Warren started out its season 0-3 with a challenging nonconference schedule. As many would sense panic at that point, Southeast Arkansas Coach of the Year Bo Hembree knew that the losses would pay off in the long run for a 10-4 record.
“Our main focus was to make sure that we were playing our best football in the latter part of the conference season and into the conference season,” said Hembree. “When you take a loss, you get a chance to look at your weaknesses and a chance to build character and adversity.”
After the Lumberjacks took losses from Fayetteville, Camden and Pulaski Academy, Hembree led his squad to an undefeated conference record. On the notion of adversity, there were times in which the offense carried the team to victory and at other times the defense kept the team in the game by way way of three shutouts for the season.
The game that may paint a picture of this feat is when the team went up against Valley View in the 4A state semifinals. With Valley View threatening to score, junior safety Calyx Harris and senior safety Odis Miller stripped and recovered a fumble at the Lumberjacks’ 5. Taking advantage of their defense, Drake Jones and the offense marched down the field for the game winning 95-yard drive.
“It’s always a good feeling that we were good on both sides of the ball and our kicking game got better each week. Whenever one side got down the other would pick them up, especially in the playoffs,” said Hembree.
Hembree’s squad continued to build its character and adversity all the way to the state championship last Friday against Booneville. There were two long weather delays that the Lumberjacks encountered on their way to a 14-12 loss.
The defense shut out Booneville in the second half. Hembree admits that the offense had a slow start. The team could be seen leaving War Memorial with their heads up high with pride and class. And even though the team wanted to go home with championship trophy, they ended up giving their all to Hembree’s overall goal: To play hard and become men as they walk off the field each week.
“We have a great character on our football team in which they fed off each other. When we get them as ninth graders, we hope that in four years they walk in as boys and leave as men,” said Hembree.
“We had a tough loss and it hurt really bad because we wanted to give the senior class what they deserved and what they worked hard for. At the same time they gave everything they had and that’s all we could ask for. Whatever happens, be proud of what you’ve done and be a man about the end result.”