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— By PATRIC FLANNIGAN

Sports editor

Spring ball has been rapid but productive for the Bearden Varsity Football Bears. After hiring a new head football coach in Bearden alum and assistant coach Greg Anthony, the schools is still looking to fill out its coaching staff while also rejuvenating the spirits of its student athletes after what most would consider a tough football season in 2018.

All of that’s in the past now, and according to Anthony his team is looking forward to the fall with renewed optimism. In fact, when the Camden News spoke to Anthony he, his staff and some of his players were hard at work on cleaning the dressing room. Anthony said that he was told the dressing room hadn’t been cleaned since 2010.

“The attitudes have changed. The work ethic has changed. They are ready to get to work. This spring has been very good and we’ve still been able to get a lot done despite obstacles.”

The ‘obstacles’ Anthony refers to would be enough of an excuse not to have a productive offseason for some schools, but not for Bearden.

Anthony served as a co-defensive coordinator for the Bears last fall and was hired as the Head Football Coach and Athletic Director on May 9 - a time when most schools are already deep in its spring football programs. After hiring Anthony, Bearden still needed to fill out is football coaching staff - Lavell Wright accepted a job as a principal in the Bearden School District, Anthony Hammonds accepted a job in Magnolia, Bud Chambliss resigned as a coach and former head coach Trey Outlaw accepted a job in El Dorado.

Former Hampton assistant coach Brandon Austin was hired as the new Bearden defensive coordinator and head baseball coach in early May and has been on hand for Spring football. Austin is a graduate of Southern Arkansas University and has played a critical role in Hampton’s success on the field. He has been at Hampton for four years and has been a teacher for nearly ten years.

Chambliss also helped over the spring and could possibly rejoin the coaching staff pending the June school board meetings. Anthony said that there is another coach up for hire to join the staff but that the school is still looking for a head basketball coach that will assist with the football program.

Anthony said that there have been quite a few people interested in assistant coaching positions but 2A schools have trouble competing salary-wise. He emphasized how important it is to hire coaches that care about the students and wants to stay to take the athletic program to the next level. Anthony himself brings nearly 30 years of coaching experience to the position including a stop in El Dorado where he was on a championship coaching staff. He stated that he had to sacrifice to come “home” but knew it was worth it because he loved Bearden.

“It’s hard and you have to love what you are doing,” Anthony said. “We aren’t just trying to fill spots with young coaches that are going to just be here a couple of years. We want to take this program to the next level. You’ll take a pay cut for something that you love. It’s worth it if you are going to be able to invest in a kid’s life. You’ll take a cut when its going to make you happy. That’s what it’s about.”

Anthony stated that the Spring Football game was more of an extended practice this year as he is installing a new offense for the Bears to use. There were around 28 student athletes that participated in Spring football but only 20 were able to participate in the game. The rest are waiting on medical clearance and things of that nature.

“We did some scripted things on offense and then the last 30 minutes or so we just put the first offense against everyone else,” Anthony explained. “We are still looking at people in different positions and things like that. Some of what we are doing on defense, we did last year so we are focusing on more on offense. We saw some good things and you can tell the kids really want to play. They are excited again.”

Anthony said the gym will be open from 7-11 a.m. Monday through Friday so students can come in and work out over the summer.

“Just this week, we’ve had about 25 coming in,” Anthony shared. “That’s for Jr. High and Sr. High players. Those numbers will go up next week. We are doing it like this so our kids that are working can fit us into their schedule without worrying about missing a scheduled work out. We got a few kids that are working for the school moving furniture and stuff so we know they aren’t just sitting up and getting out of shape. They are working.”

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