Sun Valley Football Team Sets Sights On Return To Playoffs

Share this:

At A Glance


Head Coach: Tad Baucom

2016 Record: 8-4, 3-2 in the Southern Carolina Conference. Lost 50-43 to Erwin in first round of Class 3AA playoffs.

Returning Starters: 12

Key Players: Sam Howell, Jr., QB (6-2, 210); Luke Burnette, Sr., TE/DE (6-5, 245); Roy Artolozaga, Sr., LB (6-1, 221); Elijah Last, Sr., DE (6-2, 209); Cameron Maddox, Jr., DB (6-2, 175); Don McLendon, Sr., LB (6-1, 232), Cesar Minarro, Jr., OL/DL (6-4, 245); Isiah Hall, So., DB/WR (5-10, 170).

Sun Valley High will look to use a large and talented senior class and one of the country’s top quarterbacks to make a deep postseason run this season.

Sun Valley has almost 100 players out for football, which includes 22 seniors on the roster. Sun Valley also has an experienced quarterback in junior Sam Howell, who already has scholarship offers from almost 20 schools.

“It’s going great,” said Sun Valley head coach Tad Baucom of the Spartans first two weeks of practice. “The guys have been working really hard. We did a lot of extensive weight lifting from January 8 until spring ball. We averaged about 50 on those workouts and I am real proud of the guys.

“We have quite a few guys that have been in the program since I have been here and we are looking forward to their senior year.”

Howell completed 199 of 332 passes for 3,217 yards and 38 touchdowns last season and the 6-foot-2, 217-pound junior already has offers from such schools as North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Virgina Tech and Missouri.

“Sam has done a real good job of keeping this team together,” Baucom said. “His work habits are impeccable and he worked out hard all summer.”

One major move that Baucom has made is moving Don McLendon from defensive end to running back. McLendon (6-0, 232) will still see time with the defense in certain situations after recording 102 tackles and 11 sacks last season.

Sophomore Tacory Robinson (5-7, 160) is also working at running back.

“I know that sounds weird but Don is pretty quick for his size,” Baucom said. “(Robinson) is the opposite, he is a small fast kid. We are also working several receivers at running back.”

Senior Luke Burnette (6-5, 250) will be a tight end and defensive end. Burnette has verbally committed to Appalachian State.

Senior Brennan Ellis (5-8, 218) anchors the offensive line at center while senior Mac Loughery (6-4, 274), senior Spencer Miller (6-2, 240), junior Michael Larbie (5-11, 206) and senior Garrett Mowers (6-2, 294), junior Cesar Minarro (6-3, 245) and junior Edwin Sontay (6-3, 240) will also see time on the offensive line.

Senior Anthony Marple (6-2, 200) returns at wide receiver after missing almost all of last season with an injury. Senior Kendall Anderson (5-8, 160) will be another top target along with Christian MacIntosh (5-9, 168) and Isiah Hall (5-10, 170).

“We have a lot of prospects out there and Sam makes everybody look good,” Baucom said.

Senior Jac Gaymon (6-2, 315) will be at nose tackle in Sun Valley’s 3-5 defensive alignment. Preston Doody (6-2, 208) will also see time up front.

Senior Elijah Last (6-1, 209) will be at linebacker after making 90 tackles last season. Senior Roy Artolozaga (6-0, 221) and senior Alec Colson (5-8, 205) also bring experience at linebacker.

Junior Cameron Maddox (6-2, 175) has moved to safety while seniors Harry Rorie (5-7, 160) and Kamren Fuller (5-9, 172) are also in the secondary.

Share this:

Previous articleMake Memories and More at the newly opened ART BOX
Next articleParkwood Ready Football For New Challenges in SCC
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