It was a strong 2015 season for Mountain Home’s offense, while its young defense allowed a school-record amount of points per game in 2015.
The Bombers averaged 20.3 points per game, well improved from its 2014 campaign of 13.0 per game
Coach David Joyce, in his second year at the helm of the Bombers, was proud of his offense’s improvement throughout the season but wishes the unit would have made the most of its trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
“Last year, through 10 games total, we had just 18 touchdowns,” Joyce said, “and one of those was on a kickoff return against Harrison. So, we had only 17 offensive scores. This year, it was 30 offensive scores, but we had so many trips into the red zone where we could have had like 15 more, possibly. Year one, we didn’t have near as many chances. We had way more chances this year, and those were even against some of the better teams in the state. I feel really good about our offense taking the necessary strides for the future.”
But the defense allowed a school-record 49.0 points per outing — up from 45.2 last season — including a school-record 83 to Jonesboro.
“Our defense, most of the time we had six or seven sophomores out there,” said Joyce. “We only had one senior out there for the majority of the year. When you’re playing at this level of football in a state like Arkansas, which is offensive-minded — if you take Jonesboro for example, their best athletes only play offense. It was tough, but it wasn’t from lack of effort. It was adjusting to the game speed from your ninth-grade year to 10th grade. I’m confident, and we’re going to commit in the offseason to getting better defensively and more fundamentally sound.”
Mountain Home loses only linebacker Hunter Perry to graduation on defense, and it brings back most of its offense.
“These guys gave up a lot of points, but they have a lot of pride,” Joyce said. “They’re going to work hard in the offseason. They have a lot of payback due to a lot of teams. We’re excited about our future defensively.”
The season saw the Bombers end a 31-game losing skid with a 20-14, Week Two victory at Valley View, but the program still carries a 29-game conference skid and a 24-game home losing streak into next season.
Quarterback Zane Walker had a strong senior season, going 116 of 224 passing for 1,419 yards. Classmate Payton Parker was Walker’s favorite target on the year, catching 45 passes for 610 yards.
“We’re getting to the point where we have enough numbers where we can use some personnel packages, kind of like we had at the end of the year with kids running on and off the field a lot,” Joyce said. “We’ve got some kids who are more tight end kids, as opposed to some who are spread types. We’re going to try to focus offensively on personneling to get more kids involved on Friday nights.”
Senior Drew Strope caught the second-most passes, 32, for 381 yards. Strope also rushed for 452 yards on 79 carries, the majority of those coming early in the season before logging more snaps as a receiver later in the year.
With only 10 seniors graduating and a lot of freshmen moving up to senior high, the Bombers expect a large turnout next season.
“We’re expecting between 60 and 70 kids next year,” Joyce said. “That’s on par with everybody we play in 6A. You’re shooting for anything above 10 percent of the boys in your school. If you’re looking at 450 boys at Mountain Home High School, and you’ve got 60 kids, that’s OK. If you’re at Cabot and you’ve got 1,100 boys, it’s different. I feel like the kids are committed and really want to be here.”
Walker also was the team’s leading rusher, keeping 142 times for 592 yards on the season. Sophomore Isaac McKay added 375 yards on 64 carries and junior Cord Smith totaled 359 yards on 67 totes.
“We’re going to have two days a week during the last block of school where we work on offense and defense,” Joyce said, “so when spring rolls around, by that time, we’ve had four or five months of two days a week. When spring ball hits, we can hit the ground running and not have to start from scratch.”
Football is a sport noted for having one of the shortest season, therefore one of the longest offseasons.
“I enjoy the grind. I think the kids have started to embrace it also,” Joyce said. “We’re going to let them recharge the batteries, but we won’t let them take much time off. We have to hit that weight room. We talked about it yesterday. We were going over procedures and locker assignments. I said ‘Zane Walker only played offense, and he had 10 games. If you break it down, he only had 35 minutes or so of total football. And you’re about to work for the next nine months, hours upon hours.’ It goes quickly.”
There were a few games during the season the Bombers were within striking distance, but a youthful mistake or a squelched drive into the red zone cost the team a chance at victory. None hurt worse than the two earliest in the season, before the offense started to find its groove.
“The Nettleton game was pretty disappointing because we could’ve got two in a row,” Joyce said. “I feel if we’d have played them on any other night, we would’ve got them. Offensively, that was probably one of our weaker games. Not to take anything away from their defense, but later on, we played some really solid defenses and scored way more points than that.”
Mountain Home fell 20-19 to Nettleton, despite rolling up over 450 yards of offense. Mountain Home also suffered from a slow start against its main rival.
“The Harrison game, there was a lot of build-up to that,” Joyce said. “We had a great crowd, and I felt like our guys just weren’t ready for that environment. I wish we could’ve played (Harrison and Nettleton) on Week 7 or 8, later in the year. But, we’ll get another shot at them next year.”