Archive for September, 2015

College football: Week 5

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The Arkansas Razorbacks have lost three consecutive games — one in each of their three “home” stadiums.

In honor of the social media crowd out there in Hogland, let’s just blame all three losses — one at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, one at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville and one at AT&T Stadium deep in the heart of Texas (or at least in north Texas, the state that the University of Arkansas loves to cater to these days) — on War Memorial.

It now appears that Arkansas’ one Little Rock game next year will be against Alcorn State, the same team UAPB takes on in a SWAC game at War Memorial this Saturday.

Who’s next before the contract runs out?

Sewanee?

Oh, well, in a season in which Razorback fans are looking forward to Tennessee-Martin, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

As I drove back to Little Rock after 11 p.m. from my doubleheader football Saturday in Arkadelphia (a beautiful day as far as the weather was concerned and a day that saw the two Arkadelphia schools defeat two Oklahoma schools by a combined score of 88-13; there’s no place I would have rather been), I listened to KABZ-FM, 103.7, as Hog fans called in following the overtime loss to Texas A&M.

Some sounded almost suicidal.

I also listened to a clip of a postgame interview in which poor ol’ Brandon Allen said “it’s on me” about six times.

We get it. Brandon. It’s on you.

Actually, it’s on a lot of folks.

It’s on those who committed 11 penalties for 93 yards, some of them coming at crucial times in the game.

It’s on a “we can’t get it done at the end” mindset that has seen Arkansas lose a lead in the fourth quarter eight times in the Bret Bielema era and for the seventh time in the past nine Southeastern Conference losses.

Since 2013, Arkansas is 0-9 in games decided by seven points or less. No wonder those radio callers sounded suicidal.

Before we get to the picks this week, a note to football fans: If you like the college game, you owe it to yourself to be in Arkadelphia on Saturday.

Harding (4-0 and ranked 12th nationally in NCAA Division II) will play Ouachita (3-1 and ranked 24th nationally) at 11 a.m. at Cliff Harris Stadium.

Arkansas Tech (4-0) will then play Henderson (3-1) at 2 p.m. at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium on the other side of U.S. Highway 67.

Those are the four college teams with the best records in the state of Arkansas right now. They’re a combined 14-2, and you can see all four of them in the same day.

Not only that, you can park your car in one place and walk to both stadiums. There’s nothing else in America quite like it.

And you will still be able to get home in time to watch the Arkansas-Tennessee game Saturday night.

The Great American Conference came into existence in 2011, and the football title has never been outside of Arkadelphia. Ouachita won it in 2011 and 2014. Henderson won it in 2012 and 2013. Now, Tech and Harding are trying to change that.

Tech has a quarterback who transferred from the University of Alabama at Birmingham when UAB dropped its program. This is his fourth school — he played two seasons at Southern Mississippi and then transferred to Alabama State before transferring to UAB. He’s 6-3, 240 pounds, and he appears to be the real deal. A Division I transfer at quarterback can make a big difference in Division II. Ouachita learned that last year when former Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier decided to play his final season as a Tiger. Ouachita went undefeated in the regular season. Tech had a solid defense last year. With Favor now leading the offense, all of the pieces may have come together.

Harding, meanwhile, was one play away from an undefeated regular season in 2014. The Bisons lost in overtime to Ouachita when Frazier drove the Tigers (who were trailing by eight points) down the field in the final minute of play. Frazier threw a touchdown pass on the last play of regulation and then scrambled in for the two-point conversion to send it to overtime. Harding fumbled in the first overtime, and Ouachita won on a field goal. The Bisons lost 10 starters on offense, but that program appears to have simply reloaded with its run-oriented, option offense.

Ouachita vs. Harding.

Henderson vs. Tech.

Those should be two great games that go a long way toward determining the GAC champion in 2015.

We were 7-1 on the picks last week (we shouldn’t have picked Southern Arkansas to beat Tech, but we still had some doubts about the Wonder Boys, doubts that have now been erased). That makes the record 29-6 for the season.

On to the picks for Week 5. It looks like the most challenging week yet for picking winners:

Tennessee 31, Arkansas 29 — We’re picking Arkansas to lose a conference game by less than seven points. Imagine that. Last week, Aggie quarterback Kyle Allen torched the Arkansas secondary for 358 yards passing. He was 21 of 28 with two touchdowns as Texas A&M’s win streak over Arkansas went to four games. Tennessee has suffered the same type of fourth-quarter frustration as the Razorbacks. Florida (4-0) posted a 28-27 victory over the Volunteers, the 11th consecutive win for a Gator team over a UT team. It took a 63-yard touchdown pass with 1:26 remaining to keep the streak alive. Tennessee twice missed 55-yard field goals to win the game with three seconds remaining. Florida had called a time out the first time. Tennessee has now lost after having had double-digit leads in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma and Florida. These are two teams in search of an identity. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

Arkansas State 27, Idaho 24 — Toledo is now 2-0 against teams from the state of Arkansas. The Red Wolves laid an egg on the road Saturday, turning the ball over five times and losing to Toledo by a score of 37-7. For a second consecutive game, ASU was without quarterback Fredi Knighten. Freshman quarterback James Tabary filled in but threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. He also was sacked six times by the 3-0 Rockets. The 1-3 Red Wolves were held to just 209 yards of offense, the lowest total in the Blake Anderson era. Idaho comes to Jonesboro on Saturday. The Vandals also are 1-3. The lone victory was by a score of 41-38 over Wofford. The losses came by scores of 45-28 to Ohio, 59-9 to USC and 44-20 to Georgia Southern. Just as we did on the first pick, we’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

UCA 22, Abilene Christian 17 — It took until the final Saturday of September, but UCA got its first victory of the season with a 49-21 win at Northwestern State of Louisiana. The Bears are 1-2 overall, but they do have a 1-0 Southland Conference record and hope to improve on that in Conway this Saturday night. Bear quarterback Taylor Reed of El Dorado left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Hayden Hildebrand, a sophomore from Bossier City, came in and went 12 of 16 through the air for 201 yards and three touchdowns. UCA had 521 yards of offense against 0-4 Northwestern. Abilene Christian is 2-1. The season started with a 34-13 loss at Fresno State and has been followed by wins of 49-21 over Houston Baptist and 35-32 over Stephen F. Austin.

