FOUKE, Ark. — The Fouke Panthers may have a new head coach, but the standard remains the same: making the playoffs.
"I've been here a month and it's been awesome," Fouke head coach Jerry Littleton said. "I graduated from here in 2003 and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to come home. I'm seeing people I haven't seen in 10 or 15 years but I enjoy seeing those faces and reconnecting."
Including last year's playoff appearance, the Panthers have made the state playoffs six consecutive times.Gallery: Texarkana Gazette's 2019 Football Edition
Fouke returns senior Hunter Lansdell, who was named all-conference last season and will also be a three-year starter for the Panthers. Landssdell passed for 972 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2018.
"Since I've walked through the door, he's done everything we've asked of him," Littleton said. "He's been learning the offense, because it's new to him but he's been awesome."
The Panthere will base their offense out of the spread formation this season, as opposed to having the overbearing ground attack many Panther fans are accustomed to.
"We're going to try to the throw the ball around as much as we can," Littleton said. "If that's not working, we'll be able to get in the I-formation with a fullback because that's what the kids have ran in the past. They already have an idea on how to do that."
Chance Crabtree, junior Trent Crabtree and sophomore Jayden Pittman will handle the running back duties for the Panthers this fall. Trent Crabtree rushed for a team-high 271 yards and a touchdown.
"Chance did a little back there for us last year," Littleton said. "Trent plays corner for us as well and we also have a younger guy in Jayden, that we expect good things out of. All three are learning the offense and picking things up well for us."
Junior Kyle Upton, junior Carson Crabtree, sophomore Dalton McFerrin and senior Tank McGowan will anchor the offensive with a few underclassmen that will fill the remaining void.
"Kyle, Carson and Tank started for us last year, so it's good to have their experience coming back," Littleton said. "We have a few different guys that have been competing for that fifth spot."
Senior Nick Cowart, senior Seth Phillips and junior Kanon Garrett will rotate at receiver and also slot for the Dragons in 2019.
"Kanon played a little for us last year at receiver," Littleton said. "Nick may not be the fastest but he always open and he catches everything that comes his way. Seth moved-in here last year and he's been a bright spot for us this offseason.
"We want to stay on the field and give our defense a chance to rest," Littleton said. "We just want to as efficient as we can offensively this year and have as few turnovers as we can."
The Panthers defense, which gave up 284 points in 2018, will have a different rotation under Littleton.
"When I played here, the coach would always say "See you at halftime, because you're not coming off the field," Littleton said. "We don't want to have the big boys going both ways, but many of the skill guys know they'll have to play defense."
Junior Ethan Ross, Upton, McFerrin, sophomore Zach East, senior Cason Easley and senior Cameron Hinds will take a majority of the snaps in the trenches for the Panthers this fall.
"Since I've arrived, Ethan has been in here with us every day," Littleton said. "They've all pretty much done a good job of learning what we're trying to do and what we expect of them."
Senior Nick Scoggins, Pittman and junior Jordan Dell will roam the second level for Fouke from their linebacker position. Scoggins has led the team in tackles the past two season, collecting 83 tackles and one sack last year. Dell recorded 47 tackles in 2018.
"We feel really good about our linebacker group," Littleton said. "We have experience there, so they know what we're expecting and what to do. It's good because they can help get the defense aligned correctly or make other adjustments on the fly if we need to."
Trent Crabtree, Chance Crabtree, Phillps and Garrett will occupy the secondary positions in the Fouke defense.
"Chance was named all-conference last year, so we're glad to get his experience back," Littleton said. "We want our guys to come out and play Fouke football. Hopefully, we can teach them much more than football, like how to mature and handle adversity that they'll have to face."
Sept. 6, Gurdon
Sept. 13, at Mineral Springs
Sept. 20, Glen Rose
Sept. 27, x-at Prescott
Oct. 4, x-Centerpoint
Oct. 11, x-at Bismarck
Oct. 18, x-Smackover
Oct. 25, x-at Camden Harmony Grove
Nov. 1, x-at Genoa Central
Nov. 7, x-Horatio
x-Denotes Conference 5-3A game
All kickoffs at 7 p.m.
— SCHOOL: Fouke
— 2018 RECORD: 4-7
— HEAD COACH: Jerry Littleton
— YEARS AT SCHOOL: 1
— COACHING STAFF: Vince McCrosky, def. coordinator/secondary; Phillip McFerrin, linebackers; Ronnie Burns, off. line/def. line; Cody Powell, receivers.
— LETTERMEN LOST/BACK: N/A
— STARTERS BACK: offense 7, defense 5
— PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Hunter Lansdell, WR/RB Trent Crabtree, WR Nick Cowart, WR Kanon Garrett, OL Kyle Upton, K Tristen Thrasher, Nick McGowan, LB Nick Scoggins, LB Jordan Dell, DB/RB Chance Crabtree, DB Tyler Lawrence, DB Brayden Larey.
— TOP NEWCOMERS: WR Seth Phillips, Jayden Pittman, DL Ethan Ross, C Dalton McFerrin.