SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Yellowjackets hope to be fundamentally sound enough this season in order to make up for the lack of experience on the team.
“We got to not have turnovers and not beat ourselves,” Sheridan head coach Louis Campbell said. “If we can do those things, I think we are making a step in the right direction.”
Sheridan is missing a lot of experience, especially on defense.
“We lost all but two starters, so we are basically starting over,” Campbell said. “I think our strength on defense will be safeties Cody Thompson and sophomore Eli Anderson.”
Anderson didn’t play varsity last season, but Campbell said he had a good summer and fall.
The biggest challenge, however, will be Sheridan’s lack of depth.
“We got a lot of people that are going to play both ways,” Campbell said. “The most important thing is to be able to stay well and stay healthy to keep the same people on the field as much as possible.
“If we lose one player, we really lose two because a lot of them will be playing both ways.”
In order to prevent those injuries, Sheridan has been taking the necessary precautions by focusing their off-season towards lifting weights and conditioning.
Sheridan won four games last season and hosted a playoff game for the first time in 12 years. The Yellowjackets won their first playoff game in 2011.
“I expect us to be in every ball game that we play,” Campbell said. “I expect us to compete and to have a chance to win going into the fourth quarter.
“From there, we will take the results as it happens.”
Anchoring the backfield for Sheridan this fall is senior running back Braden Lunday. In 2012, he ran 130 times for 567 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games. He also caught 19 passes for 202 yards.
“I think our strength will be our offensive line,” Campbell said. “We have three returning starters and we also got our two tailbacks coming back.
“As far as returning starters that should be our strength.”
Senior Mackenzie Jones and sophomore Brockton Brown will also split time at running back.
Another challenge for the Yellowjackets this year — and every year — is having to play in the 7A/6A-South Conference where they face such teams as Pine Bluff, Bryant, El Dorado, Lake Hamilton and Texarkana.
Sheridan’s non-conference schedule has not changed from last year, as they will face Little Rock Hall, Arkadelphia and White Hall in the first three weeks.
“We have to play Arkadelphia and White Hall and they had great years last year, and they have a lot of people coming back,” Campbell said. “It is a tough schedule all the way around.”
One game that Campbell is looking forward to is the Benton game on Oct. 11.
“I think it always been something of a rivalry just because of the proximity and the kids know each other,” Campbell said. “It is certainly a big game for us every year.
“It is always for bragging rights and a key game for us.”
Sheridan defeated Benton 17-14 last year. This year marks the first time Benton will not play football at C.W. Lewis Stadium, as the Panthers are moving to their new football stadium at the Panther Sports Complex in the fall.
“We are usually pretty evenly matched,” Campbell said. “Our records and everything have been similar so usually what that game decides are seeding and playoff implications.”
Sheridan will play at Vilonia on Tuesday in a scrimmage game beginning at 5:30 p.m.
“I want to see us execute and not have mistakes,” Campbell said. “If we can execute on offense and not give up the big play, I think we are going to get better each week.”
Sheridan will host Little Rock Hall on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. to begin the regular season.