Alcorn State 28, UAPB 10 — The Golden Lions are 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the SWAC after a 28-9 loss at Alabama A&M. UAPB jumped to a 9-0 lead, and De’Angelo Ballard was 20 of 30 passing for 353 yards for the Golden Lions. Alcorn appears to be bringing the superior team to War Memorial Stadium. After a 69-6 loss to Georgia Tech to start the season (one of those “just be sure the check doesn’t bounce” games), Alcorn has posted wins of 31-14 over Alabama State, 55-14 over Mississippi Valley State and 40-7 over Concordia College.

Arkansas Tech 30, Henderson 26 — Arsenio Favor ran for four touchdowns and threw for another in Tech’s 44-21 win over 2-2 Southern Arkansas last Saturday. The Wonder Boys jumped to a 24-0 lead in that game. Favor rushed for 79 yards and was 17 of 23 passing for 224 yards. In Arkadelphia, Henderson shut out a Southwestern Oklahoma team that had scored 108 points the previous two games. The Reddie defense had five interceptions in the 33-0 victory. Henderson has 12 interceptions through four games, more than all of last season. This should be a heck of a game. I’m glad I’ll be there.

Harding 42, Ouachita 32 — Harding stayed undefeated with a 47-21 win over a UAM team that’s now 0-4. The Bisons, with their hard-to-defend double-slot offense, gained 333 yards on the ground while holding the Boll Weevils to just 28 yards rushing. Ouachita, which had seen a 12-game conference winning streak come to an end the previous week at Southwestern Oklahoma, bounced back in a big way. The Tigers defeated Northwestern Oklahoma, 55-13, as two freshmen running backs combined for five rushing touchdowns. Donelle Hoof had three touchdowns on the ground, and Kris Oliver had two rushing touchdowns to go along with one touchdown reception. These are two good offenses. This game has come down to the end in each of the previous two seasons with Harding winning at Arkadelphia in 2013 and Ouachita winning at Searcy last year. I’m glad I’ll also be at this one.

Southern Arkansas 49, Southern Nazarene 19 — The Muleriders began the season with victories over Southwestern Oklahoma and Northwestern Oklahoma before falling to Harding and Arkansas Tech. SAU will get to take out its frustration in Oklahoma this Saturday afternoon against the worst team in the conference, Southern Nazarene. The home team now has a 26-game losing streak.

Oklahoma Baptist 38, UAM 35 — Oklahoma Baptist is the conference’s newest member and is struggling to make the move up to Division II. Both teams are 0-4. Somebody has to win.

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Rex’s Rankings: After four weeks

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The best seemed to get better last Friday night.

The top five teams in our rankings — Pine Bluff, Fayetteville, Bentonville, Pulaski Academy and Greenwood — outscored their opponents 229-59.

The top seven teams remained the same.

Fort Smith Southside dropped out of the Top 10 after a loss to Bentonville.

Siloam Springs dropped out of the Top 10 after a loss to Conway.

Moving into the Top 10 are Springdale Har-Ber (a 35-10 winner over Rogers) and Benton (a 30-17 winner over Little Rock Parkview).

Let’s get to the rankings after four weeks of the high school football season:

Overall

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Fayetteville
  3. Bentonville
  4. Pulaski Academy
  5. Greenwood
  6. Cabot
  7. Bryant
  8. Little Rock Christian
  9. Springdale Har-Ber
  10. Benton

Class 7A

  1. Fayetteville
  2. Bentonville
  3. Cabot
  4. Bryant
  5. Springdale Har-Ber

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. Benton
  4. El Dorado
  5. Little Rock Parkview

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Sylvan Hills
  4. Hope
  5. Hot Springs Lakeside

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Pulaski Robinson
  4. Warren
  5. Malvern

Class 3A

  1. Smackover
  2. Episcopal Collegiate
  3. Lamar
  4. Camden Harmony Grove
  5. Prescott

Class 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Junction City
  3. Earle
  4. McCrory
  5. Des Arc

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College football: Week 4

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

There’s not too much we can say about the past two University of Arkansas football games that hasn’t already been said.

No doubt there are problems on The Hill.

Perhaps serious problems.

A week after Toledo came into War Memorial Stadium and defeated the Razorbacks (it was the stadium’s fault, according to the Hog true believers on social media), Texas Tech rolled into Fayetteville and won by 11 points. This is a Tech team that fell to Arkansas by 21 points last year at Lubbock and looked bad in the process.

The Arkansas secondary was torched, giving up 315 yards through the air. Tech converted seven of 10 third-down plays.

Alex Collins did have 170 yards rushing and a touchdown as the Hogs gained 228 yards on the ground, but once more Arkansas’ point production was not what it should have been considering the opponent.

Adding insult to Razorback injury, Jared Cornelius broke his arm. That’s yet another injury in what has been an injury-riddled preseason and early part of the 2015 campaign.

It was Tech’s first win in Fayetteville since Oct. 11, 1986. As the Tech fans celebrated late Saturday night in a corner of the stadium — chanting “Big 12, Big 12” — the only way for Razorback fans to console themselves was to say: “Sure, they’re having fun tonight. But they have to go back to Lubbock tomorrow.”

After a stellar start to the season, we fell to 4-3 last week, making the record 22-5 thus far this year.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 4:

Texas A&M 49, Arkansas 40 — I believe Arkansas will play better this Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, just not good enough to avoid a 1-3 start. The Aggies are off to a 3-0 start with victories of 38-17 over Arizona State, 56-23 over Ball State and 44-27 over Nevada. In last Saturday’s game against Nevada in College Station, Kyle Allen threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score. It was the 19th consecutive nonconference victory for the Aggies, the longest such streak in the FBS. For Arkansas fans, whose hopes were so high this summer, last year’s record of 7-6 suddenly is looking very good.

