Walking off the field after a practice earlier this week, Dollarway head coach Cortez Lee told one of his players that he expects him to run that night at home.
“Right now you are only playing on offense and I need you on both sides of the ball,” Lee said to one of his linemen. “So go home, and run or walk, or something.”
One of the biggest concerns for the Cardinals this year will be their conditioning as they lack a lot of depth.
“I still see some more areas where some guys got to experience more growth with their conditioning and knowing their assignments,” Lee said.
For that to improve, Lee said it is just going to take some time and effort.
“It is a combination of time and effort,” Lee said. “Guys realizing what their job title is with their position and learning the ins and outs of how to play the positions.”
Dollarway has 15 seniors returning this season including nine starters. Last season, the Cardinals finished with 10 wins and were tied for first with Stuttgart for a conference championship.
Dollarway will host Stuttgart — the defending 4A state champion — on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.
“It has turned into something of a rivalry,” Lee said. “We were both co-champs last year and they were eventual state champs.
“Just by the nature of it, it has turned into a rivalry.”
Lee expects a huge turnout for that game.
“It was a packed house last year,” Lee said. “It was probably the biggest crowd we saw in the entire conference.
“They have a good program and are well-coached. They have established some tradition throughout their school and community.”
Lee said senior leadership will be his team’s biggest strength.
“I think our line play on both sides of the ball will be improved, as well as our team chemistry,” he said.
Some key returners for the Cardinals include seniors Joshua Liddell, Kabion Ento and Nick Woodfork.
“Josh is a proven player,” Lee said. “He is a three-year starter and an all-state performer.
“We expect him to be a leader.”
Liddell, who rushed for 1,130 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, has already verbally commited to Arkansas State.
Ento splits his time between wide receiver and tight end with his twin brother Kamaree. Kabion is a three-year starter and all-state player.
“The sky is the limit for his potential,” Lee said.
Woodfork bench presses 325 pounds and plays at fullback and defensive tackle.
“He is our muscle,” Lee said. “He is able to play multiple positions and has a great attitude for the game.”
A lack of depth is a big concern for Lee.
“We have to find some depth behind our players and we have to finish plays,” Lee said. “Those are the weaknesses I see so far.”
On handoff drills, for example, he would like to see his guys sprint 20 or 25 yards for the touchdown instead of just going only three or four yards.
Lee said besides trying to win a conference and a state championship, he also wants his players’ grades to improve from last year.
“I want them to be eligible for college and have an opportunity to receive a scholarship,” Lee said. “I would also like for the players to set their own personal goals such as how many catches, yards or touchdowns they have.”
Dollarway, who was picked to finish first in the 2-4A conference by Hooten’s Arkansas Football, will open the conference season against Newport. Lee said some other tough competition will be Lonoke and Heber Springs.
“But just on a side note, we aren’t taking any team lightly,” Lee said. “I don’t expect anybody to get any bulletin board (material) on me.”
Last season, Dollarway was knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by Highland. Lee expects the Cardinals to make a return trip to the state playoffs.
“We have our expectations, but I don’t like putting too much pressure on the guys,” Lee said. “I’d rather them play natural and with some confidence.”