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Arkansas Class 7A high school football team previews: Talented North Little Rock again a challenger for conference, state title

NLR boasts an explosive offense with key skill players returning.

SBLive is previewing the Arkansas high school football teams from the three largest classifications. Today, we feature the North Little Rock Charging Wlidcats from the 7A-Central Conference. This concludes the 7A-Central series. We will now move to the 7A-West next week.

By Jeff Halpern | Photo by Sadie Rucker  

NORTH LITTLE ROCK 

HEAD COACH

Randy Sandeufur, second season, 10-3

2021 AT A GLANCE

Overall record: 10-3

Conference record: 5-2

Playoffs: Def. Fort Smith Southside 51-7, def. Bentonville 24-21; lost to Bryant, 28-13

KEY DEPARTURES

Johnny Lewis, wide receiver

Felix Wade, wide receiver

Jiquori Stewart, wide receiver

Zephaniah Wiliams, offensive lineman

Braxton Johnson, defensive lineman, all-state

Marcus Stovall, defensive lineman, all-state

Marcus Stovall, defensive end

Donnell Packer, linebacker

Jayden Pettus, cornerback

Josh Thrower, cornerback

Davian Vayson, safety, all-state

Read More

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Senior QB Malachi Gober

Threw for 2,027 yards with 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as a junior.

Senior running back Torrance Moore

Rushed for 1,099 yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 8 touchdowns.

Junior wide receiver Javonte Harris

Rushed for 561 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scoring 4 touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver Corey Henderson

Caught 27 passes for 205 yards a year ago. Expected to be the team’s “big-play receiver” according to Sandefur.

Senior wide receiver Jaden Jones

A 6-5, 165-pound receiver with 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash moves in from Jacksonville.

Sophomore wide receiver Malachi Muhammad

Listed at 5-7, 140 pounds, he runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds.

Junior center Noah Taylor

The 5-11, 275-pound center is the lone returning starter on the offensive line.

Senior defensive end Robert Burgess

The 6-2, 230-pound senior had 21 solo tackles, 16 assists and 3 sacks a year ago and is one of two returning starters on the defensive line.

Senior defensive tackle Deontae Young

Missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL in the Springdale-Har Her game.

Senior defensive end Quincy Rhodes

Arkansas Razorback commit stands 6-6, 240 and is tall and has a lot of range according to Sandefur.

Junior linebacker Delkari Davis

A 5-9, 175-ound junior had 40 tackles, 13 assists, 3 tackles for losses and 4 quarterback hurries a year ago.

Junior safety/outisde linebacker Omar Anderson

Played a lot a year and demonstrated great coverage skills according to Sandefur.

OUTLOOK

North Little Rock and Bryant have been the premier programs in Class 7A with the two teams combining to win the past five state championships. North Little Rock’s last title came in 2017 and the Charging Wildcats have been to five state title games from 2016-2020, losing to Bryant in 2018-2020.

Despite losing 14 starters on both sides, Sandefur expects his team to be in the mix for another 7A-Central and 7A state title in 2022. The biggest area of concern, he said is experience on the offensive line where Taylor is the only returning starter. Despite that, he had four projected starters — right tackle Reggie Walker (6-2, 280 senior), right guard Darrian Turner (5-10, 240, senior), left tackle Blake Gibbs (6-1, 255, junior) and left guard Elijah Mackey (5-11, 235 junior) to develop.

“They are really strong in the weight room and have the ability and chances to be very good,” said Sandefur. “I have zero concerns about their ability to come together.”

Strengths appear to be the offensive skill positions where the Charging Wildcats return Gober, Moore, Harris, Henderson and have a lot of depth, the defensive line led by Burgess and Rhodes.

He is concerned about the linebackers where outside of Davis, he has several players — senior Germaine Williams (5-10, 190), sophomore De’Marcus Williams (5-10, 175), junior Jabari Phifer (5-10, 180), who haven’t played a lot. The same is true at cornerback where junior Dayonte Haris (5-5, 125), senior Oshea Williams (5-7, 150) are expected to start.

COACH SAID

“This is the first year we’ve had spring practice in the past three years because of COVID and the coaching change a year ago. We have some holes to fill, but we feel we have a lot of talent and some guys who are ready to step in and play. I have a good staff, administration and players and we’re all in this together.” — Randy Sandefur.

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