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story.lead_photo.caption Staff Photo DAVID GOTTSCHALK Connor Reece, Shiloh Christian quarterback, is in a two-way battle for the Saints’ starting quarterback position.

SPRINGDALE -- Andrew Jordan sprinted across the field, his floppy hat flying off as he and a defender celebrated a pass break-up at Wednesday's opening practice for Shiloh Christian.

Jordan's enthusiasm kept players' spirits up as the Saints completed their first official fall practice under new coach Jeff Conaway.

Jordan, a former Saints player, graduated in 2007. He is the special teams coordinator and safeties coach, and yet another former Shiloh Christian player on the coaching staff this season.

"I think our approach today was great," Conaway said. "The focus was there, the intensity was there. The tempo was not where I want it, but that's understandable with it being our first practice. We're trying to pick up the pace of practice, but I thought they responded well."

The Saints were 6-4-1 last season in Class 5A, and welcome back seven offensive starters as they relocate back to the 4A-1 Conference.

Shiloh Christian has a number of top skill position players back, including standout receivers Reed Lowe and Adler Goode. Running back Chandler Smith also returns after offseason shoulder surgery.

Right now there is a two-way battle for the quarterback spot between senior Ben Olsen and sophomore Connor Reece. Olsen did not play last season, but joined the Saints in the spring. Reece quarterbacked the Shiloh Christian ninth grade team last fall.

"Both of them are giving great effort," Conaway said. "There are two things they have to do well to be great in our offense, and that's decision-making and accuracy. Both of them have embraced those expectations and are really battling."

New defensive coordinator Greg Tibbitt has just five starters back, but he liked what he saw Wednesday, especially the intensity of the players -- and coaches.

"We were flying around and we did a good job of being where we were supposed to be," he said. "We're getting a lot of kids in at a lot of positions, but our intensity was good."

The Saints will go full pads starting today in preparation for their Aug. 25 scrimmage at Springdale High that will also include defending Class 4A state champion Booneville. Shiloh Christian opens the regular season on Thursday, Sept. 4 against defending Class 3A state champion Charleston at part of the Hooten's Kickoff Classic. The game will be played at Mayo-Thompson Stadium at Fort Smith Northside.

Sports on 08/08/2014

Print Headline: Saints Adjusting To New Coaching Staff

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