After disappointment of postseason play the last two seasons, the Spring Hill Bears return with determination and experience to make the playoffs and be a true contender for 2017.

After disappointment of postseason play the last two seasons, the Spring Hill Bears return with determination and experience to make the playoffs and be a true contender for 2017.

Now in his second year as Spring Hill football head coach, Matt McBride feels passionate about taking the Bears to the next level to build their football program.

"I feel confident we'll make the playoffs. It's our goal and we'll strive to work hard to compete this season. Anything can happen," McBride said.

Since McBride's arrival, he's preached to team about working hard to make the playoffs and with a select group of coachable young men to coach, McBride always looks forward to getting back on the field to work for each up coming football season.

" We're excited to get started and fortunate to have a fun group of kids to be around that's coachable and hopefully be successful for us, McBride said.

The Bears are confident to make some noise this season by the direction and approach from their head football coach McBride.

The Bears had one of their most explosive start to their season last year to shutout Baptist Prep in scrimmage competition, then total domination against Bismarck 46-26 in their season-opener to post a 1-0 record. But after suffering one of the first of many key injuries in the second game of the season of quarterback Payton Massanelli, it was tough the rest of the way.

The effect Massanelli gave in the Bears win against Bismarck last season looked to anticipate a big year for postseason appearance. Massanelli posted a career-high seven touchdowns for the Bears against Bismarck. This was the most touchdowns Masssanelli has scored in one game since performing on the senior high football level. The Bears ran the ball 52 times and threw 17, which more likely is the opposite McBride looks for his the offense to do in games later this season. But McBride was very proud of Massanelli's performance to lead the Bears to victory and anticipated for more production from the offense as the season progresses last season.

Massanelli suffered his injury in the second game of the season against Parkers Chapel for the Bears home-opener last year which took him out the remaining games of the season.

Now Massanelli back for the final season with Spring Hill as a senior. According to McBride, Massanelli is back healthy and stronger after suffering an early season ending injury and shown progress throughout summer camps and practices thus far. 

As the command-in-chief from the sideline, McBride brings the sense of an enthusiasm, excitement and inspiration to the Spring Hill football program. McBride is entering his ninth year in coaching and knows the success it takes to be an accomplishable sport's team on the gridiron. Being apart of football success from his previous school in coaching at Hope High School from their athletic programs, McBride envisions the same aspect at Spring Hill. The primary focus has been make the playoffs to be a contender. McBride feels once your in, anything can happen.

"Making the playoffs has been the message since last season. We're trying to do the things to make the playoffs and it's our long term goal. The short term goal is get better everyday," McBride said.

The mentality and focus that McBride preaches to the team is just making improvements each time they step onto the gridiron for practice or a game. This season, the Bears have a core group of talent that will be ready to make some noise to help them be a threat despite a very tough conference to compete with.

 

TEAM OFFENSIVE/DEFENSIVE SUMMARY

With Massanelli back, other quarterbacks of Parker Freeman and sophomores Rusty Orr have stepped in the key role to be effective according to McBride. These trio of Bears provide several of options to be ready to take charge and step in at any given opportunity. The Bears' offensive scheme expected to be the spread formation and their strength will be the return of skilled players.

Main targets from a variety of talented receivers presents Cameron (Cam) Middleton, Hays Martin, Drake Kidd, Lewis Chambers, Ty Rosenbaum are among receivers return with experience to be productive this season. Cameron Banno, Cannon Saunders, Andrew Blaylock will create some impact at receiving with Brady Whatley positioned at tight end through the spread formation.

For the ground game to provide speed features Keymonte Rhodes returning and expected to have a break out season. Up coming explosive sophomore Slade Cox will capitalize the yardage for the Bears at running back. Rhodes and Cox also will bring the same presence and effect defensively for Bears at linebacker.

The major plus for the Bears this season is the depth of lineman. McBride has a full roster with 15 lineman of their 30 team members. He's excited about the number of lineman and feels they can create a lot of competition and compete productively to be a major asset to the team offensively and defensively. Colin Brown, Nick Yates, Levi Kidd, Johnathan Loe, Chaydon Breeding, Matthew Kelesoma, Scott Ezell, Garret Pauley, Dawson Ghomley, Johnatan Zacarias, K.C. Harvel, Justin Adcock, Marshall Glover and Aaron Barnett and Ty Clark make up the necessary line both sides of the football to be key this season.

 

SUMMER OFFSEASON CAMP

During the summer, McBride has been working with the athletes on routes and drills to get them polished and more effective in the spread formation. He was very pleased how fast the athletes were able to grasp the learning aspects of running the spread.

McBride was pleased of the Bears production on the gridiron this summer participating at camps hosted at Gurdon, War Memorial in Little Rock and in Prescott.

Their first trip in the Rock for team camp hosted at War Memorial was a dandy experience for exposure. McBride thought the Bears did pretty well and proud of everyone that participated. He was overall pleased of their performance. Even though it's still a ways from where they hope to be as a team heading into the up coming 2017 fall football season, McBride continues to keep his players motivated and focused to get better. The Bears had around 20 players to compete at came hosted at War Memorial.

