Skip to main content

Editor’s note: Over the coming days we will honor the best and brightest individual performers from the 2021 Arkansas high school football season, culminating with the unveiling of the inaugural SBLive all-state team on Monday, January 24.

By Kyle Sutherland | Photo by Jimmy Jones

This time last year, Donovyn Omolo was a ninth-grader, a few months from suiting up for spring practice to compete for a chance to be Conway’s next varsity quarterback. In that time frame, he has led the Wampus Cats to a semifinal playoff berth and earned multiple postseason honors, including the SBLive Arkansas 2021 Sophomore Player of the Year.

For the 2021 season, Omolo completed 203 of 340 passes for 2,626 yards and 27 touchdowns. On the ground, he carried the ball 58 times for 294 yards and seven touchdowns.

Some of the other players competing to be the starting quarterback were finishing up baseball season and Omolo took advantage of the extra reps. 

“I was on the first-team throughout spring, and then some of the guys came back,” Omolo said. “I was behind Sam (Gregg), and he got hurt in one of our practices and Coach (Mark) Kelley told me right before our first scrimmage that I would start.”

Kelley joined the Conway staff prior to the 2020 season after winning a state title with Searcy in 2019 and is one of the top offensive minds in the state. Kelley was awarded the 2021 High School Broyles Award for Arkansas, given annually to the nation’s top high school assistant in six different states. He and Omolo led a Wampus Cats offense that averaged 420 yards and 41 points per game. 

“Coach Kelley is a great coach with a fun offense that scores really fast,” Omolo said. “Throughout practices he goes over the little things, and it helps me out a lot. He is very great to learn from.” 

He has mentored some good ones, but Kelley puts Omolo in a category by himself. 

“Donovyn has the most football intelligence I have ever seen in a sophomore,” Kelley said. “He was able to progress with different schemes and concepts much faster than I anticipated. We are all extremely excited to see him continue to develop and grow.”

In Conway’s opening game at Fayetteville, Omolo put up good passing yards in a 41-24 loss but there were plenty of teachable moments in the defeat.

“I really learned a lot, and it helped me get used to the speed of the high school game,” Omolo said. “It helped me to realize when to tuck it and run along with figuring out the timing of my wide receiver’s routes.”

The following week on another road trip to Northwest Arkansas against Bentonville, Omolo led the Wampus Cats to a 55-41 victory, accumulating more than 200 yards of offense and five total touchdowns. 

“That bounce-back win against Bentonville really helped us establish momentum throughout the season,” Omolo said.

After two convincing home victories over Jonesboro and Little Rock Southwest, Conway once again hit the road to take on undefeated North Little Rock, which boasted the top defense in the state, allowing just seven points per game. Omolo did not light up the stat sheet, but he and the Conway offense put up 28 points in the first half and won the game 38-10.

“Playing those good teams during the nonconference schedule really helped us prepare for this game and the conference season,” Omolo said.

The North Little Rock victory set the tone for the remainder of the schedule up until a Week 10 conference championship showdown with three-time defending state champion Bryant. Conway led the entire game until the final few seconds, when Bryant scored the go-ahead touchdown and then converted a two-point conversion to seal the 32-29 victory. 

Two weeks later, the Wampus Cats rolled Rogers 49-0 to set up a rematch in Fayetteville with the Purple Dogs, the winner advancing to the state championship. Conway found itself down 20-7 at halftime but scored 14 points to take a 21-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Fayetteville punched back and was able to hit a late field goal, then intercept a lateral pass for a touchdown on the final play to escape 29-21.

There were a few heartbreaks along the way, but Omolo feels his team accomplished a lot in his debut season.

“Coach Fimple kept telling us that we were the best team in Arkansas, and we believed it,” Omolo said. “We were winning both of those games (Bryant and Fayetteville semifinal) until like the last minute and they were just heartbreaking losses. We are going to have a lot of momentum to build on next year.”