Three days into the first week of practice, the biggest focus for the Dollarway Cardinals has been conditioning.
“Some guys are making the necessary strides in order to be in shape for the season,” Dollarway head coach Cortez Lee said. “But currently we are just focusing on conditioning.”
Last season, Dollarway finished 10-0 in the regular season but lost to Booneville in the semifinals. The Cardinals also lost some of their skill position players including Arkansas commit Joshua Liddell and Arkansas Tech commit Kabion Enton. They have to replace another ATU commit Nicholas Woodfork, who started on both sides of the line last season.
“We lost some key players,” Lee said. “… But for the most part we have guys that are experienced and had some playing time last year, due to some of the games where they played a lot because of the score.”
Last season, Dollarway shut out opponents three straight weeks and did not give up more than 19 points in one game in the regular season.
Senior Cordera McDonald backed up at quarterback and receiver last year, rushing three times for 141 yards and three touchdowns and averaging 24 yards per reception.
“The experience is there,” Lee said. “We just have to make sure they are coached up and ready to play.”
Senior receiver Henri Murphy caught 13 passes for 262 yards and five touchdowns in 2013 including two touchdowns at Clinton. Murphy won the 100 and 200-meter dashes at the 4A state track meet in May.
“He was a key contributor last year,” Lee said. “We are expecting big things from him.
“If he continues to grow, he can be a special player.”
Dollarway is scheduled to host a scrimmage against McClellan on Aug. 26. Lee said he hopes his team’s conditioning is where he wants it to be by then.
“I just want to make sure that we are well-conditioned and that the guys will become more adapt to the scheme that we are trying to give them on a daily basis,” Lee said. “If I can see the condition and knowledge level increased, I’ll feel comfortable.”
Senior running back Keyshawn Williams ran for 1,304 yards and 20 touchdowns last season.
“I think the offensive line would be one of our strengths,” Lee said. “I think our linebacker core, as well as our running backs.
“We are looking at some of the same things that made us successful last year that will make us successful again this year.”
Lee said it just comes down to hard work.
“Once again, we are going to base it on hard work and understanding our responsibility,” Lee said. “I see this team as a December team, we just have to work hard.”
Repeating the same kind of success the Cardinals had last fall will be no easy task as the team switches to the 8-4A Conference this season.
“I think it is kind of equal for both parties,” Lee said. “We will both have to make the same similar adjustments.
“I think it is an even-keel situation.”
Dollarway will have to face last year’s quarterfinal opponent and rival Star City in the regular season, as well as 4A runner-up Warren, Dumas and Monticello.
The close proximity of all these teams presents a unique challenge for the Cardinals.
“It will be more intriguing,” Lee said.