First steps first. Bearcat linemen (from left) Casey Franklin, Ethan O’Bar, Darren Shaeffer, Hunter Powell, Damien Ashley and R.J. Haynes execute a drill during Monday’s first day of fall practice.
In terms of football, it’s a long, long time until Halloween.
Halloween falls on the ninth Friday of the 2014 football season in Arkansas. That is the night the defending Class 4A state champion Booneville Bearcats and defending Class 3A state champion Charleston Tigers will get together in Franklin County.
Booneville head coach Scott Hyatt knows the interest in the game has been building since the schedules were announced and, with fall practice opening Monday, he also knows the talk will only grow.
Hyatt calls it one of those things he cannot control. His team’s attitude starting Monday, does not fall under that same category.
“Week nine isn’t the one that counts, yet. We talk about taking them one at a time and not worry about the media stuff,” said Hyatt.
Luckily for Hyatt the 44-man roster — down from 52 in the spring — is stocked with a group of seniors like Matt Berry, R.J. Haynes, Josh Smith and Casey Franklin who have won a state title and been successful throughout their careers.
“The older kids know what it takes, I know they’ll play when the lights come on,” said Hyatt. “The younger ones, guys stepping into starting roles — it’s going to depend on how that chemistry comes together.”
There are also some who are returning to the fold after skipping a sophomore, or more seasons.
“They just regretted no playing period, but I’m sure the ring didn’t hurt,” said Hyatt.
An area of concern for now is at backup quarterback. James Ray moves to the starting position for the graduated two-time All State Cody Harrel, but departures by the last two junior high starting quarterbacks moving on moves sophomore Hayden Fennell into the number two spot and fullback Bryson May is back working with the third team.
“Fennell is a winner. Once he learns to read the option, he will be tough,” said Hyatt.
The first three days of practice, through today, teams are allowed to practice only in shorts and helmets. Thursday and Friday helmets and shoulder pads and contact with dummies is permitted. Next week full contact begins and one week later, on Aug. 18, students are in class.
While awaiting the full arrival of grass on the game and practice field, practice so far has been relegated to what is typically the junior high practice field, with the junior Bearcats moving to the playground area in front of the BJHS.
“It’s starting to fill in. I mowed it (Sunday) for the second time,” Hyatt said. “It’s starting to look like a late playoff field, with hunks out of it.”
Hyatt thinks the game field will be ready by the time the senior high season starts.