go to the playoffs three straight years. I think they can do it. They’re eager about that.”
Washausen met with his seniors after spring practices going into the summer to discuss their goals.
“We broke our goals down and we want to be playing week 11,” Washausen said. “As things go on we can achieve more goals, but the first goal is to make the playoffs.”
Cedarville began the summer with a four-school team camp on Monday and will go to a passing league with Gentry, Gravette, Siloam Springs JV, and Springdale JV in Siloam Springs on the next two Mondays and then the first two Mondays after the mandatory two-week dead period in July.
Washausen has been encouraged by the effort of his Pirates.
“It’s been great as far as our attendance,” Washausen said. “That’s going to lead us in the right direction.”
Cedarville will have to replace a huge portion of its offensive production due to graduation.
Senior Jace Baker has already shown signs he can be a bellcow after making a position move despite zero varsity carries in his career.
“He started at linebacker last year and had 122 tackles,” Washausen said. “We’re going to move him to the backfield on offense at fullback. We project him to have a huge season. He’s a high-energy kid. He never gets tired. With the backfield we had last year, we didn’t need to use him. He has really stood out.”
Twin brothers Lane and Levi Hightower will also fill holes on offense with Lane taking over at quarterback and Levi as a ballcarrier in the backfield.
“They started in the secondary last year,” Washausen said. “They’ve had really good offseasons.”
Colton Arnold had carries last year at fullback and halfback. He competed in the state Decathlon in May.
Cedarville will also go to a team camp on July 21 in Mena.
The Pirates will go to Quitman for a scrimmage game on Aug. 16.
Busby’s Show Now
The Bruins are set to turn the controls of their high-powered over to junior Kel Busby.
Busby, whose uncle Bo was an All-Southwest Conference safety for the Arkansas Razorbacks, has an offer from Dave Van Horn to pitch for the Razorbacks.
Busby saw quite a bit of playing time last year for Pulaski Academy in a backup role. He completed 41-of-60 passes for 538 yards and five touchdowns.
“He didn’t play a whole lot, but he did play some,” Pulaski Academy Anthony Lucas said. “He does have game ability. He’s had some reps. We’re going to take it one day at a time. He’s so athletic, we’ve got to make sure that he stays football smart and not try to use his athletic ability to make plays. We’re excited about Kel.”
Busby now takes over one of the highest profile positions in Arkansas high school football as quarterback of the Bruins.
“Kel can be as good as he wants to be,” Lucas said. “He’s very athletic. He throws the ball well. He’s been in baseball so he’s still knocking off some dust, but he has a chance to be really good.”
Pulaski Academy will play in the 6A-West this season after being elevated in classification after being deemed dominant in the new Competitive Equity Factor.
Pulaski Academy scrimmages Class 7A champion Bryant on Aug. 16, opens the regular season on Aug. 26 against Class 4A champion Robinson, opens the 6A-West schedule at Russellville on Sept. 9, travels to Van Buren on Oct. 14 and visits Greenwood on Oct. 28 for one of the most-anticipated games of the regular season.
“I’m excited and our team is excited about moving into 6A,” Lucas said. “We look forward to it.”
Offense garners Tigers’ attention
Green Forest coach Greg Tibbitt said his team has placed a lot of emphasis on offensive improvement during its summer workouts.
The Tigers’ workout sessions consist of lifting weights on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Wednesdays are utilized to get in as much work on offense as possible.
“Offense is our focal point right now,” Tibbitt said. “We lost to Cedarville 16-0 and didn’t give up an offensive touchdown. We lost to Gentry 13-0 and they were 6-0 at the time. We need to be able to finish drives and put points on the scoreboard.
“I felt like we were really solid defensively last year. Other than Shiloh Christian, we were in every game and did a really good job with our defense. We just couldn’t help them out offensively, and we’re trying to develop the offense more. We’re developing the passing game by teaching kids how to run the simple routes and reach coverages.”
Green Forest returns a pair of three-year starters at receiver in Izaak Merida and Joel Salgado, as well as Isaiah Fraga at quarterback. Ryan Bruegel, another three-year starter, is the defensive leader at middle linebacker.
The Tigers continue to improve their numbers as they prepare for their third year under Tibbitt. Green Forest has close to 40 players participating in the summer workout, compared to the low-20s they had on their roster before Tibbitt arrived.
“It almost sounds cliche, but we’re just trying to do the right things,” Tibbitt said. “We’re just trying to build relationships. We’re throwing the football and going to 7-on-7s, just trying to keep the excitement up.
“The end result is you have to win on Friday nights, and that’s something we haven’t been able to do enough of yet. If we can do that, then I think we will continue to grow.”
Wolverines head for Pittsburg
After spending the spring battling among themselves, West’s players will get their first chance to work together as a team when the Wolverines take part in a team camp today and Monday at Pittsburg (Kan.) State.
The camp also includes teams from Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma as they take part in practice sessions during the morning sessions, while the afternoon sessions consist of what is called “Gorilla Ball” — 20-minute games against the other teams.
“It’s kind of fun to put us all together and let us compete against somebody else and not ourselves,” West coach Bryan Pratt said. “The thing about team camp is you have to adjust. You might play against a team that runs the spread, then there might be a team in the I or in the wing-T. It’s the same thing defensively because you see different fronts.
“It makes kids have to think a little bit. Just do your rules, do what you’re supposed to do and go play fast. That’s what we are looking for.”
West will take 42 players to the camp, which will give the Wolverines two teams to compete during the two-day camp. Many of the players will have experience on their side, which will help West in its preparations for the fall.
“I just want our players to play fast,” Pratt said. “I’m not too worried about them being in the right place or making mistakes out there. I want them to give great effort and be physical.
“This will be the most experienced team we’ve had by far, so we know what to expect from some of those guys. We’re not looking for those guys who didn’t get the opportunity last year or those who worked extremely hard in the offseason. We’re looking for depth and looking for our team to come together.”