Marvin Ridge Returns Top Players On Defense

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Defense will be a strong point for Marvin Ridge High School this coming football season as the Mavericks return seven starters, including several players who earned Southern Carolina Conference All-Conference honors in 2016.

“Defensively, we have a pretty good chance to be good on that side of the football,” said Marvin Ridge head football coach Aubrey Carter. “We have a ton of experience coming back and the guys that are coming back are going to be real good players.

“We have seven starters back on defense but everybody that plays for us on defense has tons of experience,” Carter said.

Senior Cole Hopkins (6-3, 213) is one of the top returnees on the defensive line and the senior will be at defensive end. Hopkins had 85 tackles, including 12 sacks while earning All-Conference honors as a junior.

Senior Ian White (6-5, 220), who also plays offensive tackle, will also play some at defensive end. Junior Jonathan Clark (6-0, 200) will also help up front.

Junior Will Smith returns at linebacker after recording 116 tackles last season, including 83 solo stops. Smith earned All-Conference honors as a sophomore. Caleb Deveaux, who also starts at running back, will also be at linebacker. Deveaux (6-1, 207) had 26 tackles, including five for losses, as a junior.

“Caleb will play both sides of the football for us,” Carter said. “Caleb is a difference maker at running back and at linebacker. Will Smith is just a junior but this will be his third year. In the second half of the season as a ninth grader, Smith started at middle linebacker. Smith can make some plays in the middle of the defense.”

Senior Xavier Wallace (5-10) brings experience at one cornerback position. Safety Myles Hunt (5-11, 160) also brings experience to the secondary but Carter said the other spots are up for grabs.

“We have a ton of guys competing for those other spots,” Carter said.

Marvin Ridge will also be strong in the kicking game as Alejandro Lopez and Jason Stricker return. Lopez, who is a senior, handled all the punting duties last season and averaged 36.5 yards a punt. Lopez also made 43 of 46 PAT kick attempts.

Stricker, who is a junior, was four-of-six on field goal attempts with a long of 47 yards.

“Lopez was our special teams player of the year in our conference last season,” Carter said. “Jason Stricker is also going to share responsibilities and those two are going to compete week-in and week-out for the job. We are fortunate to have two quality kickers. Some situations you are just fortunate to have one kicker and we have two.”

Marvin Ridge opens the 2017 season on August 18 against South Mecklenburg High School.

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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen's primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at