Buck Buchanan knows the entire season will be a work in progress for the first Warrior football team in 53 years.
He and his staff have had to get everything in during a few weeks in preseason. They had no spring practice. “We had one player (linebacker Hunter Lawler) last spring,” he joked. “Not much you could do. You didn’t want one coach to coach the arm, the other the knees, another the ankles.”
One motto has been “adapt, adjust, improvise and overcome.”
The Warriors go into their first game with a 54-man roster and will rotate a lot of players.
“None of them have gone against anybody but each other in practice,” Buchanan said. “We don’t know what they can do when the pressure’s on. And with a small roster, we’ve had to be careful about a lot of contact because we cannot afford injuries.”
Buchanan feels confident in both his quarterbacks, Seth Peters of Greenbrier and Tanner Frye of Pottsboro, Texas. Peters will start, but both will see action. Both can run and pass.
“We really don’t have any real stars on offense right now,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure they play together as one.”
The go-to receiver will be Casey Caton of Rogers, a transfer from Harding University, who is the oldest player on the team at 22.
The other backs and receivers in the multiple sets will be from a rotation of Dayton Winn, Thomas Weissert and Austin Sevier. “They all do different things well,” Buchanan said.
In the regular rotation in the offensive line will be center Max Cassidy, flanked by Jeremiah Myers, Brett Asher, Zach Tuttle and Trent Middleton.
One of the strengths of the team should be place-kicker Steve Crenshaw of Texarkana, Texas. “I think he could be the best place-kicker in Division III,” said Buchanan, who noted Crenshaw has booted a 48-yarder in a game in high school and has been extraordinarily accurate from 40 yards in during practices. “If we need to have a key field goal, I have more confidence in Steve than in any place-kicker I’ve coached,” Buchanan said.
The Warriors will use a multiple defensive attack, adjusting to the personnel groups of the various offenses.
“With a young team, we’re still trying to establish identity and get leadership,” said Reid Heim, defensive coordinator.
Some of the early leadership could come from the secondary, where two Henderson State transfers, Reid Cone of Greenbrier and Caleb Shannon of The Woodlands, Texas, have had outstanding camp.
Jake Steward, a freshman from Vilonia, was also coming on strong until slowed by injury. “But he’s a ballplayer,” Buchanan said. “I’d take a hundred just like him.”
End Jake Falleur (6-foot-5, 228) has emerged as the top player on a defensive front that will need time to grow. The biggest player on the squad is defensive lineman Stephen Stearman of Mountainburg (6-5, 300), whom Buchanan said has been a tough player to block during preseason.
“Defensive line is one of the toughest positions to play as a freshman because there is a lot of technique and football, and it doesn’t take that much to be off on your position to be wrong,” said Buchanan. “And if you’re wrong, it throws everything else off because of the fits for the linebackers.”
The Warriors will play a platoon system at linebacker in the early going. “We’ll see who can make plays on game day,” Buchanan said.
Spencer Smith of Houston, Texas, will be the punter.
Can the Warriors, with most of a team that hasn’t gone through a college offseason weight program, hold up physically during the season on a squad with limited depth?
YOU MAY NOT KNOW
Stephen Crenshaw’s father played on one of the last football teams at Hendrix. He is living in the same dorm room at Martin Hall that his father did during his playing days.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
All of the Faulkner County players, quarterback Seth Peters and defensive backs Reid Cone and Jake Steward, have come on strong during preseason and figure to be vital parts of this first Warrior team.