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Conway ready to take next step under new head coach Buck James | Preps on 11

The Wampus Cats have their eyes on a trip to War Memorial under their new head coach.

CONWAY, Ark. — Three months ago, Buck James shocked the football world by announcing he was leaving Bryant, where he'd won five straight 7A titles, and going to Conway, a program that's been knocking on that door for years. 

But for James, it's another chance to prove himself.

“It’s just a new opportunity. If I can do this again, it will be fun. If I can’t, it won’t be because we didn’t try,” he said.

The Wampus Cats aren’t exactly starting from scratch. They were moments away from beating Bryant for a conference title in 2021, and have been to a state semifinal the last three years.

“The coaches before me have done a great job,” added James, “We’re just trying to refine some things, put my signature on it.”

“We’re just trusting it right now,” said senior Qauayaser “Q” Whitehead. “We believe what he can do, and we’re gonna see what we can do once the season starts.”

Most of the changes under James so far are coming in the mental game, not the playbook.

“I want it to be at a faster pace, I want it to be at a higher level of intensity, and I think these guys are gonna get there,” he explained.

“He knows what we need to be,” said senior Ben Chandler.  “He knows what we struggle at, so he’s gonna push us to be the best. That’s his favorite thing to say be the best.”

That’s not to say things will look entirely the same.

“We got some new plays, I can't say too much, but we got some new plays,” laughed Whitehead.

Offensively, it starts with the same guy who’s been terrorizing the 7A for years.

“Donovyn Omolo, one of a kind, what can you say,” said Chandler, shaking his head.

James has seen Omolo across the field from him for a while now.

“Three-year starter, he’s a great leader, got great imagination, great patience,” he said.

Whitehead has known him even longer.

‘I’ve been blocking for Donovyn ever since fifth grade. He does his thing, we trust him, he trusts us, three-year starter, you can’t really beat that,” he described.

And the defense will make sure to get their shine too

“Offense gets all the camera time, but defense, we’re the sleepers, well step up when we need to step up, make the plays when we need to make the plays,” said Chandler

For years now, Conway has felt like a program on the doorstep. Even with the addition of James, it’s going to be up to the players to take that next step according to Whitehead.

“We have to go out there, know that we can do it, and push down the door that we’ve been knocking on forever,” he explained.

The Wampus Cats get to skip the Zero Week heat, they’ll start their season on September 1 with a trip to Bentonville.

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