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Arkansas Class 6A high school football team previews: Van Buren looking to bounce back after key injury dampened 2021 season

Van Buren QB Bryce Perkins is fully healthy after missing half the season with a broken collarbone.

SBLive is previewing the Arkansas high school football teams from the three largest classifications. Today, we feature the Van Buren Pointers from the 6A-West Conference .

By Kyle Sutherland  

VAN BUREN POINTERS

HEAD COACH

Moe Henry, first season

2021 AT A GLANCE

Overall Record: 4-6

Conference Record: 1-6, Seventh in 6A West

Playoffs: Did Not Qualify

KEY DEPARTURES

QB/WR Connor Brady

DE Owen Lee

LB Alex Marcos

DB Dylan Barlow, all-state

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Junior QB Bryce Perkins - Perkins led the Pointers to a 4-0 record last season before he went down with a broken collarbone. He passed for 1,123 yards with 12 TD along with 133 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground in that span.

So WR Trenton Cooley - Cooley expects to take over at one of the receiver spots following a solid offseason.

Senior WR Andrew Hammond - Hammond proved as a junior that he is a reliable piece to the receiver rotation and should factor in nicely with Henry, Sayoxomphou, and Jacob Gavelis in a new offense.

Senior WR/DB Malachi Henry - The top player on the Pointers’ roster and the coach’s son, Henry impresses on both sides of the ball, particularly on offense after hauling in 1,150 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior earning all-state. He has multiple offers including Air Force, Army, Central Arkansas, UT-Martin, among others.

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Junior TE/DE Jacob Gavelis - Gavelis is a great blocker and very elusive as shown by the times he has lined up in the wildcat package. The staff really put an emphasis on his pass-catching ability last year and he is due for a breakout season contributing at multiple spots.

Senior OL Caleb Davis - Davis had some starting experience during his sophomore season and earned a starting spot last season.

Senior OL Ivan Martinez - Martinez went down with an injury during his sophomore year but rebounded well and is well-suited to play either guard or tackle.

Senior OL Colton Reather - Reather is one of multiple offensive line starters returning who got valuable experience as a sophomore with the junior varsity and then earned a spot for the varsity as a junior.

Senior OL Sam Shepherd - Shepherd earned all-conference in 2021 and could be the best of all of the returning offensive linemen in terms of overall strength and elusiveness. He has great footwork and displays great coordination along with consistent alertness of what is going on around him.

Junior OL Chasen Thibodeaux - It was not certain coming into 2021 how much Thibodeux would contribute, but he impressed the coaching staff and earned a starting role.

Senior LB Grant King - Also a state champion wrestler, King started eight games at linebacker in 2020 and then earned all-conference last year. He returns for his senior season as one of the top defensive leaders.

Junior DB Nathan Fisher - Fisher is a natural defensive back but can bump down to linebacker when the situation presents itself. The defensive backfield will be in good hands with him and Tobey Sayaxomphou’s experience.

Senior DB Tobey Sayaxomphou - Also a standout basketball player, Sayaxomphou is the unquestioned leader in the secondary as a three-year starter and uses his excellent hands to snag passes on both sides of the ball.

OUTLOOK

Moe Henry served as Van Buren’s defensive coordinator for the past three seasons and took over as head coach in April after former Razorback Crosby Tuck resigned to pursue other opportunities.

The Pointers are looking to get back to put together a winning season for the first time since 2019, but the task will be even greater now that they share a conference with not only nearby juggernaut Greenwood, but also Little Rock Christian and Pulaski Academy.

After starting 4-0 for the first time in over a decade, things quickly went south for the Pointers following the season-ending injury to Bryce Perkins who was off to an incredible start in his varsity career.

Perkins is healthy and ready to put the state on notice along with his corps of skill players led by Malachi Henry, one of the state’s top 2023 prospects, plus the entire offensive line from a year ago.

The biggest questions for Van Buren will be how will the lack of depth hold up and how quickly the defense can come together, which is the side Moe Henry knows best if there is any silver lining. Class 6A state wrestling champion and veteran linebacker Grant King will anchor that side of the ball along with Tobey Sayaxomphou on the back end.

COACH SAID

“Last season our starting quarterback was lost for the season with an injury; we were 4-0 before he got hurt and went 0-6 after the injury. Our offense, under new coordinator, is fired up about going out and proving that they can compete in this conference. We are still trying to grow defensively and with replacing 6 Pointers on Defense from a year ago, we are already fighting depth and injuries on that side of the ball.”

-Moe Henry