Toledo 35, Arkansas State 31 — Obviously ASU fans would love to say they beat the same Toledo team that earlier had defeated the Razorbacks. That will be no easy task for the Red Wolves. Toledo had its first game against Stony Brook called off due to inclement weather (it would have been an easy victory) and has since defeated Arkansas, 16-12, and Iowa State, 30-23. Arkansas State was routed at USC to start the season and then played well in a 27-20 loss to Missouri in Jonesboro. Last Saturday, the Red Wolves got to pick on an FCS opponent as they beat Missouri State, 70-7, before 26,634 fans in Jonesboro. James Tabary, filling in for the injured Fredi Knighten at quarterback, passed for 255 yards and three touchdowns. ASU scored on its third offensive play and never looked back. It was the fifth most points in school history and the most since an 83-10 victory over Texas Southern in 2008. The Red Wolves finished with 624 yards of offense, including 344 yards on the ground. They’ll make a game of it at Toledo.

Alabama A&M 21, UAPB 20 — The Golden Lions are 1-2 following a 24-20 loss to Texas Southern in Pine Bluff. The lone victory thus far was against an NCAA Division II school, Morehouse College, in overtime. Alabama A&M is 0-2 with losses of 52-10 to Cincinnati and 53-49 to Prairie View A&M. I find these SWAC games hard to predict due to the inconsistency of teams in the league. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

UCA 39, Northwestern State 34 — The Bears have had two weeks to prepare for this game after losses of 45-16 to Samford and 32-8 to Oklahoma State to start the season. Northwestern is 0-3 following losses of 34-20 to Southeastern Louisiana, 44-17 to Louisiana-Lafayette and 62-13 to Mississippi State. So the two teams are a combined 0-5 coming into the Southland Conference opener in Natchitoches. Somebody has to win.

Henderson 30, Southwestern Oklahoma 28 — Both teams are 2-1 entering Saturday afternoon’s Great American Conference game in Arkadelphia. The GAC is in its fifth year, and the championship trophy in football has yet to leave Arkadelphia. Ouachita won titles in 2011 and 2014. Henderson won titles in 2012 and 2013. This might be the year the trophy leaves town as parity has descended on the GAC. Southwestern has found a quality quarterback in transfer Marc Evans, who passed for 365 yards last Saturday in the Bulldogs’ 58-38 victory over Ouachita. That ended the Tigers’ 12-game GAC winning streak. Henderson has been up and down. The Reddies edged Southeastern Oklahoma on the road and then lost to East Central Oklahoma at home. Henderson went back on the road last week and beat Northwestern Oklahoma, 25-17. The Reddie defense had five interceptions in that game, and Corey Chappell had a 103-yard kickoff return for Henderson to start the game. This week’s contest could easily go either way. It should be fun to watch (and I plan to be there).

Ouachita 47, Northwestern Oklahoma 37 — Ouachita doesn’t have a good enough defense to take anyone for granted this year, not even 1-2 Northwestern Oklahoma. The Tiger secondary has given up more than 1,000 yards through the air the first three games even though Ouachita is 2-1. The offense is just fine under the leadership of redshirt sophomore Austin Warford of Malvern. Warford rushed for 135 yards and passed for another 165 yards last week at Weatherford. The Tigers scored 38 points despite the fact that both of their top two running backs were out of the game due to injuries. This is going to be a season in which Ouachita simply has to outscore its opponents considering the number of points the defense will be giving up.

Harding 50, UAM 19 — The most impressive offensive performance in the GAC (and perhaps in all of NCAA Division II) last week was put on by the Harding offense. The Bisons rushed 64 times for a school-record 566 yards in a 70-42 victory over Southern Arkansas at Magnolia. It was Harding’s 10th consecutive victory against SAU. The Bisons scored on their first play from scrimmage, had two players rush for more than 100 yards and set a school record for most points scored on the road. Harding finished the game with 625 yards of offense. The Bisons shouldn’t have any trouble in Searcy on Saturday night against the 0-3 Boll Weevils. UAM did look better in its 24-17 loss to Arkansas Tech than it had looked the first two weeks of the season in losses of 52-31 to Northwestern Oklahoma and 50-20 to Southwestern Oklahoma.

Southern Arkansas 25, Arkansas Tech 22 — This should be an entertaining game in Russellville on Saturday night between the 3-0 Wonder Boys and the 2-1 Muleriders. SAU had victories of 28-24 over Southwestern Oklahoma and 49-14 over Northwestern Oklahoma before the loss to Harding. Tech won by scores of 62-14 over Southern Nazarene and 50-7 over Oklahoma Baptist prior to the victory over UAM. Tech has a talented new quarterback named Arsenio Favor and the best defensive player in the conference in Logan Genz, who returned a fumble 67 yards for a touchdown against UAM. The Muleriders are smarting after the loss to Harding and will manage to give Tech its first loss of the season in a close one.

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Rex’s Rankings: After three weeks

Monday, September 21st, 2015

All of the teams in our Top 10 won on Friday night.

So the Top 10 stays the same.

Here are things that appear evident after three weeks of the season:

— Fayetteville and Bentonville are the cream of the crop in Class 7A

— Pine Bluff rules Class 6A

— In Class 5A, it’s all Pulaski Academy

One or more of those teams could get upset along the way. But I don’t see it happening.

Let’s get to the rankings:

Overall

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Fayetteville
  3. Bentonville
  4. Pulaski Academy
  5. Greenwood
  6. Cabot
  7. Bryant
  8. Fort Smith Southside
  9. Little Rock Christian
  10. Siloam Springs

Class 7A

  1. Fayetteville
  2. Bentonville
  3. Cabot
  4. Bryant
  5. Fort Smith Southside

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. Siloam Springs
  4. Little Rock Parkview
  5. Benton

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Hot Springs
  4. Sylvan Hills
  5. Morrilton

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Pulaski Robinson
  4. Southside Batesville
  5. Warren

Class 3A

  1. Smackover
  2. Episcopal Collegiate
  3. Lamar
  4. Greenland
  5. Lavaca

Class 2A

  1. Rison
  2. McCrory
  3. England
  4. Junction City
  5. Des Arc

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College football: Week 3

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

I was thinking about Jack Crowe early Saturday afternoon.

I was keeping an eye on a television monitor during a late lunch in west Little Rock, and it appeared that Jacksonville State was about to upset Auburn on the Plains.

