Choosing a battle cry for the 2019 football season was an easy task for Ouachita Christian.
Considering that only three plays were the difference between 11-1 and 8-4, it came as no surprise when the Eagles adopted the motto, “Finish Strong.”
OCS lost on late field goals to rivals Sterlington and St. Frederick during the regular season, but the worst heartbreak was yet to come. Leading No. 1 seed Southern Lab the entire game, the Eagles gave up the go-ahead score with 12 seconds remaining in a 22-21 second round home playoff loss.
Taking the return of 16 starters, including 10 on defense, into consideration, coach Steven Fitzhugh’s optimism for the upcoming campaign is understandable.
“We’re a year smarter and a year bigger, which is always a good thing,” Fitzhugh said.
Fitzhugh says the experience factor was evident in spring drills.
“I am excited and pleased with what we accomplished in the spring,” Fitzhugh said. “We were able to get a lot of work in. I liked the enthusiasm.”
He also liked the participation during the nine workouts.
“We had over 50 kids out in the spring. We were only missing about five baseball players,” Fitzhugh said. “We have 58 players, which is the best numbers we have had in awhile.”
Hunter Herring, the projected starting quarterback, was among the spring absentees. Three days after helping the Eagles win their eighth state baseball championship, Herring worked out with the football team.
“We had our first volunteer workout Thursday (May 16),” Fitzhugh said. “Hunter didn’t have any tests, so he didn’t have to go to class. But he was in here at 8:00 in the morning for the first workout. I like that.”
Herring played both ways last season while starting at wide receiver.
“Hunter is a smart kid; an explosive kid,” Fitzhugh said. “I’m confident he is going to do a great job.”
Herring’s absence left rising freshman Landon Graves as the only quarterback in camp.
“Landon Graves got all the reps — varsity and JV — and did a great job,” Fitzhugh said. “He was able to get a lot of experience.”
Graves also took the snaps in a 7-on-7 outing against Neville on Monday, May 13. Fitzhugh was especially encouraged by the Eagles’ wide receiver play.
“We had no drops from the varsity guys,” Fitzhugh said. “Defensively, I thought we competed well. You can already see the difference in experience this year.”
OCS’ most pressing concern is revamping the offensive line following the departure of Cole Hathaway, Carter Tan and Nick Wood. Garrett Foles, who missed the entire season after being injured in the Bayou Jamb, will fill one of the vacancies.
Gavin Shepard, who also started at wide receiver, is the only missing starter on defense.
Fitzhugh says it’s time for the next senior class to take over the leadership responsibilities.
“We had great senior leadership last year,” Fitzhugh said. “I’m challenging our seniors this year to set the tone.”
OCS will compete in upcoming 7-on-7 tournaments in Memphis (June 5) and at the University of Arkansas at Monticello (June 7).
2019 OUACHITA CHRISTIAN SCHEDULE
Sept. 6 Arcadia
Sept. 13 at Sterlington
Sept. 20. Jena
Sept. 27. at Siciliy Island*
Oct. 4. Delhi*
Oct. 10 at Cedar Creek* (Thursday)
Oct. 18 Oak Grove*
Oct. 25 Tensas*
Oct. 31 St. Frederick* (Thursday)
Nov. 8. at Delhi Charter*