FAYETTEVILLE — Beau Stuckey took a year off from football to concentrate on baseball, a move that paid off when he committed to Missouri State after receiving a scholarship offer.
Stuckey has returned to football for the Bulldogs (2-0), who return from a week off to face Bryant (2-0) in a highly anticipated matchup of Class 7A powers tonight at Hornet Stadium.
Bryant is No. 2 and Fayetteville No. 3 in this week’s prep football poll.
Not many players can take a year off from football and perform at a high level, but most players aren’t as skilled as Stuckey, who made his varsity baseball debut as a freshman two years ago. He’s a junior now and making an impact as a playmaker at wide receiver, safety, and a kick returner for the Bulldogs.
“I consider myself a multi-sport athlete, but I wanted to pursue a scholarship for baseball and I got that with Missouri State,” Stuckey said. “But I miss football and, so far, I’m having a good season.”
Stuckey (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) has eight catches for 228 yards, which translates into a whopping 28.5 yards per reception. He had touchdown catches of 73 and 76 yards in 45-31 victory over Owasso, Okla., after returning the second-half kickoff 86 yards for a score in a 51-28 victory over St. John (Mo.) Vianney.
Fayetteville coach Billy Dawson said he expected Stuckey to be effective on the football field despite missing all of last season.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Dawson said. “He’s very athletic and he’s very competitive. That’s what people overlook. He loves to compete and I don’t think it matters the sport. He’s competitive in practice and he’s come out and had two really good games on Friday night.”
Fayetteville has made it a point of emphasis to finish games after losing five games in the fourth quarter last year. Stuckey provided momentum in the season-opener when he returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown against St. John (Mo.) Vianney.
“When he kicked it, the ball was going toward the sideline,” Stuckey said. “I heard Brooks Flannigan, the other returner, say ‘let it go, let it go.’ But I just picked it up instinctively and I took off toward the middle. I saw a hole and I just cut and went and scored.”
Stuckey then showed his big-play ability at receiver with five catches for 177 yards against Owasso, Okla.
“I knew it would take awhile to get used to football again, the route running,” Stuckey said. ” But I wanted to do it because I enjoy the game. I love being out on the field.”
Stuckey’s emergence has provided another weapon for senior quarterback Darius Bowers, who’s already thrown for 776 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions. Junior Connor Flannigan, Brooks’ twin brother, leads the Bulldogs with 21 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns.
“All three of us are good friends and we have really good chemistry between us,” Stuckey said. “We communicate well and we’ve got to keep it going.”
Stuckey said he enjoyed his visit to Missouri State and committed early for baseball because scholarships are limited in that sport. Fayetteville baseball coach Scott Gallagher is pleased he’ll have Stuckey around for two more years before he heads off to college.
“Beau started 28 games last year for us and hit three home runs,” Gallagher said. “He’s a good middle infielder. He uses his great speed to steal bases and run down fly balls in the outfield from his infield spot.”
With a college baseball scholarship secured, Stuckey is now geared toward improving upon the intricacies that involve high school football. There’s still lots for him to learn and timing with his quarterback requires plenty of repetition.
“There’s not a bigger critic of Beau Stuckey than Beau Stuckey,” Dawson said. “He is physical and ultra-competitive and you see that in baseball, as well. We’ve got a bunch of those and it’s fun to coach those type of kids because it really matters to them. ”
Fayetteville should be eager to get on the field tonight against Bryant, which beat the Bulldogs twice last year. The game is the home-opener for the Hornets, which will make this meeting between two top Class 7A teams even more intense.
“We just have to keep trusting each other as players and as a coaching staff,” Stuckey said. “If we do that and don’t put too much pressure on ourselves, I think we’ll have a good game.”