Jacksonville State, you see, was Crowe’s last stop as a head coach. He’s no longer there, but he was on my mind as Auburn was forced to score in the final minute of play just to get the game to overtime. The two schools, which are only 108 miles apart, were playing for the first time.

Crowe was still the coach back on Labor Day weekend of 2010 when Jacksonville State went to Oxford, Miss., and stunned Ole Miss with a two-point conversion in the second overtime for a 49-48 win over a Rebel team that had led 31-10 at the half.

And, of course, it was Labor Day weekend in 1992 when Crowe’s University of Arkansas team fell to the Citadel. Crowe was axed the next day by Frank Broyles, the UA athletic director. I remember getting into my father’s pickup following a successful dove hunt in a field across the Ouachita River from Arkadelphia and being stunned when we turned on the radio and learned that Arkansas was trailing late.

I was the political editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at the time. The next day, I was in Hot Springs to cover the welcome-home rally the city was throwing for Gov. Bill Clinton. It already was becoming evident that Clinton was going to be elected the next president of the United States. I was certain my story from Hot Springs would be at the top of the front page the next morning. That was not to be the case. When I called the newspaper to ask how much room I had for the next day’s story, I was told: “Keep it tight. Frank Broyles just fired Jack Crowe.”

It was interesting that I was thinking about Crowe last Saturday afternoon since the Razorbacks would lose a game later in the day that was Citadelesque in nature.

I knew there were problems for the Hogs at about 6 p.m. when I glanced down at my phone while preparing for the broadcast of Ouachita’s home game against Southeastern Oklahoma. I noticed that numerous people were posting messages that began: “Holy Toledo!”

What was most depressing in the hours that followed was seeing the social media crowd blame the loss on a stadium rather than a lack of preparation and a lack of execution.

I hate excuses.

It was the stadium’s fault?

Arkansas fans have always been good at whining about officiating, but blaming a stadium for a loss was a new one for me.

Here are a few of the lowlights:

— Toledo limited Arkansas to three points on three second-half drives that went inside the 10.

— Toledo broke Arkansas’ streak of having held seven consecutive opponents scoreless in the first quarter.

— It was Toledo’s first victory ever over a ranked team on the road and its first victory against a Southeastern Conference team.

— The Razorbacks are 1-5 in Little Rock since 2012.

— It was Bret Bielmea’s first nonconference home loss in 10 seasons as a head coach.

Obviously, I missed my pick for that game. But the record was still 8-2 in Week 2, making the Southern Fried blog 18-2 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 3:

Arkansas 40, Texas Tech 35 — The Red Raiders can score a lot of points quickly, and you can expect them to put points on the board again in Fayetteville on Saturday. Last Saturday, Patrick Mahomes threw for four touchdowns and rushed for a couple of more as Tech cruised past UTEP, 69-20. Mahomes, just a sophomore, was 18 of 33 passing for 361 yards. Last year, Tech was forced to come from behind to beat the Miners, 30-26, in El Paso. This appears to be a much better Tech team than the 2014 edition. The Red Raiders struggled on defense in a 59-45 victory over Sam Houston State but improved between the first and second weeks of the season. Tech gave up 637 yards against Sam Houston and 414 yards against UTEP. Look for a high-scoring game in which both teams gain plenty of yardage. Arkansas wins by doing something it was unable to do last week — scoring touchdowns at the end of drives.

Arkansas State 37, Missouri State 24 — After a thrashing to start the season at the hands of USC, Arkansas State came home last Saturday and gave Missouri all it could handle before losing, 27-20, in front of almost 30,000 people at Jonesboro. The Red Wolves actually led at the half of that game, 17-10. ASU was held to 37 yards in the second half and just 217 yards for the game. This is the first time since 2010 that an ASU team has started the season 0-2. The Red Wolves should right the ship this week against a Missouri State team that lost 63-7 to Memphis to start the season (this might be the best football team at Memphis in a long time) before edging Chadron State by a score of 21-13 last Saturday in Springfield.

Texas Southern 17, UAPB 14 — South Carolina State thumped UAPB, 35-7, in the season opener on ESPN. The Golden Lions came home from that game in Orlando ready to feast on an NCAA Division II team, Morehouse College, but the score was tied 7-7 at the end of regulation. UAPB finally prevailed in three overtimes, 29-27. Texas Southern is 1-1, having lost 38-11 in the Labor Day Classic at Houston to Prairie View A&M before coming home to down tiny Bacone College, 63-0, in the season’s second game. I will simply end with the same sentence I ended with last week: You get the feeling that this is going to be one of those years when nothing comes easily for the Golden Lions.

Ouachita 39, Southwestern Oklahoma 32 — The defending Great American Conference champions from Ouachita have now won 12 consecutive regular-season games and are 19-3 in their past 22 regular-season games. Ouachita was cruising at home in Arkadelphia last week against Southeastern Oklahoma with a 22-point lead and the ball in the Savage Storm red zone with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Then a nightmare scenario of events (a fumble returned for a touchdown, two onside kicks recovered by Southeastern, breakdowns in the Ouachita secondary) almost caused the Tigers to lose. They hung on, 42-40, to go to 2-0. It’s the longest road trip of the season this week as Ouachita takes on a Southwestern Oklahoma team that is improved from last year. Southwestern gave Southern Arkansas all it could handle in Magnolia in the season opener before falling by four points, 28-24. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs hung half a hundred on UAM to win by 30 points, 50-20. This should be a close, high-scoring game.

Southern Arkansas 28, Harding 27 — As we’ve been saying each week, this might be Bill Keopple’s best team yet at Southern Arkansas. The Muleriders followed up the win against Southwestern Oklahoma with a 49-14 victory at Northwestern Oklahoma. Seven players scored for the Muleriders. Southern Arkansas outgained Northwestern by more than 300 yards (595-210). Harding struggled in its season opener, beating Oklahoma Baptist in overtime, and then got on track last week with a 42-0 victory over a woeful Southern Nazarene team that has now lost 24 consecutive games. Harding is nationally ranked, but we’ll go with the home team in an upset.

