HOPE, Ark. — The Hope Bobcats are looking to not just make strides forward but show results in 2019.
After going 1-9 last year, second-year head coach Phillip Turner and his coaching staff believe the hard work their players have put in will reap rewards.
"This group doesn't have a lot of senior leadership, but they're working hard," Turner said. "We don't have a lot of vocal leaders, but they lead by example. Going into my second year, they know what I expect and what my coaches want them to do, and they're working their tails off. I'm proud of their work ethic, and I've told them all the hard work is going to pay off down the road.
"They're buying into that and starting to believe that pushing themselves daily, in the weight room and on the field, that we're going to see results."
The Bobcats return 10 lettermen, including six starters on either side of the ball. With improved leadership and good team speed, Hope is aiming to shore up some areas that needed polishing.
"We've got a returning quarterback, and he's just one of two or three quarterbacks coming back in our conference," Turner said. "Our quarterback play has impressed me early, and our skill kids are taking extra reps, after practice, to continue getting better. We've got some depth at receiver and in the secondary, so that will help us, also."Gallery: Texarkana Gazette's 2019 Football Edition
Hunter Hellums is a three-year starter at QB as a senior. Sophomore Ammorrion Dempsey will also help at quarterback, play receiver and even running back.
Seniors Jarod Hamilton and Emanuel Lawson will handle much of the running back duties, along with sophomore LaDarius Allen.
LaDarius Watson, who starts on defense, will help at tight end and halfback.
"We've got some athletes at receiver," Turner said. "I don't have that true speed guy like we had last year, but we've got guys who have good speed and understand how to run routes."
Seniors Mehki Henderson and McKinsey Davis are returning starters at receiver for the Bobcats, who don't play Zero Week and travel to Nashville for their season opener on September 6. Henderson is a three-year starter, and Davis excels at route-running. Sophomore Davian Durden will also help at receiver.
Junior Darton Davis returns for his third year of varsity play. Adrian Dominguez is also back on the offensive line, and Derek Patterson, Akeem Hopkins and Oathis Ward are working into spots up front.
"Offensively, I think we'll one able to score some points," Turner said. "And if our defense can do it's job, I think we'll be successful."
Watson is the leader on the defensive side at linebacker; he's a two-year starter and all-conference player for Hope.
Senior Akeem Hopkins and Allen will help at linebacker.
"The key to our defense is the D-line; last year we had guys who thought the D-line was supposed to make every play," Turner said. "That's not the case. We're a gap-control defense, and the guys up front need to keep offensive linemen off our linebackers so our linebackers can run to the ball. This group of buying into that mentality."
Seniors Au'Vion Horton and Jose Salgado return at the defensive end spots, and Darton Davis will anchor the line at tackle. Ward and Patterson could also help up front.
Henderson is back in the secondary, as is senior CaVante Young. Dempsey will help in the defensive backfield, and sophomore Erik Haynie is expected to add depth in the secondary.
Turner didn't shy away from the idea that Hope still isn't where it needs to be to contend for the conference title and make some noise deep in the playoffs, but the development and fight of the Bobcats will make a difference.
"Teams better watch out; our kids have bought in and we're going to be improved," the coach said. "We still are needing to develop more depth, as a whole. Our numbers are still down from where we need them to be; we've got about 43 kids out. Outside of depth, the physical aspect of the game is something we need to grow leading up to conference play. We're still not as strong as I want us to be.
"We've gotten better. We're not going to be everybody's Homecoming anymore. We're going to be ready Friday nights to put on a battle."
Sept. 6, at Nashville
Sept. 13, at Ashdown
Sept. 20, Prescott
Sept. 27, x-De Queen
Oct. 4, x-at Hot Springs
Oct. 11, x-LR McClellan
Oct. 18, x-at HS Lakeside
Oct. 25, x-Camden Fairview
Nov. 1, x-at Arkansas High
Nov. 8, x-Magnolia
x-Denotes 5A-South conference games. All kickoffs 7 p.m.
2018 RECORD: 1-9
HEAD COACH: Phillip Turner
YEARS AT SCHOOL: 2nd
COACHING STAFF: Jonathan Turner, asst. head coach/running backs/secondary; Phillip Turner, off. coordinator; Eric McCaslin, def. coordinator; Josh Marshall, linebackers; Zac Hoglund, receivers; Paul Morris, def. line/receivers; Daniel Hampton, statistics; Billy Rook, head junior high; Austin May, off. coordinator.
LETTERMEN LOST/BACK: 11/10
STARTERS BACK: offense 6, defense 6
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Hunter Hellums, WR/DB Mehki Henderson, WR McKinsey Davis, RB Emanuel Lawson, RB Jarod Hamilton, OL/DT Darton Davis, OL Adrian Dominguez, TE/LB LaDarius Watson, DE Au'Vion Horton, DE Jose Salgado, DB CaVonte Young.
TOP NEWCOMERS: QB Ammorrion Dempsey, WR/DE Davian Durden, OL/LB Akeem Hopkins, WR/DB Erik Haynie, OL/DL Derek Patterson, OL/DL Oathis Ward, RB/LB LaDarius Allen.