SPORTS >> Numbers up for Lions this spring
The Tim Harper era of Searcy Lions football began this week with spring practice, and the changing of the guard has brought out the numbers.
Harper started off 103 strong at the first of the week, though that number has shrunk to 80 players after the first couple of practices. While the numbers are there, the most important thing for the new head Lion is getting acquainted with his new surroundings.
“No doubt about it,” said Harper of the adjustment process. “I’m trying to take a snapshot right now. I’m looking at every kid. I’m just trying to get an idea of what we do have and what we really need to focus on and work on the most, and that’s what I’m doing.”
The turn of the century has not been kind to Searcy football. The Lions last made the playoffs in 2002, and have now suffered through five consecutive losing seasons, going 3-37 under previous coach Bart McFarland over the past four years.
It was enough for McFarland to resign shortly after the ’08 season, beginning the search for a new head coach. Harper, who has established good tradition at nearby 2A school Des Arc, including an appearance in the Class 2A championship game last December, was given the nod.
“We’ve had great effort so far,” said Harper. “The kids are trying their best to learn. We’re making some mistakes right now, but they’re learning a new offense and a new defense, and a new attitude toward stuff, so everything is going good.”
Harper’s first act as coach was to strip everyone of their rank. Every player came into the first day of practice fighting for a spot, even if they already had one. A scrimmage game on Monday will begin to fill the 22 vacancies, Harper said.
“Right now there are no jobs that have been won,” said Harper. “Every kid is working hard. We’re just going to see which way it goes. There are no starters right now. We’ll settle that in August probably, but we’ll have a good idea by the end of Monday night who has moved up in the top two or three spots at each position.”
It’s been a hectic time for the players getting used to their new coach, and also a hectic time for the coach himself. Harper has bounced back and forth between Des Arc and Searcy all week in order to fulfill all of his obligations. The work has paid off with the Eagles track team bringing home the 2A state championship on Tuesday under his tutelage, but Harper is ready for the wild ride to slow down a bit near the end of the month.
“I’m looking forward to May 22 when I quit having to do that,” said Harper. “But I’m real thankful that they allowed me the opportunity to finish track season down at Des Arc. It was worth it, but it’s been really hard. I’m looking forward to just having to do one job, and I’m going to try and do it right.”