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Arkansas Class 6A high school football team previews: Talented Searcy looking for consistency in 2022

A key injury hurt the Lions in coach Zak Clark’s debut at the school last fall.

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

By Kyle Sutherland | Photo by Mark Buffalo 

SEARCY LIONS

HEAD COACH

Zak Clark, Second Season, 4-7

2021 AT A GLANCE

Overall Record: 4-7

Conference Record: 3-4, T-Fifth in 6A East

Playoffs: Lost to Parkview 52-6 in the first round

KEY DEPARTURES

QB Ckyler Tengler

RB Daniel Perry

RB/WR Reid Miles, all-state

OL Matias Acevedo

OL William Marshall

OL Lucius Sparks

DB Braden Oliver, all-state

DB Jordan Stephenson

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Junior QB Tyler Strickland - Strickland has a strong chance of taking over for Tengler under center amongst a host of competition.

Senior RB Dede Johnson - The success of the offense starts and ends with Johnson who is one of the top backs in the state after a unanimous all-state junior campaign rushing for 2,000 yards.

Junior WR Isiah Carlos - Carlos has experience at quarterback after having to play there last season due to injuries, but should mostly contribute at wideout.

Senior WR Caleb Cunningham - A former quarterback, Cunningham was third on the team in receiving yards with 284 and has the opportunity to be the No. 1 guy after the departure of Reid Miles.

Sophomore WR Le’Keeston Jones - Jones is a young player amongst a crowded wideout room, but expects to be in the two-deep.

Senior WR Kade Ivy - After focusing on baseball last season, Ivy impressed the coaching staff during the offseason and should factor into the wideout rotation.

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Senior WR Harley Sawtelle - Sawtelle did not put up mind-blowing stats but got some experience as a junior and will need to step up with the team’s top two receiving leaders gone.

Junior OL Daylan Hamilton - Multiple starters from last season are gone for the Lions and with Hamilton being one who has experience as an underclassman the team will need him to continue to improve.

Senior OL Erick Hernandez - Hernandez has great feet and earned a starting role for the first time last season.

Senior LT Eli Wilson - Wilson is the Lions’ most athletic lineman as a former tight end and multi-sport athlete who can effectively hold down the quarterback’s blind side.

Junior DE Landon Conway - Conway possesses solid speed along the defensive front as a converted linebacker.

Senior DE Jamason Langley - After coming on late as a sophomore, Langley proved himself as a reliable rush end in 2021.

Junior DL Gabe Osmon - The strongest player on the team, Osmon is the anchor of the defensive front and combines his strength with underrated speed.

Junior LB Jace Garcia - The Lions’ defense surrendered 366 points last season and Garcia will be looking to as a leader in the middle to get things turned around.

Junior CB Trayvion Coleman - Clark raved about Coleman’s offseason and expects him to have a great junior campaign.

Junior FS Dash Stevenson - Stevenson is back for his second year as a contributor after collecting 20 tackles in the defensive secondary.

Senior SS Caden Jowers - The deepest part of the defense could be the strength of the team once it all comes together if the experienced Jowers and the aforementioned Stevenson.

OUTLOOK

As cliché as it sounds, Year One under Zak Clark was the definition of a team having ups and downs. Following an 0-2 start, the Lions won four of their next five games before dropping the final four contests.

Things really went south when quarterback and UALR baseball signee Tengler went down in a close loss against eventual state champion El Dorado, and it essentially became a quarterback by committee. That played a major part in the Lions losing their final two games by a combined score of 85-13.

Strickland is expected to take over the duties under center. He will be joined in the backfield by the dynamic Johnson, along with a host of other skill players including Cunningham and Sawtelle. Clark mentioned multiple players who he expects to step up for the offense, singling out Carlos, Ivy, Jones, Randolph, Young, and McLawhorn.

There will be a couple of voids to fill up front, but the Lions do have experience and stability with Hamilton, Hernandez, and Wilson.

The defense will be one of the main questions early on for the Lions after that side of the ball was decimated by graduation, particularly on the back end.

Langley and Osmon will anchor the front while Conway, Heep, and Solano will provide depth. With Garcia as the most experienced linebacker returning, newcomer Love and veteran Lee will be heavily relied upon.

With Stevenson and Jowers bringing back the most experience in the secondary, it could be a baptism by fire scenario to begin the season but Clark mentioned the staff has high hopes for Coleman, Foster, and Gray following a solid offseason.

COACH SAID

“We've had a great offseason in the weight room. We graduated most of our offensive skill and secondary, but we have a lot of young players who have improved tremendously from last year. This summer will be huge in our development and we're looking forward to taking the field in August.”

-Zak Clark