All in all, it was a good first week for the De Queen junior football team.
“We put in our base offensive package and base defensive package,” said head Cub coach Jason Barker.
There is a sizeable number out for the team this time around. “We have averaged about 40,” Barker said. “With junior high you always get 20-25 more when school starts.”
Another factor is stability. When Barker returned to coaching football last year, he was the third head coach in three years for the Cubs. A number of players are back from last year as well. “We’ve got the core group back from our eighth grade team last year. There are a few that played for the ninth grade team back, too. We have a little experience,” the coach noted.
“We will run basically the same offense and defense as last year, the pro I and the 4-3. Probably the strongest part of our ninth grade team will be the offensive line,” he explained.
“We are beginning to put in the special team stuff. We’ve worked on kick off returns and kicking off. We have two okay kickers. We haven’t worked on PAT’s yet, just kickoffs.”
A summer that has been wetter and a little cooler than normal reverted to form just in time for football practice. “The last couple of days of the week were pretty hot. We took plenty of breaks,” Barker pointed out.
“There is a conditioning session each practice. We are hitting the weight room hard. The eighth graders have had a good weight program all summer. There has been a good turnout every morning.”
The structure of the De Queen football coaching staff has been drastically altered since last year. Instead of splitting the coaches into one staff for senior high and another for junior high, all coaches will work with both teams.
Barker explained the system is based on coaching positions rather than coaching teams. For example, Barker will be the junior high defensive coordinator and also coach the secondary in both junior and senior high. High school defensive coordinator Richard Bell will coach linebackers in both junior and senior high. Senior high head coach Stephen Sloan will call the offensive plays for the Cubs as well.
“Basically, there will be nine coaches for senior high and nine for junior high,” Barker said. “Players will have the same coach all the way through.” The object is for coaches to have more time for one-on-one instruction at each position.
Both Leopards and Cubs will scrimmage Mansfield Aug. 20. The Cubs are slated to take the field at 5:30 p.m. with the Leopards set for a 6:30 start.
“They’ve handled the heat pretty well. They’re excited about the season. They are ready to play somebody,” Barker said of the Cubs. “There are only two weeks to get ready for the scrimmage. We’ll get film of it and that should help us.”