Arkansas Tech 42, UAM 25 — The Wonder Boys have been impressive in their first two games. A 62-14 victory over Southern Nazarene to start the season was followed with a 50-7 victory over Oklahoma Baptist. That’s 112 points in eight quarters if you’re counting. Tech scored on each of its first seven drives against Oklahoma Baptist and held the conference’s newest member to just 160 yards of offense. The Wonder Boys had 460 yards rushing against Southern Nazarene and 219 yards rushing against Oklahoma Baptist. UAM has struggled in losses of 52-31 to Northwestern Oklahoma and 50-20 to Southwestern Oklahoma. So Tech has scored 112 points in its first two games, and UAM has given up 102 points. You can figure out the rest.

Henderson 38, Northwestern Oklahoma 19 — A good East Central Oklahoma team came into Arkadelphia on Thursday of last week and shocked the Reddies, 35-28. So it will be a Henderson team with plenty of question marks that makes the long trip to Alva, Okla., to take on a Northwestern Oklahoma team that started the 2015 season with a win over UAM and then fell hard to Southern Arkansas. Both teams are 1-1, but don’t let that fool you. Henderson has far more talent.

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Whither Little Rock

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

The social media morons were out in force last Saturday and Sunday.

Blaming a stadium for a college football team’s loss rather than a lack of preparation and a lack of execution is a new one on me.

But, yes, let’s blame War Memorial Stadium, not the coaching staff or the players at the University of Arkansas for that Citadelesque loss to Toledo (or was it Akron? All those MAC teams look alike to me).

On the morning of the game, the state’s largest newspaper (I happen to write a weekly column for that newspaper) had a large headline on the front of the sports section that read “Countdown to zero” with an altered illustration of a half-empty War Memorial Stadium.

It was as if the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wanted to make the chance that the University of Arkansas will cease playing football games in Little Rock when the current contract expires at the end of 2018 a self-fulfilling prophecy.

No more Hog games in the capital city: That seems to have become the conventional wisdom, driven in part, I suspect, by the fact that the Razorbacks are now 1-5 in Little Rock since 2012 (and ignoring the fact that Arkansas has had a poor to mediocre football program since 2012).

I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. The situation is, in fact, far more complex and fluid than the social media morons would have you believe.

I was a senior staffer in the governor’s office at the time of the original Great Stadium Debate (simply known as the GSD for you message board trolls) and was deeply involved in this issue. Just as was the case back then, the decision in 2018 will not be made by the athletic director in Fayetteville. It will be made by the members of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees since Razorback games in Little Rock are such a part of the cultural fabric of this state. It’s bigger than football.

Just last week, it was reported that even though the University of Arkansas has the largest freshman class in its history, the number of students from Arkansas is down.

The Democrat-Gazette reported: “Growth largely has been based on an influx of out-of-state students. This year’s freshman class of 4,916 students continues the trend with 51 percent arriving from outside Arkansas. The size of the freshman class increased by about 7.5 percent compared with last year’s 4,571. UA spokesman Laura Jacobs said the university counted 15,237 students from the state. This is a decrease from the 15,329 Arkansans counted in the university’s 11th day enrollment report from fall 2014.”

Imagine that. The majority of students in the freshman class at the state’s flagship university are from outside of Arkansas. And that’s in a state that badly needs more of its high school residents obtaining college degrees (former Gov. Mike Beebe set a goal of doubling the number of college graduates in Arkansas by 2025).

If this trend continues, members of the board will have to take a strong look at whether the university still appeals to young people in places like east Arkansas and south Arkansas. Many Arkansans already are referring to the school as the University of DFW at Fayetteville due to the influx of Texans. Playing Razorback football games in Little Rock traditionally has been a part of the university’s strategy to connect with families who live far from the northwest Arkansas campus.

No one argues that the athletic department makes more money by playing games in Fayetteville. The numbers speak for themselves. Athletic directors must be concerned with things like that. Members of the board, however, are appointed to 10-year terms by the governor to look at the big picture. And the big picture is starting to play in favor of keeping at least one game a year at War Memorial Stadium as an outreach to families in other parts of Arkansas.

There are a number of misconceptions spread by the social media morons.

Let’s address a few of them:

  1. I read over and over that “no one does this anymore,” meaning the idea of giving up a game on campus to play somewhere else. Huh? We’ll just look at schools in this part of the country. Oklahoma and Texas still play each other every year at the old Cotton Bowl in Dallas because it’s a tradition. Georgia and Florida still play each other each year in Jacksonville, Fla., because it’s a tradition. Could there be a stronger tradition than the Razorbacks playing at least once conference game a year in Little Rock for 78 consecutive seasons prior to this year? Texas A&M will play games in both Houston and Arlington, Texas, this season. Auburn opened its season in Atlanta. Alabama opened its season in Arlington. North Carolina and South Carolina opened their seasons in Charlotte. Tennessee opened its season in Nashville. Missouri tried to play last Saturday’s game against Arkansas State in St. Louis. The Tigers played Illinois in St. Louis in 2002-03 and from 2007-10. The bottom line is that playing games away from campus is now becoming more of a trend, not less of one.
  2. I also read about the financial hit the athletic department is taking each time the Razorbacks play in Little Rock. The huge amount of money that Southeastern Conference schools are now receiving for television rights (the SEC Network has been successful beyond even the most optimistic predictions) make actual per-game revenue a smaller part of the overall athletic department budget than ever before. In other words, Arkansas can easily afford to make a little less money in Little Rock than it would make in Fayetteville if playing in Little Rock on one or two Saturdays each fall better advances the overall goals of the university. Bottom line: Per-game revenue is just not as big an issue as it once was.
  3. People point to the annual conference game against Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington as a complicating factor. I don’t see it. There’s no reason the Hogs can’t continue to play at Jerry Jones’ palace while also playing at least one game (and maybe two in some years) at Little Rock. If the choice did have to be made between Arlington and Little Rock, members of the board would need to ask themselves this question: “Is it more important to the overall goals of the university to have a game each year in an adjoining state or in the largest city of the state where the university is located?”
  4. To those who claim that “nobody else is doing it,” I would at least request that they be consistent. Here’s what “nobody else is doing” in the SEC these days with the exception of Arkansas: Refusing to play in-state opponents. LSU was going to open the season this year with McNeese State before lightning forced the game to be called off. Auburn was taken to overtime last Saturday in its game against Jacksonville State, which is just 108 miles from Auburn campus. Mississippi State opened its season at Southern Mississippi. Georgia will close its season as always against Georgia Tech. It’s high time for Arkansas and Arkansas State to play each other on an annual basis.

