The Mountain Valley Sportsman's Association Eagles placed third out of 125 teams in the Southern Division trapshooting regional in Jacksonville.
This finish secures the Eagles a shot at the Arkansas Youth Shooting Program State Championship, and the team is made up of Garland County children who want to be active in the outdoors.
The teams are coached by junior head coach Joel Humphrey (fifth to eighth graders), senior head coach Ethan Little and Jason Wagnon (ninth to 12th graders).
"Most of them go to Lakeside," Humphrey said. "The team started in 2012. We have 23 total shooters between all squads on the team. The team was originally named the Lakeside Angry Birds. It was not officially sanctioned by the school. Fountain Lake had a team also for several years and then three years ago those two teams merged. MVSA started sponsoring them."
The squad members are Lakeside students senior Carder Stephens, senior Hunter Little, senior Plyler Oseguera, junior Josh Weed and sophomore Logan Wagnon, who is home-schooled.
More than 5,400 shooters took part in four regional competitions held in Jacksonville at Shooting Sports Complex.
"The top 16 teams from the regional tournament go to the state tournament," Humphrey said. "Which is the first weekend in June that is also in Jacksonville.
"Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says you can shoot 12 or 20 gauges. All of these five shoot 12 gauges and they are all shooting No. 8 shot, 1 ounce loads by Remington made in Lonoke. Hunter, Carder, Logan and Plyler all shoot over-and-under shotguns and Josh shoots a Beretta semi-auto."
This is the third year in a row the MVSA Eagles have made the state tournament.
"The top three get medals, trophies and get on the podium," Humphrey said. "That's why our guys got the trophy. They determine the top 16 by the aggregate score of the team. They each shoot 50 targets. The most they can get is 250 points. When they get to the state tournament, it is going to work a little different. Then it becomes a head-to-head bracket shooting 25 rounds against another team from another region and the team that shoots the most out of that advances to the next round."
Logan Wagnon placed 17th overall out of 555 shooters. He also competes in AGFC archery and is a member of the Spa City archery team.
"He shot for our team for several years," Humphrey said. "Logan Wagnon shot a 48 at regionals. They had one kid out of the 555 that shot a 50. The rest shot 49s and 48s. Really tied, the five through 17 were all 48s. They break the tie by whoever misses last."
Stephens plans to study biochemistry at the University of Arkansas.
"Carder runs track -- he was in the state track meet last week," Humphrey said. "Carder has been the squad captain for three years. You want a consistent shooter on your first post and that is where your squad captain would be. Two years ago, he shot 75 straight."
Little, upon graduating, plans to attend the University of Central Arkansas for nursing.
"Hunter does the fishing team," Humphrey said. "This is his second year to be in the state tournament. He has been shooting about as long as Carder has. He is a very hardworking kid. I like watching him shoot because he has got probably the smoothest and the best mounting to his shoulder every time I have ever seen."
Weed intends to join the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M to obtain a commission in the Air Force.
"Josh Weed last year went to the Hugh O'Brian leadership program," Humphrey said. "He brings leadership and consistency. He has a lot of dedication."
Oseguera is attending National Park College School of Nursing in fall of 2023.
"Plyler, this is his third year," Humphrey said. "Plyler has been a Lakeside football player for years. He is very used to the athleticism needed."
AGFC ranks all of the shooters and teams and posts their stats on its website.
"Until the regional they practiced at MVSA," Humphrey said. "Sunday afternoons. A round of trap is 25 targets. They will usually shoot three to four rounds per day."
Trap shooting is a co-ed sport and with guns being a hot topic in schools, programs like these teach gun safety to youth shooters.
"The purpose of the program is to instill into young people a love and interest in the outdoors," Humphrey said. "It teaches them the proper and safe use of firearms. One of the requirements of this program is they have to pass hunter's safety through the AGFC. They practice their mounts with an unloaded shotgun. Since the implementation of the AGFC YSP, there has not been a single injury or incident related to a firearm. We are really focused on safety."
To win state, this squad must amp up its shooting consistency in a win or go home single elimination bracket.
"We did the math," Humphrey said. "In order to win state, they are going to have to shoot at least five rounds. Five rounds of 25 against a high caliber team from another region. The state tournament will last the whole day. Kids get tired, it gets hot and kids are going to have to focus. It is an athletic sport lifting a 10 pound shotgun at least 25 times and then having to do that again and again. It takes a lot of muscle."
The state championship tournament is June 3.