Tuesday, September 02, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bulldogs bring solid group to Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits face a tough test right out of the gate in Friday’s regular-season opener at James B. Abraham Stadium as they’ll take on the veteran-led Star City Bulldogs in nonconference action.

Star City is one of the more experienced teams in all of class 4A, returning a total of 19 starters. Six of the Bulldog starters from a season ago were sophomores, and that team made it all the way to the third round of the playoffs and finished last year with a 9-4 overall record.

On top of that, the four losses the Bulldogs accumulated in 2013 were against teams that combined for an impressive 47-8 record last season.

“They’re very solid,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of Star City. “They return 19 starters from last year. I was looking at the first and second All-Arkansas teams last Sunday, players to watch, and they had four guys on there.

“They had two linemen, their quarterback and tailback. So they’re a very good team that’s for sure.”

Star City averaged 30 points per game last year and leading their base Spread attack is junior quarterback Tye Brown (6-2, 160), who shattered school records last fall as a sophomore, passing for 2,305 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Brown’s parents are both coaches, and his current head coach, Jett Furneaux, says his junior quarterback has that mindset already.

“He studies the game as hard as any kid I’ve been around,” said Furneaux of Brown. “His parents are coaches, and his brain works like a coach. He understands the offense inside and out.”

“He’s got a lot of experience,” Bost said of Brown. “He’s the old head coach’s son and he’s been around football his whole life, and he’s a smart kid that’s for sure.”

Brown can throw it and run it if need be, and another major contributor to the Bulldog offense is stout senior tailback Dajunn Harris (5-9, 205). Harris, like Brown, was a big part of Star City’s success last season as he rushed for 1,170 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also averaged 7 yards per carry in 2013.

“He’s real good, too,” Bost said of Harris.

Although Star City’s primary offense is the Spread, Bost said the Bulldogs will line up in as many as 25 different formations on offense to try and confuse opposing defenses, but he added that his defense is prepared for that come Friday.

In addition to Star City’s skill players, the Bulldogs are also very formidable up front. Leading the way for Star City’s linemen are highly-touted junior guards Austin Capps (6-4, 307) and Sam Jackson (6-2, 285).

Furneaux calls Capps “the most special athlete I’ve ever been around.” Capps led the Star City baseball team with a .482 batting average in the spring and he squats more than 600 pounds and dead lifts 500 pounds.

Arkansas offered Capps a scholarship last season and every SEC school, as well as teams like Florida State and Notre Dame have evaluated him. Arkansas evaluated Jackson in the spring.

Capps, who has a 360-pound bench press and 320-pound power clean, also anchors the Bulldogs’ defense at tackle. The junior had more than 100 tackles last year as a sophomore, including 17 against state champion Booneville.

“When we’re on offense we’re probably going to have to double-team that rascal,” Bost said of Capps. “He’s an animal down there. Of course Arkansas has offered him and others, so he definitely needs to be controlled on the line of scrimmage.”

Bost said that in addition to Capps, the Bulldog defense is loaded with talent at just about every position. Star City has been a 4-3 defensive team in years past. Bost said he’d heard the Bulldog D had switched to a 3-4 this summer, but said it lined up primarily in a 4-3 in the team’s most recent scrimmage game.

“We don’t know what they’re going to throw at us so we’ve got to prepare for both defenses,” Bost said. “That kind of slows you down when you’ve got to work on two different things, but we’re not sure what they’re going to throw at us.”

With the real possibility that Star City could be the best team on Lonoke’s schedule, Bost knows his team will have to show up ready to play mistake-free football, but he said his team has had some good practices as of late, and that he expects that to continue this week leading up to Friday.

“It’s tough to start one off against what could possibly be the best team we face in our 10 games this year,” Bost said. “It’s going to be tough, but we had a real good practice (last) Thursday. We’ll practice (Monday) and we hope to have a good week of practice to get ready for Friday.”

Kickoff for Friday’s season opener is at 7 p.m.