It’s quite a load for guys like Ty Beasley and Tracy Hughes.
Thanks to the rash of injuries around them, the two are being counted upon more than ever. That weight, and the defending Class 7A champions out of Arkansas bear down on both when the Roughers visit the Fayetteville Bulldogs tonight in a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Beasley, a junior, starts at an inside linebacker spot and Hughes, a sophomore, is the bandit safety/linebacker. Beasley, who started in four games last year, earned his spot in the off-season. Hughes was initially an inside linebacker and later a safety before moving to the hybrid spot on the defense, taking over for Haden Kolmer, who was moved back inside.
They’ve witnessed the growing pains and the constant state of change, along with the rash of penalties that teamwise have totaled 258 yards in penalties in 5 1/2 quarters. About half of those were on the defense.
“It’s all mental efforts,” Beasley said. “It’s not anything we can’t go out and fix.”
Beasley has found himself thrust into a leadership role.
“Having to tell everybody where to go, making sure everyone’s lined up correctly, that’s part of it,” he said.
But maybe not the biggest chore.
“I have to be vocal when people put their heads down and I’ve got to stay positive,” he said.
It’s something he’s learned from experience — ironically, in the first two games this past year.
“I understand the challenge when you feel like you’re getting picked on and it can keep you down,” he said. When we went against Owasso (in week two) they decided to come at the sophomore and see what he does and they opened me up pretty good. I kind of backed down instead of stepping up and I didn’t (start again) until the last two games. It opened my eyes.”
It also elevated his work habits. Defensive coordinator David Heath said back in the summer Beasley was one of the most committed off-season workers. That or just being one of the more veteran guys in a unit full of raw material has apparently rubbed off on those around him.
“They’re keeping their composure,” he said “There’s going to be big plays and if one happens to you, let it go. It’s football. If you let one play defeat you, the next play’s going to defeat you.”
Beasley said he’s learned from Kolmer, who understands both inside and outside duties.
“I’m now supposed to go opposite of the call. At middle (linebacker) I went right to the call. My main focus is being in the right place,” Beasley said.
That’s not a given for a sophomore who had zero previous varsity experience.
“I’m just trying to work hard on what I do,” he said.
And to Hughes’ credit, only one flag the past two weeks is on him. He was on the blitz and a bit too anxiously, jumped offside.
Both will be tested tonight as the two teams resume a series that’s been dormant since a 27-6 MHS win in 1946. MHS has a 12-1 series advantage.
Though entering the game 0-2, the Bulldogs have lost to top-level out of state competition in Jefferson City (Mo.) and Memphis (Tenn.) University School, both top five programs in their respective states.
Quarterback Austin Allen, linebacker Brooks Ellis and safety Alex Brignoni have verbally committed to stay home and play at the University of Arkansas next season. Allen is the younger brother of Brandon Allen, who replaced Tyler Wilson behind center for the Razorbacks late in their loss to Louisiana Monroe on Saturday. Their father is Bobby Allen, who is on the UA coaching staff.
As a junior, Allen set the state record for most passing yards in the highest classification, throwing for 4,150 yards and breaking his older brother's school record with 46 touchdowns. He helped lead Fayetteville to a state championship win, upsetting nationally ranked Bentonville High School in overtime of the finals.
“He’s a different quarterback than we saw against Owasso who was one of the better athletes we’ll face all year,” Beasley said. “This one’s not one to get out of the pocket so much. He’s a stud though and got the pedigree to be good.”
Much more of the responsibility figures to be on this pair with another injury up front. Kelton Randolph broke his arm in practice Wednesday, but Dillon Rice’s MRI has apparently cleared him to play in a message he left on Facebook Thursday evening. That’ll be a boost, joining him and Joel Lewis and Tramal Ivy as starters in a 3-4 set. Dionte Harris, a senior and Elijah Pettey, a junior, will work in that rotation.
Regardless of the injury situation, Beasley knows his job is unchanged.
“That’s football,” Beasley said. “We have to keep going on.”
Muskogee at Fayetteville
Kickoff: 7 tonight
Radio: KCXR 100.3 FM