A tough football season came to an end for Carlisle’s Bison last week with a 47-8 loss at McCrory.
A year after Mark Uhiren led his alma mater to a 7-5 record and the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs, the Bison finished 2-7, including a 2-5 mark in the 6-2A for sixth in the league — one spot out of the post-season.
Along the way, Carlisle suffered nine season-ending injuries. With a roster in the low-20s to start the season, the personnel losses were devastating.
“That was probably the most helpless I’ve ever felt,” said Uhiren, a 1977 CHS graduate. “I don’t recall in all my years of coaching having that much bad luck about injuries. They were all key players — our two running backs and linebackers right off the bat, then my center. That hurt us really bad because we had to rotate people, and honestly, we had to play some people before they were ready.
“But you put it together the best you can. I’m not going to make any excuses. What happened, happened. Now you try to go back to the weight room. The junior high has been doing pretty well in there, so everything is already starting again.”
The Bison started their off-season work Monday.
At McCrory last week, they gave up two punt returns and a fumble return for touchdowns.
“It was pretty much what we expected,” Uhiren said. “You just can’t play a team like Clarendon (the week before) and lose three (players to injury) on top of what you’ve already lost and then turn around and play one of the best teams in the conference.”
Hazen won the 6-2A with a perfect 7-0 mark. McCrory (6-1), Palestine-Wheatley (5-2), Clarendon (4-3) and Des Arc (3-4) also qualified for the playoffs.
Uhiren said he hoped to have 30 on his roster to start 2018.
“Sometimes you’re one player away from being poor in (Class) 2A,” he said. “In all honesty, out of 30, you’re going to have eight or nine who can really, really play, and the rest you can make good, solid people who can hold those spots, and then you have a few backups you could put in there. You also are trying to keep them fresh.”
He said he wanted the 2018 Bison to be “rough.”
“I think the biggest thing that hurts us (with the injuries) is we can’t go full-speed at practice,” he said. “I think you need to go full contact, full hit at least one day a week. I guess of all the things, I hated most that we didn’t play rough at all. People kind of abused us, and I’d rather be a tough football team. You don’t want people playing injured, but some of that stuff is toughness.”
Four seniors — Mitch Lewis, Dylan Nichols, Houston Garrich and Caleb Parker — ended their CHS careers.
“From the first, they were in a tight spot, coming on the heels of having 12 seniors last year,” Uhiren said. “I thought they held together pretty good. As things started going bad, they’re human, and you feel helpless. That gets really frustrating.
“But they held together pretty good, and I think at times they had plenty of fun. It’s hard to find good things when you have a hard year, but those four stayed the course.
“Now we’ve just got to reload and go again.”