Football: Mustangs gain experience during tough season

It wasn’t the football season he’d hoped, but perhaps the one Central Arkansas Christian coach Tommy Shoemaker had expected.

After Friday’s 63-28 loss at league champion Stuttgart, his Mustangs finished 2-8 overall and 0-7 in the 4A-2 conference, having lost their final seven games. Their wins came in September over Carlisle (55-46) and Mayflower (35-34).

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A year ago, CAC finished 8-3 with a tie for second in the conference. In 2019, they won eight games and a league title.

“We lost 16 seniors, and all of them contributed, so we knew we had a lot of holes to fill, and we didn’t have a lot of experienced players coming back,” Shoemaker said. “We ended up having to play some kids who probably weren’t ready to play at that level just yet, but we had to throw them out there.

“I thought they gave great effort and did the best they could do. That part I wasn’t disappointed in. They probably just weren’t ready for that level of play yet, and it showed up in our inexperience in some crucial situations. 

“There’s nothing you can do about a lack of experience except try to get it, and sometimes that’s a painful process.”

Among 19 freshmen Mustangs, six, including quarterback Grayson Wilson, moved up to starting varsity slots for the final two games following the completion of a 9-0 junior high season.

Wilson threw for four touchdowns at Stuttgart.

“Even just those two games, especially for Grayson playing quarterback, it’s going to help them,” Shoemaker said. “I thought at times we played really well Friday. We were a little overmatched physically, especially up front. We had a couple of freshmen up front, and sometimes it showed.

“Overall, we gave really good effort, and we had some moments in the first half we were probably really frustrating (Stuttgart). But they made some big plays on us that turned the game in the second quarter, and we just weren’t able to recover from it.”

The good news for CAC is that all that youth will return — with experience — in 2022.

“A lot of those guys who probably wouldn’t have played in a normal year did, and we’ll try to build on that,” Shoemaker said. “We’ll also have some younger guys coming in we hope will fill in some spots as well.”

Nine seniors finished their CAC careers — Tyler Williams, Isaac Rine, Jackson Morse, Landin Ramer, Cauy Blevins, Olisa Adiguwe, Andrew Teer, Andrew Milam and Jace Love.

“I was really proud of them just for the fact that they kept battling the whole year and kept positive even when it was hard to be,” Shoemaker said of his senior class. “That’s not easy to do. Lesser people would’ve quit, would’ve not showed up and given effort. I told them that shows a lot more about what kind of person they are.

“I just hate it for them that we didn’t get more wins. They’re a really good group of kids. I’ll miss having them around.”

Williams has college offers from Ouachita Baptist and Harding University and is also drawing interest from others, including Arkansas State, Shoemaker said.