The Southside Southerners football team is looking forward to its fourteenth season of varsity football in 2019 as Coach Kenny Simpson begins his ninth season as head coach.
Southside experienced their best run over the past three seasons, making the playoffs each year. They will look to build off these past three seasons by returning several starters and adding in some new faces.
The offense will be led by senior quarterback Braden Jones. Jones has played in several games and even started last season at tight end. The Southerners offense will be very versatile as Jones will be able to showcase his running ability. The 6-foot 1-inch 225-pound quarterback has shown he can be a force on the ground and through the air during camp.
“Jones’ arm may be one of the best to be showcased at Southside,” Simpson said.
Behind Jones will be sophomore Landen Haas. Haas will serve in many roles this season and is a threat to run the ball from the quarterback spot if called on to do so.
The Southerners have replaced their top two targets from last season. They do return some great athletes in their receiving corps and have been able to add some very athletic targets this season.
Jonathan Shane, a 6-foot 3-inch junior, has taken to football very quickly and will be a very big target with great leaping ability. Haas will also contribute as a wide receiver this season.
At the slot will be a third-year returner and senior Kilynn Dugger. Dugger has shown great ability in his previous two seasons and is the leading receiver coming out of spring camp. Also working in at slot will be sophomore Brendan Fraiser. Fraiser may be the most shifty of the wide receivers.
“He’s good all over the field, and we are going to be able to get him the ball in space to make great things happen,” Coach Simpson said.
The wingback spot will be handled by senior Larkin Jones. Jones has played significant time the past two seasons at this spot and is a very versatile back for the Southerners.
Vern Derring, a 5-foot 9-inch junior, and Zach Howell, a 6-foot one-inch senior, will also be rotating in at the wing.
As a sophomore, 6-foot 2-inch 210-pound Alex Cooper will most likely get the start from the tight end position.
“He’s big and physical and very well rounded. He’s passed the eye test and looks to be the prototype tight end for us this season,” said Simpson. Newcomer and senior Landen Gray has had a great spring and looks to challenge Cooper for the position even only being his first year in football.
The running back spot will feature 5-foot 9-inch 200-pound senior Alex Palmer. “The Beast” had over 800 yards rushing as a junior, splitting carries, and he has had a great off-season getting ready to carry the load this fall. “The Beast” has an opportunity to finish his career as the leading rusher in Southerner history with another good season in 2019.
Versatile sophomore Brendan Fraiser will also have a role at running the football and senior Josh Naramore will provide great depth and experience in that position.
The offensive line for Southside has the chance to be one of the best and the biggest in school history. Senior Cameron Morris returns at strong tackle. The 6-foot 4-inch 335-pound Morris will be a very imposing force in the trenches.
Nathan Williams, a 6-foot 1-inch 245-pound senior, returns, but he will have a new role as the center this season. Seth Wojcik, a 5-foot 10-inch 245-pound junior guard, also returns and packs on a bit more mass upfront. Wojcik added 35 pounds of muscle in the offseason. 6-foot 1-inch 285-pound senior Evan St. Clair and 6-foot 2-inch 255-pound junior Chandler Mannes are both looking to fight for time on the field at the other tackle position. Senior Alex Fike and sophomore Cole Weaver will rotate in adding some depth to this year’s “Trench Mob.”
On the defensive side of the football, Brian Reardon returns for his sixth season as coordinator and looks to take a solid group that returns five starters. Southside had to replace two-time all-state safety Caden Huskey and several other solid players, but the team should have a little more depth this season.
The defensive line will feature several new faces. Junior Vern Derring will take over the nose tackle position after a great spring. “We look for Derring to use his speed and relentlessness to take over games on the defensive front,” Simpson said.
Senior Blake Beach, senior Lucas Nicholson and senior Caden Clark all will play big minutes on the defensive line. Clark brings the size at 6 feet 1 inch and 325 pounds, while Nicholson brings a very quick first step and Blake Beach has been very impressive with his tireless work ethic in camp.
The inside linebackers should be a strength for Southside as 5-foot 10-inch 210-pound sophomore Austin Mathis is very athletic and will add some punch. Senior Alex Palmer will be starting going both ways. Palmer returns for his third season and has improved his quickness and strength. Also working in at inside linebacker, junior Vern Derring, sophomore Jacob Dunne and senior Ian Jackson.
The outside linebackers will feature three-year starter Larkin Jones on the strong side. Jones has been dominant and looks to take more of a leadership role on defense this season.
“Larkin is one of our strongest backers,” said Coach Simpson. “He set the school power clean record in the off-season which will serve him well in that position.” Opposite Jones will be a mixture of several players that all bring their own skills to the table. Senior Jace Grigsby has experience and a great mindset, the coach says. Junior Ryan Heron may be the best tackler on the team, and senior Landen Gray will be great against heavy running teams.
The defensive backs return three starters off last season’s record-breaking unit. Senior Kilynn Dugger has a chance to have the record for interceptions after two great seasons at corner. He will be chasing Caden Huskey’s record of 13 in a single season.
Senior Zach Howell returns from a five-interception season to start at safety as well. Senior Payton Walls also returns at corner after a great 2018. Sophomores Landen Haas and Brenden Fraiser have been working in at safety and both have done very well this spring. Junior Jamie Riggs also could be a factor.
The special teams unit will feature a new kicker in Skyler Anorve. Anorve may have the strongest leg in Southerner history and could be a huge factor in the special teams. A punter has not been decided yet, although Braden Jones is the leading candidate.
Returns will feature a mixture of skilled players and will be determined who will actually play those roles in the near future.
Coach Simpson’s goals for this season are simple: “We want to make the playoffs. We look to continue our streak of three in a row this year, and we want to win a conference championship.
Those goals will not be easy as the 2-4A has the potential to a better league this season.
“The bottom of the conference is better this year so we will have to come out and fight every single game,” Coach Simpson said. In this conference, anyone can beat anyone on any given night, there are no gimme games on the schedule. This year’s group of Southerners is a meat and potatoes group which means we are capable of beating anyone, but we have to show up every Friday night and put our best game on the field.”
There will be a couple of new faces on the coaching staff this season. Running backs and defensive back Coach Tim Childress has come aboard. Coach Childress graduated high school at Batesville and obtained his bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University.
Coaching the tight ends and the defensive line will be Batesville graduate Garret Denton. Denton just recently graduated from Lyon College where he played tight end for the Scots throughout his entire career.
Be sure to tune in this season with Chris Vines on your Southside Southerners station, 99.5 Hits Now.
Take a look at this blooper video from this year’s Southside Southerners media day.