Beekman's new on-campus football stadium is expected to be ready in time for the September 15 home opener vs. Lakeside.
Beekman's football team finally has a place to call home. Coach Wade McDonald expects the Week 3 September 15 home opener against Lakeside to be played on campus.
"The stadium will be ready for the first home football game against Lakeside," McDonald said. "We've been mowing the field, and we're trying to fill in a few holes every now and then. If it ever quits raining, we'll get the lights and scoreboard up. Then we'll be ready to rock and roll."
Counting the 2013 season when the Tigers competed as a junior varsity team, Beekman has played its home games at Delta Junior High, roughly 20 miles away.
It hasn't always been easy, and it's taken longer than planned, but McDonald can see the finished product in sight.
"I've been part of a rebuilding, but I've never been part of building a football stadium," McDonald said. "I've learned a lot."
Beekman, Drew Central and Crossett will compete in a three-way scrimmage at Crossett on Friday, Feb. 25. Each team will play two 15-minute quarters in the round robin format.
"We scrimmage in two weeks, but we're still eight weeks behind," McDonald said. "We're still teaching the new kids."
Moving on to the regular season, the Tigers travel to LaSalle and Homer in Weeks 1 and 2 prior to the much-anticipated home game vs. Lakeside.
Beekman (3-8) took a step forward last season. Besides winning the first game in program history, the Tigers qualified for the playoffs for the first time, losing to White Castle in the opening round.
The road only gets tougher as the Tigers move from Class 1A into one of the toughest 2A leagues in the state with Delhi Charter, Ferriday, Mangham, Rayville and General Trass.
"I'm more concerned about the speed of the game more than anything," McDonald said. "You worry about losing kids because some of them think of 2A as the NFL. But they're buying into it. We just have to keep building with these kids.
"We're a new program, already jumping up in classification. It's a big jump, but we're going to play football this year."
Youth remains a concern for the Tigers.
"I know I've been saying this every year, but we're young," McDonald said.
An even bigger concern is a shortage of linemen on both sides of the ball.
"Our skill positions are solid and our linebackers are real solid," McDonald said. "Once again, it comes down to linemen. We just don't have very many of them in our program."
Sophomore Brock Jenkins has moved into the starting quarterback role.
"Quarterback-wise, I think we'll be okay," McDonald said.
Meanwhile, 8th grader Willie Williams is being groomed as the quarterback of the future.
"Will is tall and athletic. It's just a matter of learning the system," McDonald said. "He will play wide receiver with the varsity and start at quarterback for the junior varsity."
Senior Johnny Gipson is now the feature back after splitting carries with Jalen Jones last fall.
"Johnny has been pretty much a constant for us at running back since I've been here," said McDonald, who enters his third season as the Tigers' head coach. "It's time for him to step up and be the running back I know he can be."
Chad Jones returns at wide receiver, along with slotback Zeb Morgan and tight end Ethan White.
"Chad is our only wide receiver with any kind of experience," McDonald said.
Defensive line is shaping up as a strength as Dalon Moore, Xavier Lenard and White have shown promise in preseason camp.
"Xavier Lenard's raw at defensive tackle," McDonald said. "Technically, this is his second year, but he has never really played football before. He has all the tools and ability. It's just a matter of getting the mental part down. He has a future ahead of him if he sticks with it."
Moore was in on 44 tackles and was responsible for seven of the Tigers' 17 sacks as a freshman.
"Dalon is the workhorse of our defense," McDonald said.
White will be a two-way player.
"Ethan was our tight end last year, and is playing on the defensive line this year," McDonald said. "He's gotten a lot stronger and a lot better. He stayed in the weight room over the summer. We're asking him to step up and help us on both sides."
McDonald is counting on a strong season from senior linebacker Lucas Lara.
"I'm hoping Lucas steps up and plays a linebacker role like he's capable of doing," McDonald said.
Beekman has a dynamic return duo. Morgan returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns while Matthews took a kickoff return to the house.
"We'll depend on our special teams," McDonald said. "Zeb and Cobe are both back. We're hoping they will score a few more touchdowns and help us out some."
McDonald says the Tigers are further along than at this time last season. With the jump in classifications, the growth may not necessarily show up in the win column.
"If they get to clicking, I think they can be something special for Beekman," McDonald said. "I'm not saying we'll have 5 or 6 wins and go deep in the playoffs. But I do think they can be a group that people will be proud to come out and watch. It's a pretty special group."