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Arkansas Class 6A high school football team previews: Determined El Dorado looking to repeat as state champion while filling holes

The Wildcats have a nucleus of players returning but have key spots to fill.

SBLive is previewing the Arkansas high school football teams from the three largest classifications. Today, we feature the El Dorado Wildcats from the 6A-East Conference.

By Kyle Suthlerland | Photo by Jimmy Jones 

EL DORADO WILDCATS

HEAD COACH

Steven Jones, fourth season, 20-14 record

2021 AT A GLANCE

Overall Record: 11-2

Conference Record: 6-1, T-1st in 6A-East

Playoffs: Def. Lake Hamilton 48-27; Def. Marion 60-27; Def. Greenwood 27-17 in 6A state championship game

KEY DEPARTURES

QB Sharmon Rester, all-state, Lamar Signee

WR Kam Bibby, all-state, Arkansas signee

WR Jackie Washington, all-state, Southern Arkansas signee

LB Patrick Sixbey, SAU signee

LB Jyrin Steward, Arkansas Tech signee

DB Mario Ganter, Ouachita Baptist signee

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Senior RB Shadarioius Plummer - It was easy for Plummer to get lost in the offensive mix considering he had to share the spotlight with three talented wide receivers, but he put together a great season in his own right rushing for over 1,200 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was the 6A state championship Most Valuable Player rushing for 181 yards and scored all four of the Wildcats’ touchdowns.

Senior WR DeAndra Burns Jr. - Burns is one of the state’s fastest players and is looking to build on a solid junior season in which he hauled in 42 passes for 859 yards and 10 touchdowns. The three-year starter committed to Arkansas State in June and his other Division I offers include Arkansas, Pittsburgh, and UT-Martin.

Senior QB Kolin Parker - After playing mostly junior varsity last season, Parker is in the two-way race at quarterback.

Senior QB Jon Brooks Elia - Jones mentioned Elia’s arm strength as a plus and that he is one of the two finalists to be the next starter at quarterback.

Senior WR T.J. Dunn - With the depth El Dorado had at wide receiver last season Dunn did not see as many reps, but Jones has high hopes for him this season.

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Senior OL Jamal Green - Green took over a spot on the offensive line full-time as a junior after earning three starts as a sophomore.

Senior OL Japhen Baker - Baker is one of two returning starters from a very 2021 underrated front.

Senior DL Takoi Steward - Steward is a three-year starter and a behomoth up front pushing 300 pounds. As a junior, Steward collected 38 tackles (6 for loss) and 4.5 sacks.

Junior DL Trey Cook - Cook will be one of the key leaders along the defensive front along with Steward.

Senior LB Danquez Shelton - With twins Javin and Jyrin Steward, older brothers of Takoi, plus SAU signee Patrick Sixbey departed, Shelton will be the leader of the middle of the defense after collecting 102 tackles (11 for loss) and 8 sacks a year ago.

Senior DB Bryson Boulden - Boulden is basically a three-year starter after starting all of last season at one of the cornerback spots plus eight games his sophomore year.

OUTLOOK

El Dorado found itself 2-2 a month into the season following a conference-opening loss to Jonesboro, then reeled off nine-straight wins to clinch the school’s 10th state championship and first since 2013.

Former El Dorado head coach Scott Reed, who has held that position at Cabot since leaving the Wildcats after the 2018 season, mentioned after Cabot’s 41-35 shootout victory over the Wildcats in Week 2 that El Dorado probably has the best skill players from top to bottom in the entire state.

It would be difficult to refute Reed’s claim when you look at the final results: Rester compiled 4,500 total offensive yards and 51 touchdowns, Plummer rushed for just shy of 1,300 yards and 24 total touchdowns, plus Bibby, Burns Jr., and Washington combined for over 3,000 receiving yards and 34 touchdowns.

With three of those five gone, along with three offensive lineman graduated, the first question is who will take over for Rester? The Wildcats came into the offseason with five candidates, but the coach Jones confirmed it’s down to a two-way race between seniors Parker and Elia who also excels at golf. Unlike Rester, who was a dual threat, Parker and Elia are pocket passers.

With Bibby and Washington gone, more attention will be paid to Plummer in (and out of) the backfield, along with the threat Burns provides with his speed. Dunn is a receiver Jones mentioned who has patiently waited his turn in a crowded room but is due for a big season.

On the offensive line, the Wildcats return seniors Baker and Green.

Defensively, El Dorado has a returning starter at each level beginning with a crucial piece up front in mammoth tackle Steward who has been starting since his sophomore season.

Shelton is the lone returner at linebacker, a position that lost three heavy contributors, while Boulden is the only one back in the secondary as a starter the majority of his varsity career.

COACH SAID 

“Our locker room is playing with a chip on our shoulder because we have heard that we have lost a lot of talent from last year’s team with nine guys going to play college football. The outlook is maybe for El Dorado to slide a little bit, but our guys are eager to prove that wrong and eager to get out to compete and win. We feel like we have a really good team coming back who can fill the voids of those guys from last year.

“You can not replicate the experience [of getting to and winning a state championship]. Moving forward it is great for our guys that maybe were not starters but were role players to step up and be ‘the guy’. The senior class with the leadership we have who can take the younger guys under their wing. After winning a state championship, [the senior class] is motivated to keep this thing moving forward and to not be the ones who let us slide back.” 

-Steven Jones