Check out this video from the team’s annual bellyflop competition.
The Batesville Pioneers were only one win away from a district championship and a number two seed in the 5A state playoffs in 2018. However, they fell to the Valley View Blazers in the season finale by six points to finish 4-6 and miss the playoffs in a very tight 5A East race for the first time since 2009.
“We are coming off the worst season in my 23 years as a Pioneer,” said Coach Dave King. “We finished 4-6. Having said that, we beat the district champion, Blytheville, by 35 points and defeated Wynne by 17. But we also did something last year we haven’t done in around 12 seasons and that was to lose three home conference games. I told our young men at the beginning of camp this season that’s not what we are about. You do not work this hard to have a losing season. We want to make this year a rebound year.”
In 2010, the Pioneers bounced back to a 12-1 record and then went on to the state final game in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Coach King and the Pioneers are looking to build on similar successes in 2019
Batesville returns a young offensive squad this season led by 6-foot 1 inch 200-pound junior quarterback Eli Livingston. “I am super, super, super excited about Eli,” King said. “He has the ability to be one of the best quarterbacks we’ve had here at Batesville.”
Livingston is a 4.0 student and on the field puts in a 4.78 forty yard dash time and according to King, “has one of the strongest arms we’ve ever had at this position.”
The coaches are leaning on Livingston’s leadership ability to carry them through this season.
“He doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. Not me, not the other coaches, not his team mates – no one. He just wants to be positive and lead our team,” King said.
Jace Daughtery, a six-foot 180-pound junior, will share time in the QB spot but will also play tailback, flanker, slot back, corner back, and because of his speed, he will also be a punt and kick returner. Daughtery timed in the forty at a 4.5 flat.
John Todd Stalker, a 6-foot 175-pound junior, will return in the fullback position as well as Cullen Hill, a 5-foot 10-inch 185-pound senior.
“Both of these young men do a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield and Stalker just loves to block,” King said.
At the tailback spot, Taylor Daughtery, a 5-foot 11-inc 180-pound junior, will be taking most of the snaps. Jarrett Vickers, a 6-foot 205-pound junior, was going to be in the rotation out of the backfield but suffered a shoulder injury late in the spring. The Pioneers will look for Vickers to hit the field in October of this season. Vickers was the Pioneers leading tackler in 2018 and will be missed early on this season on the defensive side of the ball. Ethan Ridgel, a 6-foot 195-pound junior, will also be taking some snaps to help out in the backfield.
The Pioneers receiver corps will have a plethora of personnel when going to the air. Playing X receiver will be Karson Douglas, a 5-foot 11-inch 170-pound senior. “He’s a smart young man,” Coach King said. “He’s a good student, tough, and has great hands. He’s been a great senior leader thus far, and we will be successful because of his leadership on and off the field.”
Douglas, who has 4.6 speed, missed spring drills due to an ATV accident but should be ready for the upcoming season. Tevin Whitaker (a 5-foot 10-inch 155-pound junior), Jacob Antici (a 5-foot 9-inch 160-pound senior), and senior twins Daltyn (5-feet 11-inches 170-pounds) and Dylan Wentz (5-feet 10-inches 170-pounds) will be called on to catch the rocks downfield.
Will Storlie, a 6-foot 1-inch 185-pound junior, will get the call for starting flanker. Jace Daughtery and Daltyn Wentz will rotate in as well.
Justin Lewallen, a 6-foot 2-inch 220-pound junior, will split time on both sides of the football. Coach King will utilize him on offense as a tight end some, but he will be a force on defense.
“Lewallen has the chance to be a D-1 prospect as a defensive player so I can’t get Coach Howard to let me have him full time,” said King. “He will be an excellent tight end for our offense when we get in situations where we can put his skills to the best use.”
A pair of sophomores, 6-foot 180-pound Luke Seaton and 5-foot 11-inches 190-pound Trenton Heigle will split the majority of the time in that position.
The front five blockers have been a point of pride within the tradition of the Pioneer program. However, the 2018 season saw a drop in aptitude within the trenches. “I take the blame for that,” King said. “Coach Ryan Morrow has worked extremely hard in the off season with our players to turn the corner and get the offensive line back to where we need it to be.”
Every play starts with the center and Batesville has called upon Matt Moore, a 6-foot 240-pound senior, to be the young man that snaps each play in motion. Louis Almanza (a 6-foot 2-inch 255-pound senior), Braden Adams (a 6-foot 2-inch 250-pound junior), Jesse Morton (a 6-foot 5-inch 300-pound senior), and Nathan Poole (a 6-foot 2-inch 255-pound senior) will round out the offensive line.
For the past seven seasons, Batesville has developed an all-state punter or kicker, and the Pioneers look to continue that tradition to lead their special teams corps in Alejandro Medina, a 5-foot 9-inch 160-pound junior. Coach King touted, “We’ve had a lot of great kickers come through our program in recent history. I believe Alex has a chance to be the best kicker we’ve ever had on our team. His accuracy is uncanny.”
When it comes to points after touchdowns and field goals, the trifecta will be back in action. Medina will be kicking, Matt Walmsley (5-feet 9-inches 165-pounds) will be the holder, and Darren Terry (5-feet 10-inches 160-pounds) will be the deep snapper. All three are juniors and worked together as a unit in 2018.
“That kind of continuity on our special teams will be a great advantage this season and next,” said King. As for Batesville’s punter, Roy Very, a 6-foot 177-pound senior, will be the one they call on to flip the field when the time comes.
Coach Tim Howard is in his second season as defensive coordinator for Batesville. The defense returns six starters led by three seniors. The nose guard position will be taken by Blayne Dowell (6-feet 235-pounds). Dowell had 64 tackles last fall and is double-teamed on nearly every play. The other two are Daniel Valencia (6-feet 195-pounds) and Ryan Sinele (6-feet 1-inch 180-pounds).
Other returners are Lewellen, who will give some time to the offense at tight end but will shine as an outside linebacker.
“Justin had 75 tackles three blocked punts last year. We are very excited in his ability on defense,” said Howard. Ethan Ridgel started 10 games in 2018 at defensive tackle as a sophomore and will return in 2019. Jarrett Vickers will return to the Pioneer defense sometime midseason after having shoulder surgery earlier this year.
Coach Howard said this of Vickers, “He was our leading tackler last year. He’s a great player and he will be truly missed, but we are looking forward to having him back hopefully in October.”
Vickers was an all-conference linebacker in 2018 racking up 110 tackles and four fumble recoveries. Jimmy Freeman, a 6-foot 195-pound senior, moved in from Jacksonville and will add some proficiency to the Pioneer defense. “Once Vickers gets back, having him and Jimmy on the field at the same time will be something special,” said Howard.
Tanner Pollett (a 5-foot 11-inch 175-pound senior), Mason Sifford (a 5-foot 10-inch 190-pound junior), Jace Daughtery (6-feet 180-pounds), Joseph Lewis (a 5-foot 9-inch 162-pound junior), and Will Storlie (a 6-foot 1-inch 185-pound junior) will all be first time starters on the defense for Batesville.
The Pioneers are picked to finish second in the 5A East by Hootens Magazine behind Wynne, a team they defeated 45-31 last season.
Batesville will open 2019 with a tough non-conference schedule. They will play the defending 5-A State Champion Little Rock Christian on Aug. 30 and will then take on two top-tiered 6-A teams in Jonesboro and Searcy the following weeks respectively. Those teams combined finished 29-9 last season.
Be sure to tune in this season with Mark Lamberth and Ronald Richardson on your Pioneer Nation Station, 93 KZLE (93.1 FM).