Ready for a new beginning and start on the gridiron, the hometown team of the Hope Bobcats are fired up to kickoff season 2017 with some enthusiasm.

Ready for a new beginning and start on the gridiron, the hometown team of the Hope Bobcats are fired up to kickoff season 2017 with some enthusiasm. This year's Bobcats come into this season with a purpose and more determined to prove they're a threat on the gridiron. Despite a very tough, challenging year on the gridiron during the 2016 football season, the Bobcats focus to build back up the excitement and reclaim being a winning football program.

Hope Bobcat football head coach Jay Turley continues to keep positivity about the program despite falling short of victory for one of the toughest seasons on the gridiron. Having to battle through several injuries the entire season and not a full healthy roster each game, Turley was proud of how the team members continued to keep competing. Turley hopes last season has been a learning experience for the underclassman and come back more focused and determine to improve in all phases of the game of football for a better year on the gridiron this 2017.

Turley commented last season was a very frustrating year for them and for the fans with a lack of focus. Throughout the offseason, they started workouts early and weightlifting training to be more than prepared for spring drills.

Turley said as a team they've got to get mentally and physically tougher and learn how to face adversities. Football is about 90 percent mentally and got to be more discipline on the field, in the classroom and in daily activities according to Turley.

Throughout the summer the Bobcats kept themselves busy in numerous workouts participating in team camps hosted at Nashville, SAU-Magnolia, Hot Springs and Glen Rose. The Cats also competed in two 7 on 7 football tournaments hosted in Benton and Camden-Fairview.

This up coming season, the Cats will have starters returning with a senior class looking to be ready to lead and step up with experience to guide the underclassman to make season 2017 productive. With the addition of sophomore athletes that's moved up to the high school level have grasp and learn the system to be ready for another challenging season of Hope Bobcat football.

Spring practice is used for the upcoming sophomore class players to grasp the new system of performing on the varsity level and Turley knew it would start out slow early. As practices progressed, the underclassman worked their way into the system offensively and defensively where production was productive. The Cats were able to learn and grasp positions well, which they concluded spring practice with positive performances in a scrimmage on the final day. Turley was well satisfied overall how the Cats competed and executed formations to help them be prepared to compete hard and productively for summer camps into fall practice.

"We started really slow with some new faces and just looked inexperienced. The kids had great attitudes for a desire to win. We ended with a high note," Turley said.

The Bobcats will bring back several experienced pieces from last season along welcoming some players that are expected to contribute in key roles for this 2017 fall year on the gridiron.

"We've Jay Conway returning to fulfill our running back role, Nate Carter and Jerrell Henry at receiver and expect Keith Brown to help at receiver and in the secondary as well. Jaloni Davis and Quentin Key will play big roles and four competitors at the quarterback position to give us options," Turley said.

As the Cats had more likely their toughest and most disappointing season last year, they're ready to rewrite a new chapter for 2017 and Turley is excited and motivated to get things rolling due to having a coachable group of young men to work with.

"I feel good and up beat about this season. The kids have got to get stronger in the weight room. We got a long way to go but everybody is willing to work hard to get that bad taste and feeling from last season. The kids are ready to step up with better attitudes and just a more coachable group," Turley said.

Despite going winless last year, there were several players earning recognition for their play of dedication to staying committed. Last year, eight Bobcats received some seasonal accolades of achievement. Austin Stubber, Desmond McDonald, Deandrae Scott, Jaylon Conway, Kadarius Munn, Dekarrien Brown, Dalton Potter and Nate Carter all earned recognition for season 2016.

From those eight, now seniors Conway and Carter are the returning players for the Bobcats who received honors from last season to be key playmakers for the Cats this 2017 season.

This summer wasn't any different than the past offseason workouts prior to the up coming season. In June, the Cats participated and traveled to several camps and 7 on 7 competitions. The Cats headed to Nashville and Magnolia. On June 13, the Bobcats begin their first 7 on 7 competition tournaments at Benton, then June 15 at Camden-Fairview.

