Excitement is high around the Central football program. After years of playing an independent schedule, the Bulldogs will compete in the Ozark Conference this year and renew rivalries with the other four city schools.
“Our banquet was in November last year. When I knew the schedule I told them ‘guys, August 24, 2018 at Parkview. If you aren’t ready at this point, don’t be on the team next year’. We are excited,” third-year head coach Sean Nevills said.
Central has struggled over the last two years, as the Bulldogs look to snap a losing streak this season that sits at 21 games.
Nevills and his staff have taken time to build a foundation for the team in their first two seasons in charge of the program.
“Building the program was the big thing for the first two years despite what happens on Friday nights. What I did Saturday through Thursday was the key,” Nevills said. “(We were) building a base for team, promoting it, getting guys out there and communicating with families in our feeder schools about who we are and what we are trying to be.”
Now Nevills is hoping that foundation pays off in 2018 with some experienced players back.
Senior Tyrell Harvey will be the leader on both sides of the football for the Bulldogs. Offensively, he will move back off the line to the backfield at fullback. Defensively, Harvey will see time at both linebacker and defensive end.
“He is our best athlete with size, speed and physicality. We will go through him blocking and carrying the ball from time to time,” Nevills said. “He is just Mr. Everything for us this year. He does a little bit of linebacker duty, but he can also come down in the box and be on the defensive line. When it comes to the front seven he is the guy.”
Jimmy Walker will likely be the quarterback this year. The senior has moved all over the field the last two seasons, but has been taking the reps at quarterback this season. Donte Reese profiles as the top threat at receiver.
The offensive line should be strong for Central led by junior Wes Schilly and sophomore Daniel Johnson. Schilly is the leader of that unit entering his third year as the starting center.
Running back is a position that is influx for Central right now, but whoever ends up with carries has a big role to play in the Bulldogs’ offensive strategy.
“Our best offense will be ball control,” Nevills said. “Last year there were a lot of games where teams jumped on us quickly. Our offensive strategy this year is to control the ball. We have a lot of two-way athletes, so our offense is going to be methodical.”
Defensively, Harvey will make things go switching between linebacker and the defensive line. Lucas Hutchens will be the quarterback of the defense at linebacker in his senior season. The secondary will be the youngest unit on the defensive side of the ball.
Central opens the season on Aug. 24 at Parkview.