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Crimson Lions set sights to reverse recent course: experienced returnees, promising newcomers key hopes.

When Little Rock McClellan ended the 2010 football season with its 18th consecutive loss, the coaching staff recognized there was work to do.

Sure, there were the usual football-related spots, but Coach Anthony Chambers and his staff also addressed another area that's been lacking in the program: confidence.

"The potential that these kids have is greater than what they believe," said second-year coach Carl Duncan, the Crimson Lions' offensive coordinator and a December 2009 graduate of UCA. "This offseason we did a lot of character development, trying to instill in these kids a better belief in themselves. We're trying to let these kids know the opportunities that are presenting themselves involve football."

McClellan wrapped up its seventh consecutive losing season last fall and the results weren't pretty. The Crimson Lions were shut out four times and outscored each game by an average of 40.7 to 6.3.

The die was cast with a 55-0 loss to Class 4A Ashdown in week one and the team's closest loss, 7-0 to Little Rock Fair, came in week six.

But both coordinators--Kevin Youngblood is in his second year in charge of the defense--are hopeful that a blend of experienced returnees and promising newcomers will translate into more favorable results in 2011. Nine starters return on defense with experience in Class 6A-South.

"We turned a corner during the offseason and the kids have a better understanding of what we're trying to do," Youngblood said. "The mentality has changed and we're trying to move forward. The more we put on the kids, the better they responded."

STADIUM: Lions' Den

HEAD COACH: Anthony Chambers

OFFENSE: Pistol

DEFENSE: 4-4

RETURNING STARTERS: 5 offense/9 defense

RETURNING LETTERMEN: 23

2010 RECORD: 1-9* (1-6)*

* Includes forfeit win vs. Benton
KEY RETURNEES

Nicholas Cooper Sr. WR 6-2 195

John Frazier Sr. QB 6-2 205

Everette Hargro Sr.. S 5-10 185

Chedderick Dixon Jr. OLB/RB 6-2 185

Kenneth Bogan Sr. C/DT 5-10 220

Erin Davis Sr. DE 6-4 265

Demerio Williams Sr. DE 6-1 205

Terrel Brown Sr. QB 6-5 215


OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Devonte Adams, Sr., OLB, 5-8, 170; Antoine Wood, So., MLB, 6-0, 185; Larry Young, Sr., CB, 5-10, 180; Blaze Hill, Sr., DT, 5-10, 220; D.J. Clash, Sr., OL/ DE, 6-3, 235; Damontra Richards, Sr., WR/S, 6-4, 190; Jerry Lewis, Sr., OG, 5-10, 220.

NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Jamel Walker, Jr., MLB, 5-11, 200; Akee Johnson, Jr., QB/CB, 5-9, 175; Kevin Hill, Jr., OL, 6-1, 355; Toris Hodges, Jr., OL, 6-0, 345; Torrey Wilkins, Jr., OL, 6-1, 330.

QB COMPETITION: Offensive coordinator Carl Duncan said returning starter John Frazier will be pressed by newcomer Akee Johnson. Johnson, a junior, last played football as a freshman at Little Rock Parkview, Duncan said. Johnson played only basketball last year at McClellan, contributing to a state tournament qualifier. "We recruited [Johnson]heavily out of the hallway," Duncan said. "He's a stellar athlete and we really believe he can be a game changer."

WHY THEY'LL WIN: McClellan should have some playmakers at the skill positions, led by returning starters Nicholas Cooper (WR) and Cheddrick Dixon (RB). If Johnson can take over at quarterback, allowing Frazier to move to a receiver's spot, coaches are hopeful the offensive production will go up.

WHY THEY WON'T: It will be hard to get over the mental hump of an 18-game losing streak. Concerns over depth will also be an issue. The Crimson Lions had just 45 players in the spring.

DRY SPELL

McClellan has won just three games on the field the last four years, none in 2007 and 2010. The Crimson Lions did, however, pick up a forfeit win against Benton in the offseason following the 2010 season. The Panthers had to forfeit their 49-8 win, erasing the Crimson Lions' winless campaign and giving them a 1-9 record. McClellan's last victory came in Week 6 of the 2009 season, a 26-12 win against Little Rock Fair. Since the program's last winning season (7-5) in 2003, McClellan is 10-60.

* McClellan last appeared in the playoffs in 2003, Anthony Chambers' first year as head coach. The Crimson Lions won 27-20 at Jonesboro in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs before losing 37-7 at Jordan Stadium in Pine Bluff, ending the year 7-5.

* Head coach Anthony Chambers, a four-year letterman at Arkansas who has worked at McClellan for 14 seasons, is 17-65 in eight years as the Crimson Lions' head coach. Chambers starred at fullback for Parkview in the early 1980s.
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Title Annotation:McClellan CRIMSON LIONS
Author:Gatling, Paul
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Jul 11, 2011
Words:751
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