In 2020, The Waldron Bulldogs football program changed gears. With only two semi-successful years since 2005, the job of being the head football coach at Waldron would seem more fitting for a fresh up incoming young coach looking to get his foot in the door. Instead, the Bulldogs got a seasoned coach with a touted list of success on his resume. When Doug Powell landed on the scene in Waldron, he had one goal in mind. Powell’s goal was to make the Bulldogs football program a tough hardnosed respectable program on the gridiron.
Now, going into his third season with the Bulldogs, Powell has posted a 6-12 overall record in his first two years. You don’t have to be a statistician to know that that is a losing record. What many fail to see though is what Powell and the Bulldogs dealt with in both of those seasons. Of course, there was the schedule of Ozark, Mena, Dardanelle, Lamar, Pottsville, & Dover that the Bulldogs had to square off against. Even with that daunting line of opponents, the Bulldogs finished the 2020 season with an impressive 4-5 overall record and earned a playoff berth. Then came the big hit of COVID to shut down the season forcing Waldron to forfeit their playoff game versus Nashville. The COVID woes stuck around for 2021 as Waldron was short multiple players each week and even had to cancel some games due to quarantines. Powell’s Bulldogs still suited up and went to work though showing their grit and determination through a riddled 2-7 season.
With all of the rebuilding, COVID, murder hornets, earth-destroying asteroids, zombies, and basically every weird event that Powell has faced since being at Waldron, you won’t hear him make any excuses for his Waldron coaching record. “Things that are out of the control of coaches and players happen all the time to every team out there,” said Powell. “We have to overcome those kinds of things in life and the best learning place for players to learn how to handle obstacles in life is on the football field”. The Bulldogs aren’t done with the obstacles either. Even though the COVID threat has died down a little bit, Waldron now faces a new set of conference opponents after the most recent Arkansas Activities Association shake-up this past spring. Now in the 4A-7, the Bulldogs will face off against what is already being considered the toughest conference in the 4A this season. The conference is so loaded that two of the new 4A-7 programs couldn’t suit up enough players and went to 8Man football. Teams like Arkadelphia, Nashville, Ashville, and Malvern have been added while previous conference members, Lamar and Mena, will join Waldron in the new 4A-7.
Even with a murderer’s row of conference opponents, Powell is still positive about the progress of the program. ”The new conference causes uncertainty because we haven’t played them in the last two years. We know what these teams have been capable of in the past and expect nothing less than the best from them this season. Our goals are still the same, and ultimately we want to take that next step in building our program to that next level. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but we are preparing for that challenge and will leave everything on the field each game”. While everyone else may be looking forward to the next AAA conference shuffle to see if Waldron can get an easier conference, the Bulldogs are looking to make a statement in 2022 in their current one. Why though? Quite simply, they are a team that is growing not only in numbers but also in their mindsets. The coaches and players don’t care about what their opponent’s name or history is, they want their opponents to remember their names instead. That’s the winning mindset that the Waldron coaching staff preaches to their players and it’s starting to take hold.
Waldron will step on the field this season is the lack of what are often called “key players”. The Bulldogs are morphing into a 100% team which means their key players will be whichever eleven young men are on the field at any given time. Waldron has depth at nearly every position which gives them the ability to keep fresh talent on the field. “As for key players, a few may emerge this season, but I feel we are more of a team rather than just a few key players,” Powell said. “Our strength will be in our number of experienced players on the field. In particular our linemen, and the depth that exists at that position. Currently, our numbers are up and we have good numbers for each class. We have several kids working out that didn’t play last year, which is great. So far in the offseason, we have had really good workouts and are ahead of schedule for the change desired in our program. The biggest benefit will be having a large number of players who have plenty of in-game experience. They are able to help the incoming sophomores and newcomers become better throughout the year to where everyone can contribute to the team as a whole”.
Growth can undoubtedly be seen in the Waldron Bulldogs football program. While some may have to squint to see it, the program itself can see it clear as day. It doesn’t matter if you’re an optimistic person or a negative Nancy, it’s happening. Wave after wave of events have tried to stop these pups from growing into aggressive Bulldogs, yet they have continued to persevere and are now ready to be unleashed. Waldron will start off their 2022 season with a scrimmage at DeQueen on August 19th then will have a home game on Week0 against the Paris Eagles. So, prepare yourselves Bulldogs fans for some tough hardnosed football on the gridiron in 2022.