With Central Arkansas Christian’s baseball and soccer teams going deep into the postseason, football took a bit of a back seat at Mustang Mountain this spring.
But only for a little while.
“We had kids involved with baseball and soccer, with both going pretty far in the playoffs, then our school got out earlier than normal,” football coach Tommy Shoemaker said Monday. “With all that going on, we didn’t do a traditional spring practice. We just tried to sneak in a day or two during offseason to get them ready for team camps.”
The Mustangs will return Monday, June 5, to start their summer work. Shoemaker said except for the Arkansas Activities Association’s mandated two-week dead period, they would go Monday through Thursday mornings and play host to team camps with Greenbrier, Pottsville and Harding Academy June 14, 21 and July 19.
The Mustangs will sport a different offensive look in 2017 as they shift from the Spread offense to the Wing T.
“Twenty-some years ago when I started running the Spread, nobody was running it, so that was a big advantage for us,” Shoemaker said. “Now almost everybody runs some version of it, so we’ll actually be doing something different.”
The motivation for the change?
“It’s just a matter of looking at our personnel and what we think will give our kids the best chance to win,” he said.
He said he made the decision to switch about a year ago after looking ahead to future personnel. The Mustang junior high and junior varsity worked the Wing T last fall.
“Most of the kids we’ve got are familiar with the terminology,” Shoemaker said. “It’ll be different playing varsity, but we’ll also be a little better prepared.”
He said he was familiar with the Wing T from his first year of coaching in Alabama where he was the offensive line coach in the formation.
“I learned a lot about it there, and I actually thought that when I became a head coach that’s what I would do. I liked it that much,” he said. “It so happened that we went a different route. I thought (the Spread) would give the kids at Harding Academy a chance to play for a state championship, and that worked pretty well.
“At the end of the day, it’s all just football. You try to figure out what will give your kids the best chance to be successful. That’s all that matters.”
He pronounced the Mustangs’ offseason work to have been a success.
“I was really pleased with how much stronger we got, and we gained some body weight,” he said. “We implemented a protein supplement plan through Muscle Milk, and that helped us gain some weight and gain some strength. We’ll keep doing that.”
Shoemaker praised the offseason work of juniors Hugh Miller and Blake Smith and sophomore Eli Garrison, who are battling for the starting quarterback job; offensive linemen Chris Rawlins and Blake Fairchild and tight ends John Dalton and Sam Griffey.
“Another one who had a good year last year was William Word,” Shoemaker said. “He’s put on some good weight and strength, and he’ll probably be able to help us on both sides. His brother Wilson had a really good spring, too.”
In prepping for the offensive move, Shoemaker has attended a national Wing T camp and visited several out-of-state teams similar to the Mustangs.
“They’ve had good success with it,” he said. “It’s one of the things we hope will help us be a little more successful.”
CAC finished 8-4 last year and reached the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs.