The Lonoke Junior Jackrabbits opened the 2012 season with a 14-8 loss to Beebe in a rain-soaked James B. Abraham Stadium. That was the last time Lonoke tasted defeat.

The Junior Jackrabbits then reeled off eight consecutive victories to win the 4A-2 conference title.

This year, the Junior Jackrabbits have 50 players on their roster, several of which saw extensive action a year ago.

"We’ve actually got a quite a few," said new Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery. "We ended up with 24 ninth graders. A lot of those kids got a lot of playing time last year. This is eighth-grade group is a big group. These kids who played a bunch last year. I feel good about us coming back and having a good chance."

Lowery said having ninth graders with experience is an advantage for his team.

"You’ve got kids who know what we’ve been doing," he said. "They tasted success last year. They know what it takes to win and they step into their role and take over as a ninth grader and bring the eighth graders along."

Lowery replaced Tim Scarborough as head junior high coach. Scarborough left during the summer to become head coach at Little Rock Hall after four seasons as the Junior Jackrabbits coach and 14 years overall in Lonoke.

This is Lowery’s fifth year as a coach in Lonoke. He is also the head baseball coach for the Jackrabbits. He has served as an assistant under Scarborough and high school coach Doug Bost.

"I’ve always loved football," Lowery said. "I’ve loved being an assistant under coach Scarborough and coach Bost. I knew if the opportunity ever presented itself, I knew I wanted to step into it. I’d love to keep doing this and possibly step into a head coaching spot in senior high down the road."

Lowery said it will be a change for him, being both the junior high football and high school baseball head coaches.

"I’m excited about the opportunity to do both," he said. "I think we’re going to have a great season and these kids are working their tails off getting ready for the year."

This is Lowery’s sixth year as a coach. He coached one year in Prescott before coming to Lonoke. He and his wife Carrie have been married two years. They are expecting their first child together, daughter Caroline, who is due in December. Lowery has a son, Peyton, 9, who lives in Arkadelphia.

The Junior Jackrabbits open the season Sept. 5 at Beebe. Lonoke will host Little Rock Christian on Sept. 12. The 4A-2 conference opener is Sept. 19 against Heber Springs at James B. Abraham Stadium.

Other home games include Southside Batesville on Oct. 3, Dollarway on Oct. 10 and Clinton on Oct. 31.