From that point, dead week intervene the last part of June into July. When the month of July rolled in, the Cats returned to more team camp workouts in Spa City at Hot Springs High School and traveled to Glen Rose for their final workout camp July 18 before heading into fall practice in August.

Throughout the summer, the Cats kept their weightlifting training and workouts with position coaches progressing to be mentally and physically prepared for what will be another challenging year on the gridiron in 2017.

In August, it was back to work on the gridiron for the hometown Bobcats to officially begin fall football practice.

According Coach Turley, the Cats grasp the experience of tough competition with some of their new faces to build their team chemistry during their summer workouts and look to make a difference this up coming season.

"I thought we really had a good summer with our participation. We went in with a lack of experience, but really did good job with our conditioning in practice and work ethic," Coach Turley said.

Turley said, the trio has done a great job battling out at the position. They've utilize their talents at quarterback during team camps this summer and looked to be used throughout the season for the Bobcats.

As the Cats will look to run the ball more this season, Turley has been really impressed with senior returning running back Jay Conway this summer and the production he's provided against other schools during camp.

With the offense showing some good signs of play this summer despite their inexperience, the Bobcats' defense has been one of the biggest tools for Hope throughout the previous seasons.

In their final team camp of the summer at Glen Rose High School, the Cats came out a little slow, but finished strong and really progressed to make this their best workout camp of the offseason.

"We started out really slow by trying kids a different positions. In the second half of camp, the kids woke up and played really well. It was probably the best camp we've played this summer," Turley said.

 

 

OFFENSE

The Cats will look a little different than have in the previous seasons according to Coach Turley. QUARTERBACKS: With three-year starting quarterback Austin Stubber graduated and SAU signee, the Cats have a trio of QB's working at the position of Keith Brown, Carter and Hunter Hellums. Throughout the summer, they've all work getting reps and experience running the offense. As Carter looks to be more positioned at receiver, Brown and Hellums take more of the quarterback role this season. High expectations for more of a ground game will be big this season for the Cats.

RUNNING BACKS: Returning starting running back senior Conway expects to be one of the top key backs in the conference this season. Conway took control well last season to account most of their touchdowns scored for Hope with yardage. He's progressed well over the summer and Turley has been more then impressed with the work ethic and production Conway has shown. "We've probably got one of the best running backs we ever had in Conway. He's really playing well by being explosive and creative," Coach Turley said. Other Bobcat running backs consist of J. Davis, Emanuel Phillips, Kenya Wesley, McKinsey Davis, Kennan Green, Ja'marrion Logan, Ja'rod Hamilton, Chris Haywood, Demariyae Jackson and Allen Castro.

RECEIVERS: On the receiving end, Cater, Jerrell Henry, Nikorian Muldrew, Mekhi Henderson, Cavontae Young, Jesse Allen, Brian Henry, Timothy Rowe and Dalton Kenworthy will be the targets for the Cats.

TIGHT ENDS: David Horton, Jose Salgado and Jonathan Mendoza will strongly be available for options and used in key ways offensively.

 

 

DEFENSE

Coach Turley thought the "Bobcat D" has really played well and expects them to be a major factor for the team this season. For many previous seasons, the defense has been the more experienced core of the team. They'll have returning starters with experience and newcomers ready to come in to be the big stop force this season for the Cats defense.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: K. Brown, Conway, K. Muldrew, Davis, Young, Wesley, Hellums, McKinsey Davis, Allen and Phillips stand big for their motive to stop the run game on opponents. LINEBACKERS: Haywood, Logan, David Dixon, Lamonza Tolliver, Rowe, Hamilton, Kenworthy, Akeem Hopkins, Castro and Gonzalez expected to have big roles from this position.

DEFENSIVE ENDS: Jonathan Mendoza, Salgado, Horton and Howell take the battles with experience and returning to be the backbone enforcers of the Bobcat "D". SAFTEY: Quentin Key to take part of the effective role in the secondary to bring experience as a veteran for Hope in his senior year.

