Spring football across the cities of Pine Bluff andWhite Hall means earnest preparation for the 2019 season.
Two of the four schools, White Hall and Pine Bluff, will have new head coaches this season. Dollarway is coming off a season where they were ousted in the first round of the 4A state playoffs. Watson Chapel missed the playoffs for the first time in five years under the tenure of Head Coach Jared Dutton.
Dutton and the Wildcats have a bad taste in their mouths, and he said the only way they can get rid of it is by putting in work. The Wildcats are in their final week of spring football.
“After missing out on the postseason for the first time, we’re going back to (the) drawing boards,” Dutton said. “We’re doing things right and getting stronger. I truly think the kids took the same mold. Our senior group was a part of the two teams that made the deep runs. They have hit the weights hard and got a lot stronger. I have some guys who’ve gained 25-30 pounds of muscle.”
Going into his sixth year, Dutton sees this spring as productive as one in the recent past that led them to a conference championship.
“It’s definitely better than it was last off-season,” Dutton said. “I rank this one up there with the group after our semi-final run. Only being one game away from a state championship, they were very motivated. I’ll put this one up there with that one. They're taking a hold of what we’re trying to do, and guys are leading by example.”
The Dollarway Cardinals concluded their spring football session toward the end of April, according to Head Coach Martese Henry.
Dollarway benefited from a refurbished weight room this spring, and Henry said he could see the renewed energy as a result. Going into his second season at the helm, Henry said he can see the difference from last spring to this one.
“Actually, it went a lot smoother this time,” Henry said. “We got our weight room situated, and we have really utilized that. We’re becoming more flexible, and this whole spring has been focused on defense. Real good spring for us.”
Depth and numbers have been a problem for the Cardinals in the past. Henry said he is happy with the number of guys who participated in spring ball, and when summer practice begins, he expects the numbers to increase.
“We have a solid 40 guys right now,” Henry said. “That should increase in the summer. They’re working diligently, and they’re looking forward to the upcoming season. They learned a lot from last year, and they’re ready to work. Everybody is taking ownership of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
After leaving the Zebras for the White Hall head coaching job earlier this year, Bobby Bolding has begun his spring session this week. For the Bulldogs, it’ll be getting into the swing of things, with strength and conditioning playing a bit part.
“The summer will be more important,” Bolding said. “Right now, getting basic stuff installed as far as teaching practice routines.”
Bolding made the decision to relocate the weight room closer to the football facilities. Getting stronger is a key point for the Bulldogs at this point, and most of the installation will take part in the summer.
“We’ve been lifting during the day, and when I get there after school they're lifting,” Bolding said. “The summer is going to be very important to us getting things installed.”
First-year Pine Bluff High Head Coach Rod Stinson Sr. isn't new to the Zebras program, having been an assistant there, so they aren't having to make any drastic changes to the way things are done. However, finding talent and depth will be big for Stinson this spring.
"Right now, we're just getting them through spring, and not making a lot of changes," Stinson said. "The biggest thing is finding kids who can play. Also, we have to find more depth on defense."