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‘Cats not expected to finish last in conference this year

By Staff, 07/23/19 9:33 AM

HOPE – This year, the Bobcats aren’t picked to finish dead last in the AAAAA conference.

Last year the ‘Cats managed to post the team’s first win in three years, going 1-9 but beating De Queen 20-14 in overtime.

Philip Turner returns for his second year at the helm of the ‘Cats and is looking to turn things around for the Hope squad. Turner told a statewide publication participation is up and the mentality has completely changed for the team.

Hunter Hellums returns for his senior year under center. Last year he threw for almost 1,500 yards, but had to scramble for his life much of the time due to lack of protection from the offensive line.

Sophomore Amarion Dempsey has been working at receiver and could help the team’s passing attack. Junior Kenneth Anderson started most of last season at running back, gaining almost 300 yards. Kentravious Lawson was another running back for the ‘Cats last year and made some tough runs.

McKinsey Davis averaged 13-yards per catch last year and has honed his blocking skills in the off-season. Mekhi Henderson will be another receiver for the ‘Cats.

The question, though, is the offensive line that offered scant protection for the backs last year. Darton Davis returns at center. At 295 lbs, he squats 425 and  has a 3.8 gpa. Adrian Dominquez, calls the blocking signals from his guard position. Torey Phillips, a 6-6, 275 lb. basketball player, will be playing tackle this year, though he started on defense last year. Duwon Nsonso added 20 pounds over the summer, while Oathis Ward and Oscar Maquez will also compete for spots on the line.

Chris Torres put 28 of 31 kickoffs in the end zone last year and has hit 50-yard field goals in practice.

Hope’s defense the last few years has been porous, to say the least. Davis will pull double duty at noseguard and could break up plays if he gets in the backfield. Phillips will also be playing defensive end where his long arms will make it tough for quarterbacks to get the ball over him. Last year Phillips made 40 tackles from the end position. Au’Vion Horton will be at the other end where he recorded 28 tackles and recovered a couple of fumbles last year. Jose Salgado has been working at every position on the front defensive line.

Ladarius Watson returns at middle linebacker where he had 64 tackles and two picks last year. Jarod Hamilton, Tony Rowe and Daryl Christopher will also see time as linebackers. The corners will likely be Larry Peters and Cavontae Young, while Dempsey and Henderson will also see action in the secondary.

The kicking game is a positive for the ‘Cats, but Hope has to learn  to win again after three lean years.