A friend who has decades of experience in the world of Arkansas football recently laid out his “dream scenario” at a time when so many are predicting that college football is about to become a thing of the past at War Memorial Stadium. He said he can see the day when:

— UALR starts a football program (it’s already in a football conference, the Sun Belt, and has an athletic director from a football family) and plays its home games at War Memorial Stadium.

— Little Rock finally gets that bowl game it was so close to landing a few months ago.

— A coalition of legislators from northeast, southeast, southwest and central Arkansas pass legislation mandating that Arkansas and Arkansas State play each other in football each year at War Memorial Stadium.

I don’t see all of that happening.

But I do see the UA trustees taking into consideration more than just the football program when it comes time to renegotiate the contract with the War Memorial Stadium Commission.

I like Bret Bielema personally. I like Jeff Long. They’ve been nothing but nice to me. And I have good friends on both sides of this issue. I simply want what is best for the university and the state as a whole.

It all comes down to this: At a time when Arkansans now represent a minority of the freshman class at the University of Arkansas, there’s far more than the wants and needs of the athletic department to consider.

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Rex’s Rankings: After two weeks

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Two weeks of the high school football season are in the books.

Highlights of Week 2:

  1. The longest current winning streak in the state — Junction City at 41 games — came to an end at the hands of Rison.
  2. Pulaski Academy, a week after ending Highland Park’s 84-game home winning streak down in Texas, came back down to earth a bit. The Bruins won but struggled for three quarters in a 35-21 victory over Wynne. Still, it’s hard to see anyone else winning the Class 5A title at this point.
  3. Pine Bluff, Fayetteville and Bentonville all posted easy victories. The cream is already rising to the top.
  4. One of the most exciting games of the week was Cabot’s 40-33 victory over Little Rock Catholic at War Memorial Stadium. Both teams are improved over last year.

Let’s get to the rankings:

Overall

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Fayetteville
  3. Bentonville
  4. Pulaski Academy
  5. Greenwood
  6. Cabot
  7. Bryant
  8. Fort Smith Southside
  9. Little Rock Christian
  10. Siloam Springs

Class 7A

  1. Fayetteville
  2. Bentonville
  3. Cabot
  4. Bryant
  5. Fort Smith Southside

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. Siloam Springs
  4. Little Rock Parkview
  5. Benton

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Batesville
  4. Hot Springs
  5. Sylvan Hills

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Malvern
  4. Pulaski Robinson
  5. Warren

Class 3A

  1. Smackover
  2. Episcopal Collegiate
  3. Lamar
  4. Camden Harmony Grove
  5. Prescott

Class 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Junction City
  3. Earle
  4. McCrory
  5. England

 

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The Buddy Benson legacy

Friday, September 11th, 2015

We will honor the legacy of the late Buddy Benson in Arkadelphia on Saturday night shortly before the Tigers of Ouachita Baptist University take on Southeastern Oklahoma.

It’s entirely fitting that Ouachita officials chose this game to change the name of A.U. Williams Field to Benson-Williams Field. That’s because it was against Southeastern Oklahoma that Buddy Benson got his first victory as a college head coach in 1965. And it was against Southeastern Oklahoma that he achieved his 100th victory.

Benson’s 162-140-8 record in 31 seasons as the head coach at Ouachita is remarkable when one considers how poor the facilities were in those years and how little money he had to spend on his program. Benson rarely had more than two or three full-time assistant coaches. Most high school coaching staffs in the state were larger than what Benson had to work with at Ouachita.

Still, he produced 16 all-America and more than 200 all-conference players. Almost all of his players graduated, moving on to success in business, medicine, law, education and other professions.

Dozens of them will be at the stadium Saturday night to see him honored.

I wrote a lot of what follows after the coach’s death in April 2011, but it’s worth repeating.

Buddy Benson’s recruiting strategy was based on quality rather than quantity, not only physical quality but also mental and moral excellence. His players knew they were expected to do well in class and were expected to graduate in four years.

Sitting in the den of his Arkadelphia home one day, I asked him why he had stayed at Ouachita for decades despite the lack of funding and the crumbling facilities.

He answered: “There’s just something special about this school. You can see it in the students and feel it when you walk around the campus. We have a high class of individuals going to school here. If a kid can stick it out with us for four years, he will end up being a pretty high-class person himself.”

Former Ouachita President Dan Grant called Benson “a dream coach for a small private university. I taught for 22 years at Vanderbilt, and the chancellor would have given his right arm to have a coach with Benson’s record of accomplishments.”

Former Ouachita President Ben Elrod said: “I never thought of Buddy Benson working for me or, for that matter, for Ouachita in the years that I was president. He had his own inner compass, which he consulted for his sense of direction as a coach and as a man. The results verified the accuracy of the compass in the quality of his life. We were friends who respected each other.”

I was raised just down the street from the Ouachita stadium and practice field. From the time I was old enough to walk, fall afternoons were spent watching my beloved Tigers practice.

I was in awe of him.

Here’s how Arkansas Democrat sports editor Fred Morrow put it in a column after the Tigers won a share of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship in 1975: “His athletes are going to go to class. They’re not going to abuse (or even get caught using) tobacco or alcohol, and they’re going to keep their hair nice and neat, and they’re going to say yes sir and no sir. Oh, they’re also going to receive degrees.”

Benson was fond of saying, “I’m not running a popularity contest.”

Coming out of De Queen High School, Benson was among the most highly recruited running backs in the country. He signed with the University of Oklahoma. Coach Bud Wilkinson’s teams won 47 consecutive games between 1953 and 1957. But Buddy Benson missed his home state and decided to transfer to the University of Arkansas, where he helped lead the Razorbacks to a share of the 1954 Southwest Conference championship, an 8-3 record and a berth in the Cotton Bowl against Georgia Tech.

