First-year Earle coach (and former UCA D-end) Coleman leads Bulldogs to impressive 4-0 start
Programs employing their third coach in as many seasons typically don’t enjoy success.
Just don’t tell the Earle Bulldogs.
First-year coach Albert Coleman took over in the summer, following Jeff Spaletta (7-4 in his only season) and Maurice Moody (52-25 in seven years). Moody took the Bulldogs to consecutive league championships in 2006-2007, and they started 5-0 under Spaletta before gut-wrenching losses at Rivercrest (19-14) and Harrisburg (28-26) kept them from another league title.
Coleman, who previously coached at Turrell, installed a multiple offensive scheme in the summer, and his defensive philosophy centers on creating turnovers. Coleman played defensive tackle/end at the University of Central Arkansas from 1996-1999, making 71 career tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and recovering four fumbles.
Victories over 3-4A league favorite Osceola 40-26 in Week 3 and No. 2 ranked Bald Knob 34-21 a week ago fueled Earle’s 4-0 start.
Earle’s aggressive defense forced Bald Knob into multiple mistakes. Senior Robert Marshall (5-7, 160) intercepted three passes, returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown and ran 50 yards for another score. He also had a 102-yard interception return negated by a penalty. Marshall, who can kick 50-yard field goals, has swiped five interceptions this fall. “He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Coleman says. “There is nothing on the field he can’t do.” In a 34-14 triumph at Lake Village (Coleman’s alma mater), Marshall returned a fumble for a TD and caught a TD pass.
Although small in stature, sophomore running back Autry Allen (5-5, 175) is Earle’s biggest playmaker. Allen ran 12 times for 150 yards and three TDs in a 40-6 win over Class 6A Little Rock Fair in Week 1. He ran 13 times for 105 yards and a score the next week at Lake Village and generated 160 yards on just eight carries against Bald Knob. Junior running back Alrico Knighten (5-11, 240) has rushed for almost 500 yards this year, including 120 yards and two TDs against LR Fair and 108 yards at Lake Village. “He’s a load,” Coleman says, “and we haven’t even gotten him involved in our passing game, yet.”
Allen also starts in the secondary where he returned a fumble and ran back an interception 93 yards for TDs against Bald Knob. He also returned an interception 40 yards for a score at Lake Village.
Juniors Dalvin Kimble (6-3, 165) and Gary Barbee (5-8, 165) join Allen and Marshall to form one of the stronger secondary’s in the state. “They are scary,” Coleman says. “They think every ball in the air belongs to them.”
But junior linebacker Shakur Johnson (6-0, 190) leads the Bulldog defense. Johnson has made 55 tackles this season, recording double-digit tackle efforts in every game. He racked up 13 stops against Bald Knob, and made 12 tackles and five sacks at Lake Village.
Kimble also starts at quarterback where his ability to check and audible out of bad plays “is a huge asset,” the coach says. Earle’s top college prospect, senior offensive/defensive tackle Tramone Myles (6-6, 315), “is a pancakin’, tacklin’ machine,” Coleman says.
While almost 46 percent of Earle's population lives below the federal government’s poverty line, Coleman says football rallies this East Arkansas town. “The community support and the administration have been unbelievable,” he says. “That’s what makes the difference here. I know the community cares about the kids.”