During camp in Little Rock, teams were broken into four sessions of workouts that consisted of series rotations of 11 on 11 for offense and defense battles. Also sessions of live drives starting from the 40-yard line with three plays to record for first down. When Offense scores, they remain on the field and defense stop drives they remain. At the conclusion, teams participated in goal line drives with one snap from the three-yard line to showcase ability to score offensively and stop defensively.

The Bears worked out against schools Bigelow, Cross Country, Drew Central, Clarendon, Atkins, Magnet Cove and Rose Bud as the host camp team in Little Rock.

McBride knows the advantages summer camp workouts provide for the Bears that guides them right into fall practice in August. McBride continues to keep a competitive edge for the Bears to show in their play to be over achievers to have success.

The Bears got a chance to face some high quality football programs this summer during their trips participating at team camps. The Bears took on two reigning state championships teams during summer workouts in Prescott for the month of July as well as several higher classification football programs that produce D-I level talent. The Bears faced state champions in Class 2A Mt. Ida and Class 3A unbeaten Prescott for workout battles on the gridiron. Also the Bears faced Class 4A Ashdown in team camp who produces some of the top D-I players in the entire state of Arkansas.

McBride believes facing tough competition of these caliber programs can help his Bears enhance their play and hopefully become a postseason team despite picked to finish seventh voted by league coaches in the 2017 preseason predictions.

This summer's workouts have been beneficial to the Bears and McBride believes the depth expected to provide this season will be key with several returning players from last year.

"The kids did a good job competing this summer against some really good football teams of Prescott, Mt. Ida who won state championships last year. We also went up against Ashdown who has D-I players. I think that good for us to see that kind level of competition.

Overall I was pleased with the kids participation. I was a little concern with the numbers throughout the summer, but we look to have 30 kids this year and that's pretty good for Class 2A, McBride said.

The Bears will continue their weightlifting and conditioning sessions as fall football practices progresses throughout the season.

With the departure of defensive coordinator Rusty Winfield no longer at Spring Hill, McBride is excited to have assistant coach Cameron Brown now take over the defense. It wasn't a hard decision at any cost to replace Winfield with coach Brown as the defensive coordinator. Brown is thrilled for the opportunity and having establish a relationship with the players builds for quality results in their performance.

"We've got talented kids which is part of our strength. We don't have a lot of depth in our defense. It could lead to our weakness with guys having to play both ways. We'll be young, but the guys are coachable and react well to own responsibilities. We're just looking to get better each week, Coach Brown said.

Also, McBride has welcomed David Clark to his assistant coaching staff for the Bears this year.

Coach Clark will be over the Bears lineman this season. Clark brings a years of expertise of 20 plus years in coaching to the Bears football program. He's apart of success coaching several years at Bearden and McBride believes he'll help the Bears work to reaching team accolades in Spring Hill's football program. Coach Roy Whatley looks to be an asset to McBride's assistant coaching staff as they'll be guiding the Bears through weeks of intense practices for preparation to compete in a very tough 7-2A Conference this 2017 football season.

The Bears are set to begin the season with a scrimmage August 21 against Baptist Prep at Malvern High School football stadium. The Bears officially open the season at home Sept. 1 hosting Bismarck at Bear Stadium. They return on the road at Parkers Chapel Sept. 8, back home Sept. 15 vs. Genoa Central. The Bears open 7-2A Conference play at Foreman Sept. 22, back home Sept. 29 hosting Lafayette County and Oct. 6 vs. Mt. Ida. On Oct. 13, Spring Hill battles Mt. Pine, Oct. 20 hosting Murfreesboro at home, Oct. 27 vs. Dierks and back on the road Nov. 2 at Mineral Springs.

 

7-2A Conference Preseason Glance 2017 By Hooten's Arkansas Football

1. Mt. Ida

2. Foreman

3. Dierks

4. Lafayette County

5. Murfreesboro

6. Mineral Springs

7. Spring Hill

8. Mt. Pine

 

NOTES: In the 2A classification, the Spring Hill Bears are predicted to finish the 7-2A Conference seventh as last season. The Bears will be back with some experience and starters on both sides of the ball. With the injury bug haunting them last year, the Bears hope to qualify for one of five postseason spots. Mt. Ida comes into the season as the overall top-ranked team in the state for Class 2A after winning the 2016 state title last season.

The Bears held a close battle to Mt. Ida in their match-up last season just down a touchdown in first half. Foreman takes the second spot, Dierks picked third, Lafayette County fourth and Murfreesboro fifth for the top five finishes for postseason. Mineral Springs was voted to finish sixth and Mt. Pine takes the eighth spot.

For the overall Class 2A rankings, behind top-ranked Mt Ida, Rison - No. 2, Camden-Harmony Grove - No. 3, Danville - No. 4, Bearden - No. 5, Hampton - No. 6, Des Arc - No. 7, McCrory - No. 8, Conway Christian - No. 9, Cross County - No. 10, England - No. 11, Earle - No. 12, Hector - No. 13, Carlisle - No. 14, Hackett - No. 15, Murfreesboro - No. 16, East Poinsett County - No. 17, Hazen - No. 18, Foreman - No. 19 and Palenstine-Wheatley - No. 20.