By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Mac Whitehead has Diamond headed in the right direction and the Wildcats will look to build on the solid foundation established in Whitehead’s first campaign at the helm.
Diamond went winless in 2017, the season before Whitehead’s arrival.
“The biggest challenge we faced last year was understanding how to compete at a high level, week to week,” Whitehead said. “Our kids lacked the experience of varsity football and it showed at times with our mistakes. I think our young kids who did play last year were able to watch and learn and gain valuable experience in understanding that you have to be tuned in and ready to play each week.
“The group from last year really did a great job of setting the foundation for future teams. Winning three games after coming off an 0-10 season was proof that we are starting to go in the right direction.”
Leading the charge will be senior captains Cameron Addington and Kolbe Jones.
A broken wrist limited Addington’s junior season, but he still was able to earn All-SWC honors as a running back. Jones earned an All-SWC spot as a defensive back.
Both will be two-way starters again this fall.
Seniors Eli Smith and Tyler Clement will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines again this season. Classmate Austin Behler will return to his starting spots at receiver and in the secondary.
Sophomores Hunter Shallenburger and Landon Clement will look to build on impressive freshman seasons. Shallenburger finished with 272 receiving yards on just 16 catches. He also added 35 tackles and four interceptions defensively.
Senior John Odom will take on a defensive role at linebacker. Junior Zach Baird will look to have an increased impact on the offensive and defensive lines. Classmate Cody Behler will see reps at running back and linebacker.
Sophomore Isaac Baird will have the unique running back/defensive end combination. He’s another solid player from a good freshman class.
Whitehead also is looking to seniors Hayden McDonald, Caleb Misner and Colbin Brown to all make two-way contributions. Junior Tyler May (6-0, 230 pounds) is a transfer from Garden City, Kan., and could make an immediate impact on the line.
With so much experience and a solid cast of newcomers, there is some excitement around the program and the direction it is headed.
For Whitehead, it’s all about taking the next step as a program.
“I think right now our team is just hungry for success,” Whitehead said. “We have a lot of young skill guys coming back that are ready to win. I think the players we have returning understand that there’s no easy button for this and they are ready and willing to put in the hard work necessary to be successful.
“We have high expectations for ourselves this year. We won three games last year after winning zero games the year before. We want to compete for a conference championship and play more than 10 games.”
Diamond will open the 2019 season at Ash Grove on Aug. 30. The Wildcats will play their home-opener the following week against Pierce City.