SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) - A year removed from an 0-10 season, the Southside Southerners are in the hunt for a better season and the school's first-ever playoff berth.
The 2014 campaign wasn't a total loss for Coach Kenny Simpson and the Southerners, they were able to work in several sophomores that are expected to make a big impact this season. "We've got a pretty good even mix," said Simpson, "We've got a lot of sophomores coming through that had a very good junior high season. Have a very big junior class, had a lot of success playing JV last season."
Along with having some younger talent coming through the program, Simpson has seen strong leadership out of his upperclassmen. "We've got some good senior leadership," Simpson told Region 8 Sports, "They're hungry and the younger guys are coming in with some confidence."
The players are buying into what's going on at Southside this season. "We've got about 11 or 12 seniors and we're not that deep," said Senior Linebacker Zach Verser, "But the people we have can play." The seniors are entering 2015 with a sense of urgency as well. "We're doing well, I think we are going to be a lot better than we were last year," said Senior Strong Safety Nick Patrick.
Simpson said that he felt the 2014 season might not have been as bad as it looked on paper. "We felt like we blew several games," he said, "A few plays here and there and things could've been a lot different."
The feeling that the Southerners have let some games slip through their fingers has led to a strong philosophy installation in fall camp. "Discipline," said Simpson when asked what the team had been focusing on.
The players all shared their desire to be that first class ever to crack the 4A State Playoffs at Southside. "That would be a neat thing for Southside to be the first team in Southside history to ever go through that and go to the playoffs," said Patrick. "Be the first team in Southside history that's ever played in the playoffs, that'd be really cool," Verser added.
At a glance, the Southerners have the potential to be a solid team. They return quarterback Josh Millikin, who started nearly every game last season as a sophomore. He threw for 1,718 yards with 18 touchdowns but coupled with 14 interceptions. Millikin should be a solid force taking the snaps for Southside this year.
Defensively, the Southerners will need to be better. They allowed 41 points per game and gave up over 50 points twice in 2014. They do bring back some defensive skill including Patrick, Verser and a few linemen.
Southside will open up the 2015 campaign against Cave City.