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story.lead_photo.caption Gravette running back Cedric Duarte is expected to get plenty of carries this season after rushing for 11 touchdowns and almost 1,300 yards last season as the Lions finished 3-8. - Photo by Ben Goff

The 1-4A Conference has a new look with some old familiar faces.

Thanks to reclassification, Farmington and Ozark are no longer in the 1-4A Conference and Shiloh Christian returns after dropping down from Class 5A following a two-year absence. Huntsville also returns to the league after a stint in Class 5A.

Farmington was bumped up to Class 5A, while Ozark is now a member of the 4-4A Conference.

The new classification isn't the only change for Shiloh Christian. The Saints also have a new coach with Jeff Conaway replacing former coach Josh Floyd, who left to coach Hewitt-Trussville, which is located in a suburb of Birmingham, Ala.

Conaway, who was hired in June, comes to Shiloh from Greene County Tech. He served as the offensive coordinator under Floyd before going to Greene County Tech in 2008, and Conaway said the transition has been a smooth one.

"I have enjoyed every bit of it," Conaway said. "Being familiar with the plays, the administration and even some players and parents has definitely made the transition a lot smoother. Our senior class, we have a real good group of leaders. They have great character and they are quality football players."

The Saints finished 6-4-1 last season and were defeated 35-19 by Wynne in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. The Saints won five of their last six regular-season games and return several key players from that team.

"We have some good speed at the skill positions," Conaway said. "We have some solid linemen and we have some linebackers that are ready to hit people real hard. That's a good combination."

Sophomore Connor Reece and senior Ben Olsen are the top two candidates at quarterback. Conaway said he may use a two-quarterback system.

"Connor is intelligent, he makes good decisions and he is accurate," Conaway said. "Ben's strength is his athleticism and his ability to ad lib and make plays. He can take a bad play and make a highlight out of it.

"Both of them will play, and both will have a role on our offensive scheme."

Adler Goode, Reed Lowe, Matthew Solomon and Jared Moore are the Saints' top receivers.

"We have some receivers that can stretch the field vertically," Conway said. "They are great route runners and they have excellent hands."

Huntsville Coach Tommy Tice returns eight offensive starters from a team that went 2-8 in Class 5A last season.

Lincoln also has a new coach as Scott Davenport takes over a program that finished 11-2 last season and won two playoff games.

Two-time defending conference champion Prairie Grove was 10-2 last season and returns 10 starters, five on each side of the ball. Dylan Soehner played tight end last season, but the 6-7, 265-pound junior is in the mix at quarterback this season.

Gravette senior Cedric Duarte rushed for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and is among six returning starters for the Lions.

Pea Ridge was 1-9 last year, but two of the losses came when the Blackhawks had to forfeit two nonconference games for using an ineligible player. Pea Ridge, which had just one returning starter last fall, returns 10 starters this season, led by senior quarterback Seth Brumley, 6-3, 210.

"Those guys have looked like returning starters," Pea Ridge Coach Tony Travis said. "Those guys have done a good job being leaders for us."

Travis said he also expects to have better depth with more than 60 players on the roster.

"It really increases the competition," Travis said. "We have some returning starters this year after we had one returning starter last year.

"There are some battles going on for spots. No one is comfortable being called a starter. Players are pushing each other, and we are developing some depth. We are also getting some young players involved."

Sports on 08/24/2014

Print Headline: Saints march back into familiar surroundings

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