The Eagles return 18 starters off a high-scoring, 6-6 team a year ago. That means the bar is high this season.
“We’re really excited about what we’ve got,” said coach Jed Davis. “We expect to compete for a state championship and we don’t hide from those expectations.”
Last year, Mayflower started slowly, then won three games in a row in late season, including a 42-35 victory over Yellville Summit that was the Eagles’ first playoff win in four years. Prescott ended their season with a 69-24 victory in the second round.
Mayflower had 30 players participate in the offseason program. “That’s a number we haven’t had in a long time. Our kids have really bought in to what we are doing,” Davis said.
He hopes to minimize the number of high-scoring shootouts this season.
“We had a lead in the third or fourth quarter of most of our games last season and we couldn’t hold onto the lead,” he said.
It starts with junior quarterback Adam Dycus, who, statistically, was one of the top quarterbacks in the state last season. He passed for 4,084 yards, completing 244 of 419 passes for 42 touchdowns. He compiled 710 yards in a 57-53 win over Bald Knob.
“He is a tireless worker,” said Davis. “He spends a lot of time in the film room and on the drawing board.”
Justin Bailey and Marcus Harper are slated to take over at running back for all-stater Daniel Geiber.
The Eagles return their leading receiver in Drew Duncan, who caught 71 passes for 718 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Madison Chambliss, who caught 63 passes for 1,094 yards and nine touchdowns last year, should be one of the top receivers in 3A. Wide receiver Josh Woodham is one of the Eagles’ biggest deep threats as one of the fastest players on the team. Garrett is another receiver in Dycus’ arsenal. “We feel like we have four great receivers to throw to,” Davis said.
The key to the offense is the return of four all-conference linemen from a year ago. Trey Bradley, Jordan Graves and Tristan Speed are two-year starters, Justin Case is another returning star in the line, even though he’s just 5-foot-8, 165 pounds. Sean Kocher and Austin Grundy are other top players in the line rotation.
“We have a high-powered offense, but we’ve got to play better defense,” said Davis. “We’ve got to slow people down, at least a little, and I think we can do that this year.”
Kocher, a tackle, anchors the line. “It’s very difficult to block him,” said Davis.
End Josh Sutton is one of the Eagles’ top returning tacklers with Grundy or Speed at the other end. Jeffrey Wilson, Payton Hurt, Travis Bridges, Jordan Cooper and Chase Huslander began preseason practice in the rotation up front.
Linebackers Ryan Koonce and Breandon Forrester are the leading returning tacklers with Shannon Forrester, Graves and Triston Clements and Tyler Roberts in the linebacker mix.
Senior cornerbacks Michael Post and Graham Wilson lead the secondary, which had to be realigned after a summer season-ending injury to safety Bradley Chambliss, the quarterback of the defense. Trey Lasker, Stuart Faught and Rick Manning will help fill in some of the gaps.
Can the Eagles, with nine returning starters on defense, be able to come up with key stops consistently?
YOU MAY NOT KNOW
Mayflower scored more than 30 points in eight of 12 games last season — more than 50 in three and 69 in one.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Wide receiver Drew Duncan, also a star on the Mayflower baseball team, is a key possession receiver, a major target on underneath routes. “If we need 5 or 6 yards, he’s our guy,” said Davis.