New-look North Little Rock reloads as practice begins

North Little Rock head football coach Randy Sandefur is missing over half his starters and a trio of coaches from last season’s 10-3 squad.

But as his team officially begins fall practice on Monday, Sandefur is not looking for any sympathy, just relishing the next challenge.

“Any school that you come across, you are going to have to replace good ones and I think we do a really good job of developing people,” Sandefur said.  “We are definitely going to miss the ones we lost, but we are looking forward to the ones we are going to put in there.”

That’s the same way he looks at his coaching staff, who do welcome back five offensive and four defensive starters and got a big transfer in Arkansas defensive end pledge Quincy Rhodes (6-6, 240).

“We are not changing offense, we are not changing defense,” Sandefur said. “I did lose my offensive coordinator. I lost my defensive coordinator. I lost my linebacker coach. But I am not a glass half-empty guy, I am a glass half-full one and we will compete. We will  put people in there that can do the job and I will find those people.”

The Charging Wildcats will do so in a tough 7A-Central conference that includes four-time consecutive state champion Bryant and Conway – the only two teams that North Little Rock lost to last year, along with Cabot, Fort Smith Northside, Little Rock Southside and Little Rock Central.

“It has gotten better and better,” Sandefur said. “There is not an off night in our conference and I am not just saying that. Every team is getting better and better. They are going to be well coached. They are going to play hard and they are going to have athletes.

“It is up to us at North Little Rock High School to hold up our end of the bargain and get the most out of them as we can and also to make sure our guys, from our coaches down to our players, respect everybody we play.”

Sandefur, who is entering his 40th year as a head coach, was happy with the way spring drills went.

“It went really good,” Sandefur said.  “We got everybody through spring practice without any injuries. We are replacing a lot of people on both sides of the ball, but the good thing is we are replacing them with some really good student athletes.

Rhodes transferred back to North Little Rock from Jacksonville, where he played his junior season.

“He came to us in the offseason and we had to get him through it a little bit,” Sandefur said. “He will tell you himself that it is a little tough at our place. Everybody works hard and we do, too.

“He’s a strong kid and he works hard in the weight room. He is a fast twitch guy.”

Rhodes helps answer one question on the defensive side of the football.

“The biggest question we have to address is getting our defensive line revamped,” Sandifer said. “We have Quincy here now and we have Robert Burgess, who is a phenomenal athlete. But we have to replace those guys inside. We have got those guys, but we have got to create depth on our defense.

“Offensive line-wise, we graduate every one of them. I do think I have the best offensive line coach in the state of Arkansas in Clint Reed. He has coached in college, he has coached in high school. He does a great job not just coaching them, but caring for the kids.”

North Little Rock opens the season with road games at Little Rock Catholic (Aug. 26) and at Fayetteville (Sept. 2) before hosting Little Rock Parkview (Sept.16) in its final non-conference contest.

“We are going to travel there to Fayetteville and play there again and we expect a tough game,” Sandifer said. “Our non-conference games should really get us ready for our league games.”