It was Benson who threw the 66-yard touchdown pass to Preston Carpenter at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium to lead the Razorbacks to a 6-0 victory over nationally ranked Ole Miss. The late Orville Henry, the longtime sports editor of the Arkansas Gazette, later would describe what was known as the Powder River Play as the school’s most famous play because it put the Arkansas program on the map and gave the Razorbacks a statewide following.

Following his college graduation in the spring of 1956, Benson was offered a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He turned down that offer (NFL rookies made very little back in those days) to try his hand at coaching high school football.

Benson took a job at Lewisville in far south Arkansas, and his first team went 10-1. His second team was 7-1-2, and Benson was being listed as one of the hottest young coaches in the state. He needed to provide for his family, though, and coaching high school sports in Arkansas wasn’t a way to make a good living in the 1950s. He decided to sell automobiles for his father-in-law.

He told the sports editor of the Texarkana newspaper: “I was getting a better deal going into the automobile business. It’s just one of those things. I had the opportunity to go, and I couldn’t pass it up. As much as I like it here, I have to make a living for my family.”

The sports editor Benson was talking to was Wick Temple, who would go on to become a top executive in New York for The Associated Press.

Temple wrote in his column back then: “His was the model small school coaching situation. He produced fine athletes and a fine athletic program. He had a good record and no difficulties with anyone, much less the school board. But he quit. He left what had taken him 10 years of playing and coaching to achieve.”

He poured his heart into being the best car salesman in the South, but he wasn’t happy.

In the summer of 1961, Benson showed up at the annual coaching clinic in Little Rock to look for a job. He wanted to find his way back into coaching. A friend told him that Ouachita’s head coach, Rab Rodgers, needed an assistant. It didn’t pay much, but Benson didn’t care. He found Rodgers and was offered the job. Benson moved to Arkadelphia that summer and never left.

Rodgers decided to get out of coaching following the 1964 season and devote his time to being Ouachita’s full-time athletic director. Benson was promoted to head coach, but it was a risky proposition. Few people believed that Ouachita, a Southern gridiron power in the early 1900s, could win again in football. Benson’s friends told him that he had ruined his career by taking on an impossible task.

The school’s president, Dr. Ralph Phelps, had admitted in a speech to the Ouachita student body a few years earlier that “Ouachita, after having been at the pinnacle of athletic glory, has sunk about as low as a school can go without dropping competition altogether.”

In fact, Ouachita had experienced just two winning seasons the previous 16 years.

Having that context helps you understand how amazing it was that Benson didn’t have a single losing season in his first 12 years as head coach.

He worked his magic quickly. By his second year, the Tigers had captured a share of the AIC championship. Benson did it with players who were a reflection of their leader. They wore suits on road trips, they maintained a clean-cut appearance at all times and they played the game cleanly.

To his face, of course, his players only referred to him as “Coach Benson.”

When they were talking about him, though, they called him The Man.

The Man turned boys into men. That’s why so many of them will be in Arkadelphia on Saturday. They had a strong loyalty to this tough taskmaster who would accept nothing less than their best.

“Suck it up,” he would tell them.

He would remind them of the “difference between pain and injury.”

He would walk up and down the practice field during August two-a-days and chant: “It’s hard, but it’s fair. You had a good home, you should have stayed there.”

The most famous of Buddy Benson’s players, Cliff Harris, said his college coach “taught us to achieve at levels we didn’t believe were possible. At critical moments in my life, I’ve thought of Coach Benson and the things he taught me. It was his influence that allowed me to step it up a notch at those important times.”

Another former player, Jim Crane, said: “One of the proudest accomplishments in my life is to have played four years for Coach Benson. He was a constant in my life. I could always count on him to be there, and he always took care of his boys. He was The Man and my friend. I am a better man for his presence in my life. I loved him as my second father.”

Speaking of second fathers, I wrote this on the day Buddy Benson died, less than two months after I had lost the other major influence in my life, my father: “On the night my father died — as I waited at the Little Rock nursing home for the funeral home personnel to arrive from Arkadelphia and pick up his body — the first call I received on my cell phone was from Coach Benson.

“‘Are you all right?’ he asked me ‘Do you need me to come up there?’

“‘No sir,’ I replied. ‘I’ll be OK.’

“You see, he had taught me long ago to ‘suck it up’ in tough times. I have no doubt, though, that he would have been in the car headed to Little Rock within minutes had I said I needed him.”

Just as he was there for his former players, he was always there for me.

That’s why there’s nowhere I rather be Saturday night than the newly named Benson-Williams Field.

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College football: Week 2

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

It’s good to have the college football season under way, isn’t it?

Even if you’re still treating that sunburn from last Saturday afternoon at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

It’s yet another Saturday afternoon game this week for the University of Arkansas, but the weather should be delightful at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium with highs in the 70s.

Some notes following Arkansas’ season-opening 48-13 victory over UTEP:

— It was the ninth consecutive year for Arkansas to win its home opener.

— Arkansas is now 95-23-4 in season openers.

— Bret Bielema is now 35-2 as a head coach in nonconference games.

— Brandon Allen was 14 of 18 passing for a career-high 308 yards and four touchdowns.

— Keon Hatcher had six receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

— Alex Collins rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown. It was his eighth career 100-yard game.

The other three NCAA Division I teams in the state — Arkansas State, UCA and UAPB — all lost. And all of them looked bad in the process.

In the Great American Conference of NCAA Division II, the league title has never left Arkadelphia since the GAC was formed. Ouachita has won it twice, and Henderson has won it twice. Both Ouachita and Henderson had to go on the road to Oklahoma in Week 1, and both teams won by seven points as their opponents drove into the red zone in the final minute of play.

We were 10-0 on the picks in Week 1. We won’t get cocky. Don’t expect that perfect record to survive Week 2. But here goes:

Arkansas 51, Toledo 21 — We understand there will be a scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon as a warm-up for a Brad Paisley concert. Arkansas stayed at No. 18 in The Associated Press poll and moved up two spots to No. 18 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. Toledo shouldn’t provide much more of a challenge than UTEP did. The goals remain the same for the Razorbacks: Get the starters quality reps, put points on the board early so lots of people can play in the second half and don’t get anyone hurt.

