Bryant High School Athletics



When Mike Falleur took over the Northside program in 2013, he had the vision of big-time defense winning big-time football games. A strong defense, along with a powerful offense, led the Grizzlies to a nine-win season in 2014. Last season, Northside had the pieces defensively, but struggled to maintain strong play week in and week out. That consistency is what Falleur is looking for this fall. "We've been good, but not consistently good," the fourth year head coach said. "We've got to be able to do it play after play and game after game. We've got guys who have played a bunch, and have some pretty good depth in most spots. I'd be pretty disappointed if we're not pretty salty on defense." Northside will return the bulk of its defense in 2016. Losing Deontre Hardwick, Kiondre Thomas and Garrett Butler stings, but a number of key players with sufficient playing time will step into those roles. Linebackers Chuy Parga, Tanner Cross, Tyrek Perry Colby Flemming and transfer Robert Wilkerson highlight the middle of the defense and, Tre Norwood, who Falleur and defensive coordinator Felix Curry call one of the best cornerbacks in the state, provides a staple in the secondary. Curry's secondary allowed the fewest passing yards in the 7A-West a season ago, and Falleur says that begins with the push up front and pursuit of the quarterback. "I think what helps you there is the pass rush, and I think we have guys up front — Darius Carson, Austin Cato, Mike Collier. We have seven, and I think if you can get a good pass rush on folks it helps coverage. Matt Jackson is back, but we also have a couple young guys and Biyron McGrew. Coach Curry and them do a good job. We should be stout in the secondary." While the defense was stiff in wins over Little Rock Central, Heritage, Rogers and Springdale, it hit its rough patches. Penalties, personal fouls and inability to get a stop were at times the difference between a close win and a loss. Falleur says that's not specific to the defense, but the offense as well. The head coach points back to the Greenwood, Bentonville and Southside games. All winnable games, but the Grizzlies came up a play or too short in each. "You go back and look at all the things that happened and analyze what you could have done differently — we were 4-7. I heard Gus Malzahn say (at SEC Media Days) there's 3-5 games that come down to little bitty, fine point things that win ballgames. The year before, we made those plays and didn't make mistakes and won those games. This past year was just the opposite. We'd get in those close games and instead of winning those games we lost them. Instead of being 8-2, you're 4-6." Another layer to the struggles came offensively in the passing game. Northside threw for the second fewest yards in the conference (991), and its leading receiver — Brennon Lewis — will remain in the 7A-West at Fayetteville following a transfer this spring. Lewis accounted for 443 of team's yards through the air, but the Grizzlies appear to have viable options heading into the fall. Former Roland Ranger Kedrick Thomas impressed during spring practices and has long-ball ability at receiver as well as vision when taking the ball on a handoff in the Grizzlies' spread option offense. Falleur will also be adding junior high standout Derrick Wise to the roster, who projects to see time at running back, split end and potentially the secondary. "I think we have a solid group of skill guys, and you obviously always want more," Falleur said. "I think what gets overlooked in moving the football is you have to have guys up front to handle things. I would love to have Brennon Lewis, but the guys that are here — Kedrick Thomas, Greg Washington, Jamarlon Jones, Deuce Wise, Hunter Pendleton — they're all good athletes. Those guys are going to do a good job for us." Team camp and 7-on-7s were opportunities for more reps and the Grizzlies are hoping it will help open up the passing game this season. By week one, Falleur hopes being able to throw it around will be second nature. Along with rival Southside, this will be a transition year. Moving from the rough and tough 7A-West to the 7A-Central entails not only new opponents but much more travel. Northside will make trips to Bryant, LR Central, Conway and Cabot — a total of 1,240 miles. Falleur has high expectations for the new league. "Since I've been here we've never played Cabot, never played Bryant," he said. "We've play Central, Catholic, NLR; we're familiar with some of them more than others, and it's exciting. Nothing against the 7A-West, because it speaks for itself, but this new conference with the addition of us and Southside is as good as the West, if not better, from top to bottom. "From top to bottom I think it's a little tougher, but it's going to be good football on Friday nights." Photo Credits: Scottie Bordelon