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story.lead_photo.caption FILE PHOTO Alma senior Keegan Rosebeary runs the ball against Greenwood last season. Rosebeary will power the Airedales' offense in 2018, running behind an experienced offensive line that returns all five starters.

After winning its first state championship in four decades in 2013, Morrilton suffered through a couple of down years before rebounding last season to advance to the state quarterfinals.

The Devil Dogs are poised to make a deep run this season with a ton of returning skill position players from last season's 8-4 team. To win the state title, Morrilton will likely have to go through Pulaski Academy, but the talent is there to do just that.

  • 2017 5A-West Conference
  • TEAM^CONF.^OVERALL
  • Alma^5-2^7-5
  • Greenbrier^5-2^7-5
  • Harrison^5-2^8-4
  • Morrilton^5-2^8-4
  • Maumelle^4-3^5-5
  • Farmington^3-4^4-6
  • Vilonia^1-6^1-9
  • Clarksville^0-7^1-9
  • 2018 Hooten’s Coaches Poll
  1. Morrilton
  2. Harrison
  3. Greenbrier
  4. Alma
  5. Farmington
  6. Clarksville
  7. Vilonia
  8. Huntsville

SHINE ON ….

Coltin Bowerman

SCHOOL Alma

POSITION Wide Receiver/Defensive Back

CLASS Senior

HEIGHT 6-1

WEIGHT 185

TWITTER HANDLE Does not have Twitter

THE DIGITS Bowerman was a terror on defense last season, compiling a team-high 135 total tackles and 2.0 tackles-for-loss. … Bowerman hauled in three interceptions, recovered one fumble and caused another.

CRUSHING ON Don’t really have a crush

I LISTEN TO The Beatles

I BINGE WATCH The Office

I DRIVE A 2004 Toyota Camry

MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW I’m a slide attendant at the Alma Water Park.

MY HERO IS My father, Jeff Bowerman and Coach Doug Loughridge.

FAVORITE MEAL Steak (medium well) with scrambled eggs

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT FOOTBALL IS I just like working with my teammates and fighting together.

IN 10 YEARS I WILL Be a coach and elementary school teacher.

— Chip Souza • @nwachip

In 2017, parity was the best way to describe the 5A-West. The top four teams all posted 5-2 marks with Alma claiming the top seed in a wacky week 10 finish. All four teams earned first-round wins in the playoffs but were bounced in the second round.

Could it get any crazier than that?

"It could," said Harrison coach Joel Wells. "Vilonia has a new coach; they could be in. Farmington is going to be better, and you throw the other four into the mix. Also Clarksville played everybody to the wire last year, probably except us."

Based on pure numbers, Morrilton is the favorite to win the league, according to Hooten's Arkansas Football. And with good reason, specifically at the skill spots. Quarterback Jacolby Criswell was named to the all-state team as a sophomore last season and has several returning all-star caliber receivers.

Criswell (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) holds offers from several SEC schools, including Georgia and Arkansas. Last season he passed for 1,947 yards and 20 touchdowns, then ran for 969 yards and another three touchdowns.

Criswell has plenty of help in electric wide receiver Mason Adams, who had 39 catches for 485 yards and six total touchdowns. Running back Xavier Clemons is a home-run threat and ran for 578 yards and eight scores. There are three starters back on the offensive line, including all-state tackle Hunter DeSalvo (6-2, 265).

But before anyone hands the title over to Morrilton, there are a couple of other contenders to consider, like defending co-champion Alma, whose eight returning offensive starters include the entire offensive line.

"We've got a lot of experience back," said Airedales coach Doug Loughridge, who has led the program to three league titles. "We've got a lot of experience up front, which is the main thing. I think early on, as we adjust the skill guys and get them ready to go, I think these guys will pave the way. The O-line did a great job last year. They were new, but they exceeded expectations."

The Airedales will miss quarterback Garrison Jensen and receiver Brayden Johnson, the dynamic passing duo that paced the offense, but that line will allow them to run the ball and chew up the clock. And senior running back Keegan Rosebeary (6-1, 205) is poised for a breakout season.

Harrison was in the mix last season and will be again as junior running back Gabe Huskey (5-10, 175) returns after rushing for 1,862 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. Huskey is also a key part of the passing game.

As Wells mentioned, Clarksville is the team many expect to make a big jump this season after starting as many as 13 sophomores last year. This junior class is the best the Panthers have put on the field in years, coach Khris Buckner said.

"We've built from the bottom up," said the third-year coach. "We knew this was going to be a three- to four-year deal, and we're going into year three. I really expect to make a big step forward this year."

The Panthers will operate again out of the Wing-T and have added a ton of new wrinkles, Buckner said. Nicholas Buckner, the coach's son, will be a spinner back along with Jamie White. One throws right-handed, and the other is a lefty, giving the Panthers two passing threats in the same backfield. Nicholas Buckner ran for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns last season before a collarbone injury in week eight ended his season.

Wells sees the conference as being a dogfight to the end, as it was a year ago.

"You're going to have to play every Friday night and see how it turns out," Wells said. "It will be very difficult for anybody to run the table in our league."

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Coltin Bowerman, Alma Wednesday, July 18, 2018
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Gabe Huskey of Harrison rushed for more than 1,800 yards as a sophomore in 2017. Huskey will lead the Goblins in 2018 in the race for the 5A-West Conference championship.

Sports on 08/23/2018

Print Headline: CLASS 5A: Morrilton primed for deep playoff run

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