Missouri 47, Arkansas State 24 — A Southeastern Conference team comes to Jonesboro. How about that? Missouri athletic department officials were truly surprised when ASU turned down the big bucks the school was offered to play this game at a “neutral” location in St. Louis. Good for the Jonesboro restaurants and hotels, which stand to make a lot of money this weekend. ASU fell 55-6 in its opener to USC in Los Angeles. At least the $1.3 million check didn’t bounce. The Trojans led 28-0 at halftime and never looked back. Missouri opened with a 34-3 win over Southeast Missouri State as Maty Mauk passed for 181 yards and two touchdowns. ASU should be a bit more of a challenge … but just a bit.

Oklahoma State 40, UCA 23 — The Bears were awful in their opener, falling 45-16 to Samford in Birmingham. The home team had five scoring drives of five plays or less in its first game under a new head coach, Chris Hatcher. It gets even more difficult this week for UCA as the Bears travel to Stillwater, Okla., to take on Oklahoma State at T. Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys were less than impressive last Thursday night in a 24-13 win over Central Michigan. This isn’t a vintage OSU team, but it doesn’t seem to be a vintage UCA team, either.

UAPB 22, Morehouse 20 — The Golden Lions were on ESPN last weekend (while the Razorbacks only rated ESPNU). Monte Coleman’s team couldn’t take advantage of the exposure, falling 35-7 to South Carolina State while playing at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. UAPB was held to just 191 yards of offense. For the home opener, the Golden Lions get a Division II school, Morehouse College of Atlanta. Morehouse is one of the most famous HBCUs in the country, an all-male college that has produced a number of the nation’s top African-American leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Morehouse opened the season with a victory over Edward Waters College. The Maroon Tigers were 6-4 in 2014. UAPB should beat a Division II school at home, yet you get the feeling this is going to be one of those years when nothing comes easily for the Golden Lions.

Henderson 25, East Central Oklahoma 19 — The Reddie home opener is on a Thursday night. The Henderson offense didn’t look the same last week as the post-Kevin Rodgers era began. Rodgers was the quarterback who led the Reddies to 30 victories the previous three seasons along with GAC championships in 2012 and 2013. The Reddie defense was the key this time. Henderson had a goal-line stand in the final minute to preserve a 23-16 win in Durant, Okla., against Southeastern Oklahoma. Henderson will be tested again in Arkadelphia on Thursday night against an East Central Oklahoma team that gave defending conference champion Ouachita all it wanted a week ago.

Ouachita 31, Southeastern Oklahoma 28 — Ouachita also has a new quarterback — redshirt sophomore Austin Warford from Malvern, who has the big shoes of Kiehl Frazier to fill. Frazier, the Auburn transfer, led Ouachita to an undefeated regular season last year. The offense was solid, though, in a 31-24 victory against East Central. It was the Tiger secondary that was hurting, giving up more than 400 yards through the air. Ouachita came up with an interception in the end zone in the final minute to preserve the win. Southeastern Oklahoma will have a decent chance of winning in Arkadelphia on Saturday night unless the Tiger secondary shows vast improvement.

Arkansas Tech 39, Oklahoma Baptist 30 — In its first game as a member of the GAC, Oklahoma Baptist gave Harding all it could handle before falling in overtime. Arkansas Tech, meanwhile, had 460 yards rushing in a 62-14 win against a Southern Nazarene team that was 0-11 in 2014. This will be a much stiffer test for the Wonder Boys, but they are at home. Raymond Monica is in his third season at Tech, and this appears to be a far better team (especially on offense) than his first two.

Harding 59, Southern Nazarene 18 — Harding got a scare last week in Oklahoma, hanging on 20-19 in overtime against Oklahoma Baptist. It was a wake-up call for the Bisons, and poor ol’ Southern Nazarene — the GAC’s least talented team — will be the one to pay in Searcy on Saturday.

Southern Arkansas 27, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — The Muleriders had to come from behind in the fourth quarter last Saturday in Magnolia to overcome Southwestern Oklahoma, 28-24. Northwestern looked much improved from last season, defeating UAM in Monticello, 52-31. Coach Bill Keopple thinks this is his best team yet at SAU. Still, the Muleriders will have to play better than they did last week to get the win this Saturday night way out west in Alva, Okla.

Southwestern Oklahoma 35, UAM 17 — In the narrow loss at Southern Arkansas, Southwestern Oklahoma appeared to be a far better team than the one a year ago. UAM jumped to a 17-0 lead in its loss to Northwestern Oklahoma and then faded. The long trip to Weatherford, Okla., won’t help matters for the Boll Weevils.

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Rex’s Rankings: After one week

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

The first week of the high school football season is in the books.

Some highlights and takeaways:

— Pine Bluff was even more impressive than expected in its 28-7 win over a good Fort Smith Northside team.

— Cabot may be the real deal. The 34-18 win over Conway also was impressive.

— How about that crowd of more than 34,000 for the Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium? That says a lot about the strength of high school football in the state.

— Speaking of the strength of high school football in the state, Pulaski Academy went to Dallas and ended Highland Park’s 84-game home winning streak. I was in Dallas on Saturday, and there was a major story on that accomplishment in the Dallas Morning News. Congratulations to the Bruins.

— Smackover, a good team, played two games in six days and starts 0-2 with losses to Warren and Junction City. Yes, Warren is still Warren. And Junction City is still Junction City.

Let’s get to the rankings:

Overall

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Fayetteville
  3. Bentonville
  4. Pulaski Academy
  5. Fort Smith Southside
  6. Greenwood
  7. Cabot
  8. Bryant
  9. El Dorado
  10. Batesville

Class 7A

  1. Fayetteville
  2. Bentonville
  3. Fort Smith Southside
  4. Cabot
  5. Bryant

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. El Dorado
  4. Jonesboro
  5. Siloam Springs

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Batesville
  3. Beebe
  4. Little Rock Christian
  5. Hot Springs

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Malvern
  4. Pulaski Robinson
  5. Warren

Class 3A

  1. Prescott
  2. Harding Academy
  3. Episcopal Collegiate
  4. Fordyce
  5. Lamar

Class 2A

  1. Junction City
  2. Earle
  3. McCrory
  4. England
  5. Des Arc

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