Prairie View Spartans Preview

Winners of back-to-back district championships for the first time in school history, Prairie View is counting on quality to beat quantity.

Bo Barton has taken over the coaching duties in place of Matt Middleton, who turned the program around in two-plus seasons before accepting the head coaching position at Class 4A West Ouachita.

As a member of the MAIS, the Spartans already have a regular season game in pocket, having defeated Union Christian 36-12 Friday night in Farmerville.

Prairie View will have a new look offensively as Barton has implemented the spread in lieu of the option. While the scheme has changed, the quarterback remains the same. Hayes Crockett returns after directing the Spartans to an 8-2 mark as a freshman.

Crockett carried 13 times for 85 yards and three scores against UCA and was 7-of-14 for only 31 yards through the air, with a couple of nice gains wiped out by penalties. Barton, however, remains confident the passing game will eventually click.

"I have to do a better job of spending more one-on-one time with Hayes," Barton said. "The quarterback has a lot on his shoulders. He has to know where everybody is, and he has to think like the coach. Friday night, there were times when he and I were on two different pages. That's on me.

"Hayes definitely has all the tools. He has the ability to be really good by the time he leaves here."

Layton Rainbolt and Tanner Caldwell are the running backs. Both could also play quarterback, if needed.

Though only a sophomore, Rainbolt enters his third season as a starter. Earning first-team All-District accolades last season, he averaged 10.6 yards per carry while rushing for 391 yards and nine TDs. Now the feature back, Rainbolt is off to a blazing start after churning out 152 yards and two touchdowns on just eight attempts vs. UCA.

"Rainbolt ran the ball with authority," Barton said. "He got a good burst of speed. When it was time to square his shoulders, he brought it to the defender."

Caldwell picked up 54 yards on four carries.

"When Tanner came in, I didn't think our running game slowed down at all," Barton said. "I feel pretty good about those guys."

Brothers Kolton and Jacob Farrar could also get some touches in the running game.

Caldwell starts at wide receiver where he is joined by Kentrell Spencer, Blake Ray, Jamarco Edmonds and Cade Murphy. Barton is looking for more production from the group as the season progresses.

"We threw a couple of balls Friday night to the wrong spot," Barton said. "That's where we have to get on the same page. I don't think Hayes understood what I was looking for. Hayes did a real good job on the short, quick throws. We have to do a better job of coaching the deeper throws."

Barton went into preseason camp with concerns about the offensive line. Those question marks have been erased.

Tackle Cole Kinnaird, a two-way, first-team All-District lineman last season is the lone holdover starter. Caleb Tanksley, Austin Harper, Gage Riles and Tyler Peters round out the group, along with centers Caleb Christmas and Mason King.

"Our offensive line is a unique group," Barton said. "We only have two bodies that look like offensive linemen — Cole Kinnaird and Mason King, but I like the toughness of those guys. They get after it and take a lot of pride in what they're doing. After the game, they were talking about all the pancakes they were getting. I really like our offensive line."

With only 20 players on the roster, everybody with the exception of Crockett has had to learn multiple positions.

"We had 19 kids play in the game the other night," Barton said. "It's tough, but it's going to take all of them. Austin Harper plays right tackle on offense, but he can also play cornerback or outside linebacker. Jacob Farrar is our Sam linebacker, and he is also a receiver and a running back. We have a lot of kids who do that, not just those two.

"This doesn't register with the average fan, but these kids have to do a good job of getting in and out, and knowing who is going where. It requires discipline to be able to do that. It's what we have to do, and they do a good job of it."

Defensive linemen include Jacob Walker, Edmonds, Peters, Kolton Farrar, Kinnaird, Christmas, King and Gage Sistrunk.

"We have five kids right now that only play defense," Barton said. "We're trying to get to where we have six or seven. I would like to play some of the younger kids a little more. We're trying to find one more offensive lineman, so we can turn one of those guys loose to play defense."

Prairie View lost linebacker Auston Smith, the district's Defensive Player of the Year, to graduation, but Austin Carroll has stepped in to fill the void. A first-team All-District performer last season, Carroll tallied 42 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Carroll is joined in the linebacker brigade by Blake Ray and Jacob Farrar.

Rainbolt, Layton Woodard, Spencer, Murphy, Harper and Caldwell are available in the secondary.

"Again, we're not very big, but we play fast, we play hard and we play with a purpose," Barton said. "That's what I like about our defense."

Prairie View held an explosive UCA side to 30 total yards (7 rushing, 23 passing).

"I'm not going to say I was surprised, but that was quite a feat Friday night," Barton said. "They had a back with over 200 yards in the jamboree. We definitely gameplanned for No. 33 (Nick Evans), and we not only stopped him, we stopped everything they did. Even the passes they completed were well-covered. They just made some athletic plays."

Carroll and Ray are the punters, with Harper, Carroll or Jacob Farrar handling the kickoffs. Harper got the call against UCA.

"Going into the game, I honestly didn't know who was going to kick off," Barton said. "Austin (Harper) was kicking well, so we went with him, and he did the job well. He may end up kicking the rest of the year."

Though few in number, Barton says the Spartans are a close-knit bunch.

"There is a lot of unity here," Barton said. "I've said this before, there are no superstars, but they all want to win. I don't think any of our kids put themselves before the team. They're competitive, but I see a lot of helpfulness. When we go one-on-one in practice, they want to beat each other. But they realize without their teammates, it's going to be a long year."

2017 PRAIRIE VIEW SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT

36 at Union Christian 12

8-25 CHEF

9-1 at Wilkinson County

9-8 Acadiana*

9-15 Riverfield

9-22 at Glenbrook*

9-29 Trinity

10-6 at Central Private

10-13 River Oaks*

10-20 at Claiborne