It has been two months since Hall of Fame coach Kevin Kelley announced that he was leaving Pulaski Academy to take his talents to Clinton, South Carolina to becoming the new head coach at Division 1 Presbyterian College.
Kelley is one of the most successful coaches in the history of Arkansas high school football going 216-29-1 (117-6) in 18 seasons winning conference 13 times, 9 state championships, and many other accolades including being called “probably the best high school coach in the country” by one of the best to ever do it on the gridiron, Bill Belichick.
Anthony Lucas, known throughout Arkansas for his days starring at wide receiver for the Razorbacks, just completed his ninth season as wide receivers coach for the Bruins and was named head coach a couple of weeks after Kelley’s departure.
Kelley will be taking some members of his staff with him to Presbyterian and Lucas was one who had an offer to join him, but ultimately decided to stay put in Central Arkansas. “It was a very tough decision for my family and I,” Lucas said on Coach Kelley’s episode of the Gridiron Icons podcast. “We cried a little, we prayed a lot, but when it came down to that last hour or so and I needed to make a decision, my wife and I decided it was just not the right time.”
Though Lucas received many recommendations from both inside and outside the program, he was not 100% sure on whether he was going to throw his name in the hat for the head job. “It was not immediate,” Lucas said. “I was thinking of possibly putting my name in, but I felt I owed it to the guys on this staff who have put their time in to have their opportunity. I felt that Coach (Jason) Wyatt was going to take the job, but he decided to go the direction of an administration role.”
Wyatt, who is now the school’s athletic director, was the only one who was on staff during Kelley’s entire tenure at Pulaski Academy.
2020 was an odd year for everyone in many regards, but it was especially unorthodox for the Bruins in that they ran a two-quarterback system with senior Nolen Bruffett and junior Charlie Fiser. Many of Kelley’s quarterbacks at PA led the nation in passing yards during their respective seasons, and this past year was similar as his passers combined were #1 with 4,816 yards which played a major part in the Bruins achieving another undefeated season and the school’s 9th state championship, its sixth in seven years.
Fiser led the team in passing completing 214 of his 320 passes (67%) for 2,761 yards and 38 touchdowns. This year it will be his offense and he is ready for the challenge. “It is big shoes to fill, but I believe I am ready for it,” Fiser said. “It’s very exciting being the PA quarterback, it comes with a lot of good and bad but I am ready for it.”
Fiser caught the eye of multiple college coaches for his stellar play in 2020, earning offers from the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Presbyterian College. He also told me he has been talking to “pretty much all of the smaller schools in Arkansas, Pittburg State, a couple of Ivy Leagues, and Stanford.”
In some cases such as this one, it is not uncommon for there to be animosity in a competition between quarterbacks vying for reps, but Fiser said it was a very healthy competition between he and Bruffett. “Nolen and I have been good buddies for a while and football has certainly brought us together,” Fiser stated.
“When we were under Braden (Bratcher) we both would talk and learn from each other, kind of each others’ wingman. That continued into last year during COVID, we would always talk to each other about pretty much anything. If you were on the outside you wouldn’t even know we were competing for a spot.”
Despite Kelley taking a few of his staff to South Carolina, the Bruins will still have some familiar faces leading the team other than Lucas, including defensive coordinator Madison Taylor and new offensive coordinator Adam Thrash who moved over after being the defensive line coach. “They are doing a good job of keeping everything we normally do in tact,” Fiser mentioned.
Pulaski Academy graduated two key wide receivers in Jalyn Witcher and Cooper White who combined for 2500 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns last season but Fiser will still have Joe Himon to work with, one of the most electric all-purpose players in Arkansas. Himon was just shy of 3,000 all-purpose yards (2,993) and also scored 32 total touchdowns as a junior.
Pulaski Academy will make back-to-back road trips out of state in weeks 2 and 3 traveling to Madison, Mississippi to square off against Ridgeland Academy on September 3rd and Lipscomb Academy in Nashville on September 10th. On October 1st, they will head southwest to Argyle, TX to take on NFL legend Jason Witten’s Liberty Christian Warriors. The Bruins will kick off their season at Joe T. Robinson on August 27th at 7:00 PM.
Published by Kyle Sutherland, @k_sutherlandHTP on Twitter