Crossett out to catch Stuttgart, Sylvan Hills

Through three quarters of the regular season last year, the Crossett Eagles seemed as good a candidate to end up in the state championship as any other team in Class AAAA football. And then they collapsed, losing three of their final four games and limping into the playoffs where they suffered a loss to Beebe in a contest that they were not in from the very start.

The first postseason appearance for Crossett (7-4, 4-3; third place in the Southeast) in five years did little to appease a team that had more talent than most at even the AAAAA level.

Despite losing four seniors who signed college football scholarships in the spring, including cornerback Brannon Kidd who signed with the University of Arkansas, the Eagles return a good deal of talent this fall but lack the depth that they had a year ago.

The team was heavily run-oriented last fall, even more than it ever has been under head coach Teodis Ingram, now in his fifth season at CHS. And the running game was kind to Crossett early in the season, as the squad had one of the top scoring offenses in the state (29.3 points and 320 yards of total offense per game, 255 yards by rushing). But the run betrayed the Eagles late as teams started stacking the line against them.

Preseason practices have shown that the Eagles are working much harder on their passing game. In fact, Crossett advanced to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Seven-on-Seven State Tournament this summer, barely losing to pass-happy Warren in the regional finals.

The team begins and ends with senior Ray Charles Tucker (6-0, 220, 4.6), who barely left the field a year ago and will be just as active this season. Tucker rushed for a team-high 926 yards last season (6.8 yards-per-carry average) and nine touchdowns as a fullback. He also led the team in tackles as a linebacker, intercepting a pass for a touchdown, recovering two fumblesÑone of which he also returned for a scoreÑand blocking two kicks. Tucker also has kickoff chores.

Tucker, a human wrecking ball, is up about 20 pounds from his playing weight last year, and arguably he is the best all-around football player Ashley County has produced in 25 years.

Alongside Tucker in Ingra's Wing-T offense will be junior Derrick Furlow (6-0, 170) at tailback. Furlow had a strong junior varsity season but had only scant trash time minutes in a couple of games last year. Not blessed with great downfield speed, FurlowÕs strength instead is in his quickness and cutting ability.

At quarterback will be senior Stetson Moon (5-11, 175). Moon split time with junior J.C. Ross under center last season but has been given the starting position outright this fall. He was 15 of 30 passing with two interceptions, 280 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.

Ingram has commended his receiving corps, which includes quick wingback Michael Williams (5-10, 160), who was ineligible a year ago but factors heavily into offensive plans this fall. Williams is reminiscent of Terrell Richmond, who had a 9.7 yards-per-carry average for the Eagles from the position last year, in both stature and moves.

ÒHeÕs a fierce competitor,Ó Ingram said of Williams.

The Crossett offensive line had some question marks in the spring but through the preseason has been rearranged, and coaches feel more comfortable with the unit now. Anchor Grant Jackson (6-4, 300) has been moved from tackle to center. Senior Quinton Martin (5-8, 240) returns to guard and seniors Chris Cross (6-0, 165) and Brandon Blissett (6-1, 220) return to tight end. Newcomers include tackles senior Adam Person (6-2, 275) and junior Josh Govan (6-1, 200). Senior Carlos Bonnett (5-10, 225), a starter on the defensive line last season, will move to offense and play guard this fall.

Defensively, the coaches are high on their linebackers. Ingram said that this corps is the best he ever has coached. Tucker will start there for the third straight year. Senior DeCarlo Williams (5-7, 190) makes a move from defensive end, where he recorded four sacks a year ago, to linebacker; headhunter Julius McDaniels (5-11, 190) regained eligibility and will start beside him this season. Lanky senior Josh Grant (6-0, 185) provides quality depth at the position.

Ingram has praise for aggressive senior defensive tackle Justin Wilcoxon (6-1, 255), who he said is the best he has ever had at the position. Wilcoxon will have to prove his worth as a leader, as well, since he is the lone returning starter along the defensive front. It is the youngest area of the Crossett team this year and it includes sophomore end Max Hendrix (6-0, 235) and sophomore tackle Kris Howell (5-11, 270) as well as junior defensive end Dwayne Bridges (6-2, 240).

Ingram said that teams will be surprised at the skill Crossett has in the defensive backfield after three quality players graduated from the program. While the players there lack the size they had a year ago, they are equally as quick and skilled, according to Ingram. Senior safety Martinez Modisett (6-1, 175) is the one returning starter. He intercepted four passes last year.

ÒHeÕs very aggressive and breaks on the ball well,Ó Ingram said.

Junior Coangelo Herman (5-9, 160) and senior Richie Walton (5-10, 155) will play cornerback. Walton has not played high school football before this year. Junior Korell Lindsey (6-1, 175) will play the other safety position.

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