By John R. Schirmer
With the football season completed, the Nashville Scrappers are already turning their attention to 2018.
Ninth graders from the undefeated junior high team have crossed the creek to high school football. From now until Christmas break, players are learning the routine that will be expected of them next year.
After break, “We’ll jump into the core of off-season,” according to Coach Mike Volarvich.
“We’re using the time now for teaching, and we’ll jump in after break.”
This week and next are “a molding period. We get to work with our 2018 team. The seniors are gone. Freshmen have been added. We can stand in the locker room with the team for next year.”
The Scrappers are “working on correct form in the weight room. They’re learning the tempo we work at. We’re working on the ins and outs of our daily routine and setting the standards and expectations of how things will go after break,” Volarvich said.
One focus will be to “build the mentality of the team.” Another will be physicality.
“In the four games we lost [De Queen, Arkadelphia, Robinson and Booneville], we lost the physical battle. We couldn’t say we sure out-physicaled them. We got out-physicaled in all four games we lost.
“We have to find a way to fix that. For 15 weeks, we want to be the most physical team on the field,” Volarvich said.
Looking back on the 2017 season as a whole, “It had ups and downs. From week to week, several things improved. Several showed our youth,” according to Volarvich.
“We had 16 players that we started this year that this was their first season to start in a varsity game.
That showed at times. We had some sophomores who moved up or kids who had never played who started. We had lots of guys with limited repetitions. You saw that from time to time.”
Volarvich was pleased with the way his players responded. “I’m very proud of how they developed during the season and from sophomores to seniors. We had a lot of guys who really improved.”
Looking ahead, “We’d like to make it further into the playoffs. That’s the expectation we have as a staff, school and a community – the chance to play for it all in Little Rock. That’s one of our goals every year. To come up short is disappointing,” Volarvich said.
“I’m proud of the effort and learning that went into this year’s team. I’m proud of our seniors. This is the first group I’ve had all three years. It’s exciting to see how they all developed. It’s the first time in my life to see how much high school guys grow and the football knowledge they’ve gained. That’s positive and exciting.”
Volarvich said he and his staff are getting to know the ninth graders who’ve moved up. “It’s an exciting time. This is a talented group that’s had a lot of success. We’ll plug them in and see what the future holds.”
Many of those freshmen played against Bauxite after the junior high season ended the night before. They also played against Monticello and Booneville in the playoffs.
It’s time for “the sophomores and juniors to move into leadership roles. They will show the younger guys how to do it,” Volarvich said.
The Scrappers lost six starters on offense and six on defense from the 2017 team.
However, another number on offense stands out even more, according to Volarvich. “We’re losing 57 touchdowns” scored by the seniors.
“We scored 71 touchdowns during the season, and we’re losing 57. That means we are returning 14 touchdowns. Those 57 have to come from somewhere. It will be fun, exciting and interesting to see who steps up.”
Defensively, the team’s two leading tacklers are returning, including Isaac Johnson and Jordan White. “Jordan is a two-year starter who played in every game. He’s played the most of anybody on the team,” Volarvich said.
Bubba Reeder will return after being injured for most of the past season. He saw limited duty in the last three games of the season. “It’s exciting to get him back.”
The Scrapper season ended with a 24-21 loss at Booneville Nov. 17. “It was a disappointing end to our season. I thought we had a chance to advance to Thanksgiving. We ran into a really good Booneville team,” Volarvich said.
“We didn’t play our best game. We had a bunch of missed assignments. We had some guys who did their own thing and not what they were coached to do.”
The wind was also a factor, Volarvich said. “It’s an excuse, but it’s part of football to rely on the pass. Twenty mile-per-hour winds are a part of post season. We didn’t handle that well.”
The Scrappers “had a chance down to the last play” when Booneville won on a field goal as time expired.
“I’m happy with our effort. The guys gave 100 percent. We were not as efficient as we need to be. We need to do a better job as a coaching staff to not let that happen. We need to do a better job as teachers and communicators to get guys to play the way we want them to play,” Volarvich said.