El Dorado Springs finished 5-5 last year, but the Bulldogs won four of their last five regular season games to build up some momentum heading into the 2018 season with 13 total starters returning.
Offensively, six starters return but the Bulldogs have to replace leading rusher Trenton Hardie who had 143 carries for 1,036 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.
Second-leading rusher Tanner Witt does return for the Bulldogs after a 988-yard, nine-touchdown season last year. Witt is also a key linebacker coming off of a 39-tackle season. Another running back will have to step up for El Dorado Springs as the Bulldogs are a run-heavy team that carried the ball 6.5 times for every pass thrown last year.
Trey Babcock is back at quarterback after throwing for 531 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for 203 yards and two more touchdowns. Defensively, Babcock will be in the secondary coming off of a 54-tackle season.
Up front, seniors Bryson Rader and Dagan McIntire along with junior Jordan Gallette will open up holes on the offensive line. McIntire will also see time on the defensive line. He had five tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks last year.
El Dorado Springs doesn’t throw the ball much, but leading receiver Shelby McKinney returns to his tight end spot. He hauled in 14 catches for 302 yards and seven touchdowns. All three marks were team-highs. McKinney will step up on the defensive line as well after pulling down 49 total tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks.
Senior Lance Smith, junior Brayden Housh and sophomore Gaven Morgan will all see time in the passing game at receiver. Morgan (linebacker) and Housh (defensive back) will also see time on defense. Housh was one of the team’s top defensive backs last year with four pass breakups and an interception.
The offense will have two key strengths to lean on according to head coach Derek Scroggins.
“Our versatility and aggression,” Scroggins said. “Our athletes will play in a very hard and physical manner and we will play to our strengths.”
The rest of the defense will feature Keilan Jaques on the defensive line, Dylan Gallette and Trey Graves at linebacker and Cade Whitesell at defensive back. Jacques is the top returning player among that group coming off of a 73-tackle season that featured a team-high 12.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks.
El Dorado Springs joins the Ozark Mountain Conference this season, which will be a change for the Bulldogs after years as an independent.
“Two of the major benefits are less travel and post season recognition,” Scroggins said. “Last year, we had three away games in a row where we went at least two and a half hours away. As far as postseason recognition, when at the all-district, all-region and all-state meetings, other teams could promote their athletes as ‘unanimous first team all-conference’, which would carry more weight than someone who hadn’t earned that honor.”
A strong summer and 13 returning starters have the Bulldogs ready to compete in the new conference.
“I expect our kids to battle from whistle to whistle and improve on a weekly basis,” Scroggins said. “Our entire team has done a great job this summer of showing up every day with a great attitude ready to make the team better. Going into fall practice, I expect competition in most spots and look forward to seeing how things shake out going into week 1 vs Pembroke Hill.”