Friday, December 10, 2010

SPORTS>>Local teams rich with all-state, all-conference picks

By Jason king
Leader sporswriter

The lists for all-conference and all- state football selections were released this week with local teams well represented.

Three of the area’s Class 5A schools and 4A member Lonoke combined to place eight on the all-state roster while boasting a total of 16 all-conference players.

Sylvan Hills had all-state selections Nate Clark and Alex Smith, as well as all-conference players Jake Dillon, Michael Maddox, Jaleel Henson, Edwin Smith and Jacob Denson. The Bears went 3-7 and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in four years. A small number of upperclassmen were spread more thin by injuries but Clark and Smith rose to the challenge.

Smith is a three-year starting defensive end and left guard and was named the fifth-best lineman in the 5A-Southeast Conference this year. He was also an all-conference selection as a junior. 

“Not only is he a great football player, but he’s a great kid,” Bears coach Jim Withrow said. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached.”

Clark started the year as a running back and outside linebacker, but injuries to teammates forced him to shuffle through multiple spots, including quarterback. 

Clark was also punter and punt returner as well as a kickoff returner and a safety at times. Through it all, Clark accumulated just over 1,100 yards rushing and led the Bears at quarterback in the final three games. 

“It was an unbelievable job for a guy who didn’t play any last year,” Withrow said. “Especially when conference began – he really turned the corner. It was outstanding, the way he played and the way he carried himself.”

It began in Week 8 with a 42-24 loss to Monticello in which Clark rushed for over 300 yards and had another 150 passing. He also had strong performances in the final two weeks in close losses to West Helena and state semifinalist Watson Chapel.

Representatives from Southern Arkansas University visited the Sylvan Hills campus during the week expressing interest in Clark and Smith, as well as all-conference offensive tackle Jacob Denson.

Dillon, 5-10, 230 pounds, was a starting right guard and defensive tackle. Maddox, a quarterback and free safety, made the all-conference list despite battling injuries. Junior Edwin is an all-conference center and defensive tackle while Henson, a sophomore, will return at linebacker after his all-conference season.

North Pulaski had a pair of all-state selections in three-year senior linebacker/running back Darius Cage and two-way lineman Schyler Spencer. Junior running backs Derrick Hart and Nick Dunn made the all-conference list, along with sophomore center Luke Phillips.

Beebe’s conference runner-up showing in the 5A-East resulted in four all-state selections and eight players named all conference. Seniors William Conley, Colby Taylor and Scot Gowen, along with junior Jay Holdway, were named all state.

Taylor, a senior fullback, rushed 129 times for 1,497 yards and 18 touchdowns. The quarterback Gowen had 100 carries for 548 yards and five rushing touchdowns and threw for three more scores in the Badgers’ run-based Dead-T offense.

Conley, who started at nose guard for two seasons, led the defense with 63 tackles, including 10 for losses and two sacks and blocked a field goal and a punt.

“It’s going to be tough to replace all of them,” Badgers coach John Shannon said. “They are all three-year lettermen. William anchored our defense for two years and Gowen was also our quarterback for two years. Colby did a good job coming in a fullback after being a halfback last year. Those three will be hard to replace.”

Holdway, a junior, rushed for 827 yards on 129 carries and scored 14 touchdowns.

Hunter Weimann, Jason Ferguson and Ethan Boyce were all named first team all-conference for Beebe, while Andrew Morgan, Reece Totty, Shaquille Bailey, Matt Pursell and Tyler Love all made second team.

Lonoke did not have any all-state players after a 6-4 season that saw the Jackrabbits fail to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. But four seniors and two juniors landed on the all-conference list. 

Juniors Tyler Grady and T.J. Scott contributed on both sides. Grady played on the lines while Scott was a running back and linebacker as well as place kicker.

Senior defensive backs Darius Scott, Blake Dill, Justin Smith and Wes Plummer also played at receiver, with Scott adding running back and quarterback duties in a couple of games.

Dill made key receptions during early victories while Plummer had vital defensive stops. Smith left his mark with a standout performance against Southside Batesville in which he had four interceptions.