BATESVILLE, AR (LYON) – The Lyon College offensive unit might be wearing navy or white jerseys this season, but there will be some deep-rooted orange and black as well. Seven former Batesville Pioneers are on the Scots football team this season, with six of them playing on the offensive side of the ball.
There will also be two Southside offensive players and another from nearby Midland High School and a defensive back from Cave City, rounding out the local talent.
The Scots will be looking to those area players to ignite the squad when Lyon plays its first football game since 1951 on August 29 against 22nd-ranked Tabor College at 1 p.m. Coincidentally, the Scot home games will all be played at Batesville High School's Pioneer Stadium.
General admission tickets will be available at the gate and can be purchased for $5 by calling (870) 307-7525. All Lyon home games will be streamed live on the internet ($7.95) on LyonScots.com and aired free on local radio station KZLE-FM (93.1).
Garett Denton (FR/Batesville, Ark.), a former Pioneer, was the first Lyon player signed to the current 88-player roster prior to last season. He and 72 others began work under the tutelage of Kirk Kelley as he and his staff began building the squad. The Scots went through a year of preparation to get ready for this year's initial season of intercollegiate competition.
"I think last year helped us a lot," said Denton, a tight end on the Lyon squad. "The college game is definitely a bigger, faster game and we're going to find out that on August 29 when we take the field against Tabor. Then we'll have another challenge (on September 5) against (7th-ranked) Lindsey Wilson.
"This is a big step for all of us, but I think all the guys that are here from last year's team and the new guys coming in this fall are going to meet the challenge. It's going to be great to see this team to come out after 50-plus years (without football at the college) and have the community behind us and see what we can do at home against two ranked teams to start the season."
Other Batesville players that will be battling for spots on the Lyon offense include tight end Jonathan Hendrix (FR/Batesville, Ark.), wide receiver Joel Caraway (FR/Batesville, Ark.), offensive linemen Khang Nguyen (FR/Batesville, Ark.), Jeff Fox, and Johnathan Howard (FR/Batesville, Ark.). Another former Pioneer, Osvaldo Espericueta (FR/Batesville, Ark.), will be the Lyon place kicker, and has a powerful leg.
Other local talent battling for starting spots includes Southside fullback Raymond Gill (FR/Batesville, Ark.) and wide receiver Lucas Branscum (FR/Batesville, Ark.), along with Midland running back Timothy Altom (FR/Midland, Ark.), and Cave City defensive back Cobie Robinson (FR/Cave City, Ark.).
Denton said having last year's redshirt season helped him and the other freshmen get used to college life, not to mention the opportunity to get better prepared for this coming season against seasoned squads.
"I think the academics were the hardest thing to get used to last year," Denton explained. "I came in and knew it was going to be hard, but you really don't know how hard it's going to be, compared to high school, until you endure that first year. I had teammates to look up to and friends that I made the first semester that showed me how to study and where to go to get help when I needed it.
"On the field, it really helped to have that year. A lot of people would like to just go to (college) and play games, but when you're a true freshman playing against juniors and seniors, you have to prepare yourself. I know we all want to win, but you need to prepare yourself for those upper classmen we'll be going up against.
"I've really enjoyed how we've gotten bigger, faster and stronger over the last year and it has helped us get ready for August 29."
Looking at this year's team, Denton said the Scots are going to have some talented players behind them in skill positions. "We've got a lot of talented players here. Mike Bowles (transfer from Arkansas Baptist College) is back from last year. He came here and is really a great runner. James (Davis, from Baton, Rouge, La.) was on the wrestling team last year and is now playing football. He knows what to do in the backfield after playing high school ball, and will help us a lot. And there are seven other guys back there that have done a great job so far."
Denton said his familiarity with Lyon offensive line coach Ryan Morrow will be a big plus. Morrow is also from Batesville.
"Coach Morrow is born and raised in Batesville just like I am and he played tight end just like I do," Denton stated. "He's really bonded with all the offensive linemen. We always know he's got our backs, and whether it's class, something personal, or football, all we have to do is talk to him and he'll help us out."
Hendrix, another redshirt freshman athletically from last year, and a junior academically, said last year's training and college at Lyon was a huge benefit.
"I was a sophomore last year, but it helped to have that year of work last season," Hendrix stated. "It was tough not being able to play a game, but it will help us this season and I'm excited to see where it goes. We've just got to all get on the same page and see what happens.
"I've never really been a part of something that has started from the ground up. We're looking forward to it."
Kelley said he can see a difference in his team from a year ago, even before his players step on the field for their first game.
"You can already feel the difference," Kelley said. "When you do something like we did last year [practice, with no games] it's hard to stay motivated. The players did a good job, but it's a whole different mindset this year, preparing for actual games."
Kelley is looking for the familiarity and bond of the former Batesville players, along with other local talent and players recruited over the past two seasons, to combine to give him some much-needed spark when the inaugural season gets underway next week. That is when the Scots will be tested.