Shott pleased with Bobcats' progress
By Scott Loftis
Typically, high school football practice on the first day of school isn’t particularly sharp.
That wasn’t the case last week for the Berryville Bobcats.
“We felt like Tuesday was probably the best practice we’ve had since we started the preseason,” Berryville coach Doug Shott said. “The kids were really focused.”
The Bobcats are three weeks away from their season opener, at home against West Fork on Sept. 6, and Shott said he’s pleased with their progress so far.
“We’re plugging along,” he said. “We kind of like where we’re at right now. Like I told the kids, I’d be worried if I felt real good about us right now, but I like where we are.”
Berryville went 4-6 last season, winning two games in 4A-1 conference play. The Bobcats got a late-season lift from quarterback J.D. Smith, who started the final four games of the season as a sophomore and led Berryville to a pair of victories in that span.
Smith is a dual-threat quarterback who ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in a victory over Gravette in his first start last season, then passed for two scores and ran for two more as Berryville finished the season with a 43-6 victory over Green Forest in the Carroll County Super Bowl.
“He almost immediately opened up another dimension for us,” Shott said.
With some experience under Smith’s belt, Shott said Berryville may throw the ball a little more this fall.
“We’d like to,” he said. “My entire career, people have said, ‘Shott just wants to run the football.’ The truth is, I like to throw the football. I just like to do it when I want to.”
One of the biggest plays the Berryville passing game produced last year was a 71-yard catch and run by Scotland Lucas on a Smith pass that broke the game open against Green Forest.
Lucas also returns this season but suffered a strained knee ligament that will keep him off the field for another two to three weeks, Shott said. Lucas also is a starter at outside linebacker, so his absence is felt on both sides of the ball
“We need to get him back,” Shott said. “He’s one of our best defenders, too.”
Other receivers who could contribute for Berryville this fall include senior Austin Franklin, junior Harley Tittsworth and
sophomore Kennon Helmlinger.
Berryville has some experience returning in the backfield with senior running back Tristan Updegraff and senior fullback Brett Parsons.
Shott said Updegraff will likely rotate with senior Tyler Payne and sophomore Jaeden Tanksley in an effort to keep them all fresh since all three will start on defense. He said Payne and Tanksley are the Bobcats’ best inside linebackers.
Along the offensive front, junior guard Anthony “Poncho” McClellan and senior tackle Colton Record are expected to anchor things. Junior Jarrett Stringer is coming on strong, Shott said, while the Bobcats likely will rotate players at right guard and left tackle.
Shott said Berryville has 38 players now, down from 57 in spring practice. Playing high school football requires a commitment, he said.
“You can’t hardly be wishy-washy about it,” he said. “They have to just make up their minds they’re going to do it. But we like who we’ve got.”