LINEMAN: Zack Johnson, Rodney Phillips, Austin Coronado, Fernando Muruffo, Eder Gonzalez, Drake Mason, Jordan Davis, Latron Hawkins, Christian Lowe, Marco Torres, Ladarius Watson, Akeem Hopkins, Howell have the important duties of the dirty work on both ends that allows the running game to blossom and just the opposite on defense of stopping their opponents. They'll all have the job to allow the quarterback time to see options when choosing to run or air it out. Several of these lineman produce experience at this position and will maintain prior stance to battle off their opponents line this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS-KICKERS: Jonathan Garcia is back for senior season to account of punts, field goals and PAT's. Garcia completed numerous attempts last season to return as a major part of Hope's football team as the special weapon. Sophomore Aryell Felipe also comes in to be the other weapon with Garcia as their kickers.

 

OVERALL

Knowing this year will be challenging for the Cats, they're highly motivated to make some noise on the gridiron to be a threat despite picked to finish eighth in the 5A South Conference voted by league coaches for preseason predictions. Since the 2013 football season, the Bobcats are picked eighth in the conference for preseason predictions. During that year, the Cats made a huge turnaround to finish the 2013 season co-conference champions with Camden-Fairview and ending their four-year league 30 game winning-streak. The Cats went on to advance to the semifinals in the postseason in 2013 when predicted to finish last in the conference. That prediction in 2013 resulted a conference title that ended a five year absence of winning the league. Now four years later, the Cats are back into the same prediction and hopefully can post another historic memory for the Natural State for season 2017.

Next week, the Cats finally get their first taste of 2017 football action in a scrimmage against Arkansas High Razorbacks Aug. 22 at Hammons Stadium on the Banks of the Ozark Field. As tradition, the Cats open football season against longtime arch rivals' Nashville Scrappers Sept. 1 on the road to start their non-conference schedule. They'll continue on the road to Ashdown Sept. 8 and welcome rivals' Class 3A state champions Prescott Sept. 15 for their season home-opener at Hammons Stadium.

The Cats begin 5A South Conference play hosting De Queen Sept. 22 for Homecoming, then travel to Hot Springs Sept. 29, return home to battle Watson Chapel Oct. 6. Hope returns on the road against Hot Springs Lakeside Oct. 13, back home Oct. 20 hosting Camden-Fairview, go to White Hall Oct. 27 and wrap up conference play hosting school rivals' Magnolia Nov. 3 at Hammons Stadium.

 

5A South Conference Preseason Glance for 2017 By Hooten's Arkansas Football

1. Hot Springs Lakeside

2. White Hall

3. Watson Chapel

4. Camden-Fairview

5. Magnolia

6. Hot Springs

7. De Queen

8. Hope

5A SOUTH CONFERENCE NOTES: For the Bobcats, they're picked to finish eighth in the 5A South Conference voted by league coaches. Last season, the Bobcats finished eighth without a win, but using this prediction as motivation to be one of the top finishers in the conference that brings a impressive challenge. Prediction to win presents Co-Conference champs with the Bobcats in 2015 Hot Springs Lakeside for the overall top spot. White Hall comes next to finish second with a broad load of experience returning. Watson Chapel takes the third spot for a postseason appearance this season with a strong returning run game. Camden-Fairview expected to be the fourth finisher for the final spot from the conference to make the playoffs. Magnolia, who returned to postseason last season is picked fifth, Hot Springs takes the sixth spot and De Queen expected to finish seventh ahead of Hope. League play will officially begin the fourth week of the 2017 high school football season Sept. 22.

CLASS 5A NOTES: For overall predictions in Class 5A, Pulaski Academy is predicted win the title as the No. 1 ranked team in the state. Wynne follows at No. 2, Alma - No. 3, Batesville - No. 4, Little Rock Christian - No. 5, Harrison - No. 6, Hot Springs Lakeside - No.7, Morrilton - No. 8, Greenbrier - No. 9, Little Rock McClellan - No. 10, White Hall - No. 11, Sylvan Hills - No. 12, Watson Chapel - No. 13, Blytheville - No. 14, Camden-Fairview - No. 15, Nettleton - No. 16, Beebe - No. 17, Valley View - No. 18, Maumelle - No. 19 and Hot Springs - No. 20 for the top 20 Class 5A state rankings.