HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Graduation and the pandemic have taken a toll on the Hot Springs Trojans’ football prospects in 2020.
Third-year head coach Darrell Burnett said goodbye to 12 outstanding seniors at graduation ceremonies. He had a Division I candidate move to Texas. Another returning starter is absent because his mother wasn’t comfortable with the pandemic climate, and he is not the only player on the sidelines because of the coronavirus.
“Those twelve seniors we lost were like having 25 seniors,” said Burnett. “They came to work, and everyone else sort of followed suit. That was the big reason we were able to go from 1-9 to 5-5. We lost five guys to college football. Now we’ve got to find a group of guys who can pick up from where they left off.”
Pandemic could be a roadblock this fall
Burnett says the 5-5 record in 2019 could just as easily been 9-1. The Trojans lost 10-6 to Mena; 21-18 to Magnolia; and missed the postseason with back-to-back loses to Camden Fairview and Hot Springs Lakeside.
Despite graduation and the virus, Burnett expects his team to compete for a playoff berth this fall.
“There’s two things that make a good program; descipline is No. 1,” said Burnett. “I believe if a team has leadership and competition, you’ll have a better team every year. The bulk of our roster this season will be young again. We’ve got a good group working hard.
“It’s going to be interesting to see who gets those four top spots in our conference. Texarkana has a lot back and will be strong. Lakeside is also pretty talented again, and Camden is always going to be good. Then you’ve got us and Magnolia.”
Big turnover in Hot Springs coaching staff
Burnett has several new coaches on his staff, including former Nashville quarterback A.J. Whitmore.
The Trojans return junior quarterback Isaac Shelor, who led 5A South in passing last year with 1,802 yards and 17 touchdowns. His favorite target this season could be junior Pierce Smalle, or senior tight end Malik Cooper.
Senior Carlos Brewer rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in 2019. Nobody should be surprised if the Trojans have several players seeing action on both sides of the ball.
2020 HOT SPRINGS SCHEDULE
Aug. 27 Fountain Lake (Thursday)
Sept. 4 at Arkadelphia
Sept. 11 at Mena
Sept. 18 Lake Hamilton
Oct. 2 x-at Hope
Oct. 9 x-at De Queen
Oct. 16 x-Magnolia
Oct. 23 x-Texarkana
Oct. 30 x-Camden Fairview
Nov. 6 x-at Hot Springs Lakeside
x-Denotes 5A South games