Coach Mike White hopes a winning tradition and large experienced line will help the Mount Ida Lions live up to expectations as they enter the 2016 season.
The Mount Ida Lions enter the season ranked fourth in Hooten’s magazine’s preseason 2A poll. The Lions earned the ranking partly due to an amazing 12-1 2015 season that was thanks in large part to a talented group of seniors. The loss of a large senior class opens up some opportunities for some sophomores and eager juniors and seniors this year.
At quarterback the Lions will have to replace All-State player T.J. Wilson. Sophomore Cade Jackson will assume the role as starting quarterback. Jackson doesn’t have the size of Wilson, nor does he have Jesse Lowry as a target, but he does have experience in the system and a large offensive line that should give him time to adjust to the pace of senior high football.
Jackson has started at quarterback in this system since pee-wee football and is uniquely qualified to run Coach White’s run heavy offense.
When asked about the inexperience at the senior high level of Jackson and other sophomores he points out that they have won conference titles every year in junior high. The sophomore class has only lost one game their entire football career. Coach White feels their winning tradition provides a level of confidence many sophomores lack.
The backfield could be classified as super sized with a pair of punishing 200 plus pound running backs. Junior Cade Helms will line up at left halfback with sophomore Jonathan Lagrange opposite him at right halfback.
Helms saw limited time at the position last year, but made the most of his efforts. Lagrange was the workhorse of the junior high team who waltzed through the conference schedule last year for a conference title. Both backs hit the line hard and can carry defenders downfield. Bridger Farmer will also see time at halfback, offering a different look from a smaller player who can cut and find the hole when needed.
Other running backs include Colton Yates, Bryson Huff and Dallas Weston.
Sophomores Gage Dyer and Dawson Huff will fill in as slot receivers. Dyer can be an exciting player to watch with deceptive speed that makes defenders miss.
Three year starter Austin McAdoo will highlight the wide receiver corps. With his six foot three inch frame McAdoo is a tempting target for any quarterback. He will offer Jackson an easy target downfield. Joining him will be Champ Saylors and Jathan Dillon.
The strength of the offense this season will be a big punishing offensive line led by junior Gunner Gilbert at center. Gilbert moves over one spot from guard where he started last year as a sophomore. Caleb Woodfield and Oscar Pinedo will line up at right and left guard respectively. Three year starter Logan Abernathy will anchor the right side at tackle with Brody Davis handling the left tackle position.
Coach White plans to use some two tight end sets with Trent Gaston, Ethan Winkley and Luke Fiorello seeing time at the position.
Drew Allen will see time at center and guard. Brooks Mayberry and Kirklyn Sorrell have been working at tackle with Cameron Bridges working at guard and tackle. Dylan Duggan has seen time at center as well.
The Lions will pound out the game with the veer and the trap serving as the bread and butter of the offense. Mount Ida can take to the air when called upon and will use the passing game to spread the field for their big backs.
Defensively the anchor of the team lies in their tackles with Brody Davis and Caleb Woodfield starting on each side. Davis, at 275 pounds, offers a big body to plug up the inside. Woodfield, at 266 pounds, offers no relief on the other side of the line. Pinedo, Trynt Gaston and Sorrell will also see time at tackle.
At defensive end three year starter Logan Abernathy offers much needed experience at the position with sophomore Ethan Winkley helping out on the other side. Luke Forga and Brooks Mayberry challenges for a starting position at end.
The heart of the defense beats within the line backing corps. Cade Helms will bring pressure from the outside linebacker position with Garrett Beggs helping at the spot.
Gunner Gilbert and Jonathan Legrange will plug up the middle of the field at inside linebacker with Drew Allen offering assistance.
In the backfield Champ Saylors and Gage Dyer will join Austin McAdoo at the cornerback position. T.J. Walden, Dallas Weston, Dawson Huff and Bryson Huff will help at the position as well.
Cade Jackson will serve as a safety with Bridger Farmer filling the drop down safety/linebacker position. Johnathan Wheeler, Jathan Dillon, Colton Yates. and Tyler Hamilton helping out.
Junior Tyler Allenbrand will handle all kicking and punting duties this year. The junior provides a stable kicking game as he works on placement on kickoffs and punts. He has stretched his field goals into the 40 yard range.
The Lions will open the season with Centerpoint, Monday, August 29, as part of the Arkansas Blue Cross/Blue Shield Kickoff Classic to be played at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. They will follow that up with Jessieville and Lamar.
Coach White admits that his squad has a tough non-conference schedule, but he hopes they will enter the conference schedule better for it.
The conference schedule begins with Mineral Springs at home and then on the road in Murfreesboro. The Lions will alternate home and away for the remainder of the season with Spring Hill, followed by Foreman, Dierks, Mountain Pine and Lafayette County.
Coach White stated that once you get to the conference games anything can happen. Mount Ida has Mineral Springs, Dierks and Lafayette County at home, but will travel to Foreman for what could be the conference title.