A resurgence in football was the highlight of the Fall 2016 athletic semester at Carlisle High School.
Mark Uhiren, a 1977 Bison alumnus, led his debut Bison squad to a 7-5 record that included the school’s first playoff win since 2013.
This week, the Lonoke County Democrat looks at the fall athletic seasons. Next week, we will focus on Spring 2017.
After back-to-back 4-7 campaigns in 2014 and ‘15, the Bison ended 2016 with a 45-13 loss at Danville in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
Carlisle had tied for third in the 6-2A conference to earn the third seed for the playoffs. Danville finished 12-1 after a 28-27 quarterfinal loss to Mount Ida, the eventual champion. In the opening round, Carlisle beat Quitman, 49-21, for the Bison’s first playoff win in three years.
“I won’t say it was great, but I’d say it was pretty good,” said Uhiren, who came home last spring after a long stint at Marion. “I had a different approach. I’ve always put pressure on myself, but people saying or doing stuff doesn’t faze me near like it did. I just pinned my ears back and coached.”
After a 41-28 season-opening loss at Class 4A Lonoke, the Bison beat DeWitt, 30-26; before falling in conference games to Augusta, 50-32; and Des Arc, 32-28.
But from there, they reeled off five consecutive wins: over Marvell, 50-12; Hazen, 36-8; Palestine-Wheatley, 38-12; Brinkley, 40-36; and Clarendon, 35-34; before McCrory escaped the regular-season finale, 16-14.
“I have to say it was exciting for me, especially being at home,” Uhiren said. “With the kids the way they were, the seniors, and the camaraderie and leadership, it reminded me so much of when I played, forever ago. To see that that was still alive and the people were still interested in coming, in feeding the team — the whole dang thing was pretty dang good.”
He said overall, his first season with the Bison had been more positive than he’d anticipated.
“I know the seniors were very pleased,” Uhiren said. “You never want to lose, but at the same time, with all the circumstances that were in place — new coach, new staff — and they had not had such good luck the last couple of years.
“I talked to one of the parents the other day who came in and thanked me for the year. They were so relieved that those seniors had a good final year.”
The season’s only real disappointment was the way it ended.
Uhiren said he couldn’t say enough about his first Carlisle senior class.
“I saw so many things change for the better, and you can’t say that very often, even with kids you’ve known for years,” he said. “I saw drastic changes in attitudes, in ability, in caring for each other and what we were trying to do as a unit.
“This group was really close. They’d come through some tough times, and that tends to bind people. Then they had a little success and had a good time with it. Their attitudes were as good as they could be. With a new guy coming in and higher expectations, they just saddled up and rode right with me.
“I really feel a close bond with them — they’re hometown kids; I still know their parents, and they still have that Carlisle drive to try to be a good football program.”
The Bison finished sixth in the Class 2A Boys State Golf Tournament at Camden Country Club.
The Bison (Gray Amaden, Zach Caviness, Houston Garrett and Peyton Wickland) put up a team score of 293, behind Buffalo Island Central, 226; Camden Harmony Grove, 248; Spring Hill, 270; Hazen, 279; and Conway Christian, 280. Magnet Cove and Marmaduke tied for seventh with 294; Conway St. Joseph was ninth with 297. Hackett finished 10th with 305.
“I am proud of both the boys and girls golf teams,” Carlisle coach Jason Stewart said. “Both teams worked hard the entire season.”
The Bison had qualified for the state tournament with a runner-up finish to Hazen at the 6-2A tournament.
The Lady Bison finished 10th in the Class 2A Girls State Golf Tournament at Thunder Bayou in Blytheville.
Kylie Warren was the low Lady Bison, carding 112 to finish 16th. Madison Moody shot 127 and Meyah Stovesand 166 for a team score of 405.
Camden Harmony Grove won the team title with 277.
The Lady Bison had won the 6-2A District Tournament the previous week.