By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Not every program can pull off a district championships in a year with so many questions marks. The Glendale Falcons did that last year, even in the midst of replacing over half their regular starters, including the quarterback.
The Falcons went 6-6 last season, eventually bowing out to Carthage in the state quarterfinals. The district title win was their second under Mike Mauk and avenged a regular season loss against Waynesville.
Any time the guy under center graduates from Mauk’s system, who will take over as the next conductor of the pass happy attack is always a hot topic.
“I usually don’t have this many, but we have five players competing, including two freshmen,” said Mauk. “None of them have any varsity experience. So, a big key for us right now is to find that guy to throw the football.”
The lead candidates for the job are junior Amias Hart and senior Payton Byerly. Hart saw limited action last year behind Gavin Watts, completing seven of 14 passes while finding the end zone twice. Byerly spent his junior year as a key factor on a defense that allowed 27.7 points per game, the lowest under Mauk since the Falcons’ last district title in 2016.
Whoever earns the job will have the luxury of a pair of 1,000-yard receivers that return to the fold. Jack Clinkenbeard was a First Team All-Ozark Conference selection as a junior after amassing 1,439 yards and 10 touchdowns on 97 catches. Chris Floyd Jr. is also back for his junior season after finding the end zone 11 times with 1,055 yards though the air.
“We’re going to lean on them heavily. Those are the guys that will make things go. Until we get somebody that can throw it long and get the ball to them, we still have the receivers that we can have success with.”
Mauk has enjoyed how his upperclassmen have taken the initiative during the offseason. The field at Glendale High School has undergone renovations throughout the summer, forcing the Falcons to workout at nearby facilities like Nixa and Parkview. That has not stopped the seniors from organizing training sessions and continuing to teach each other during the offseason.
“I have been impressed with their leadership and work habits,” he said. “They, along with the other seniors, have done a good job of trying to get guys out to throw and work on some things to make the offense better.”
Dakota Vauble and Colton Tate will return to their starting roles on the offensive line, but it is that unit’s defensive counterparts that have questions. The defensive line will feature four new faces, while the secondary is also expected to be revamped.
The defensive experience will come in the linebacking corps with juniors Connor McTague, Cooper Roy, and Traven Matias. McTague ran away with the team lead in tackles last fall, notching 150 with three sacks and four fumble recoveries. Roy led the Falcons with eight sacks to go with 60 total tackles.
Fellow junior Jett Rollins also expects to contribute more in the secondary.
Similar to last year, getting reps is the main obstacle for Glendale as they enter the fall.
“I think the system works, but it’s about the buy-in and just gaining experience,” said Mauk. “Can we do those things to make it work? That will be the key to success for our team.”
Glendale is scheduled to open the season on Aug. 28 against West Plains.