SPRINGDALE — In 2018, Malvern was 0-10 on the season and then along came freshman quarterback Cedric Simmons.
Simmons took the Leopards to the playoffs in 2019 and then again in 2020 where they reached the second round. Simmons and his teammates lost to Shiloh Christian 28-0 on Friday night, but it was a game that only saw the Saints lead 14-0 at halftime. Anyone familiar with Shiloh Christian football knows most of their games are well in hand by halftime.
Simmons, who is now a sophomore, didn’t have one of his better games. He completed 7 of 20 passes for 100 yards and suffered two interceptions including a pick-six by linebacker Kaden Henley. He rushed 18 times for 75 yards. For the season, Simmons completed 177 of 262 passes for 2,550 yards for 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He rushed 161 times for 953 yards and seven touchdowns with four games rushing for 100 yards or more. Following the game, Simmons talked about how it went during the season.
“I feel like we could have played a lot better than what we did tonight,” Simmons said. “We came out and they made a really good play on the first play of the game. That got to some of our teammate’s heads and brought us down a little bit.”
Simmons was referring to Shiloh Christian’s Cam Wiedemann returning the opening kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown. Simmons and the offense had some success moving the ball, but costly penalties set them back all night.
“We came out and did what we could do,” Simmons said. “We moved the ball a little bit, but then we’d slip up and have a penalty backing up all our momentum.”
Simmons, 5-11, 175, who holds an offer from Kansas, knows with such players as himself and freshman offensive tackle Vinny Winters, 6-4, 290, the program is headed in the right direction.
“Each year as we talked about before we’re building our house,” Simmons said. “Last year we laid the structure. This year we started building up and hopefully we can just continue to build our house and make a strong house. And have a strong program.”
This season, Malvern beat a very good Arkadelphia team 33-25 and beat Trumann 54-0 in the playoffs. They lost to Class 6A Lake Hamilton 35-16 and they will face Greenwood on Saturday for the state championship. They also lost to such teams as Nashville, Joe T. Robinson and Hot Springs Lakeside, but did beat a very good Ashdown team 32-7. Despite the loss to an outstanding Shiloh Christian team, Simmons does feel this season was a positive.
“Most definitely,” Simmons said. “We really have improved from the beginning of the year to the end. Especially having no off-season with COVID going on. So we came together as a team. Our linemen got better, receivers got better, defense was really good and offense improved over the season.”
Winters also talked about the team improving. He, like Simmons, started as a freshman.
“Going into halftime we were just keeping our heads up,” Winters said. “Come out and fight in the second half. Try to keep our heads up and play the full game.”
As a freshman left tackle, Winters talked about how he did facing one of the toughest schedules in Arkansas.
“I did what I was supposed to,” Winters said. “I did all I could to help the team. I did my best.”
One thing that has Winters excited is knowing he will have Simmons helping his team for two more years.
“He’s a hell of a quarterback,” Winters said. “I give him that. I think we have a great future.”
Winters talked about what improvements he will try to make before the 2021 season.
“Trying to get stronger every year and stuff like that,” Winters said.