Week 1 Arkansas High School Football Review, SLA Rankings
Take a look at Northwest Arkansas, where population has exploded the last 20 years, resulting in multiple new high schools popping up with expanded rosters. Increased tax bases and focus on high school athletics have produced superior facilities.
Bentonville is now a model for high school athletics, statewide and nationwide. What coach Barry Lunney has built there, at what was once a doormat of NWA, is staggering. The Tigers had an impressive win on Friday, traveling to Kansas City and knocking off KC Rockhurst, 24-21.
But perhaps even more impressive was Springdale Har-Ber’s 42-35 victory over Webb City, Mo., snapping the Wildcats’ 91-game winning streak. Bentonville gets another opportunity this week, hosting Broken Bow, Okla., while Har-Ber welcomes Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge.
The winning ways weren’t relegated to the northwest, though. Greenwood, no. 1 in Class 6A, demolished Sallisaw, Okla., 49-7, while Pulaski Academy, the top team in 5A, defeated Memphis University School, 37-29.
Meanwhile, North Little Rock might face the toughest test of all these inter-state games, when it hosts Batesville (Miss.) South Panola. This will be a great measuring stick for the Charging Wildcats, as a team and individually, for the likes of college prospects Juan Day and K.J. Hill, who will be facing similarly talented foes.
There was a time, not too long ago, when Arkansas schools could not compete with schools from comparable levels from other states. While all those listed above may not be state-title caliber foes, those are all quality wins and are a good indicator of the rise of the level of play in Arkansas. Ultimately, one can hope this leads to more Division-I level talent coming out of the state, and more opportunities for those young athletes.
One of the most eye-catching outcomes from week 1 was Arkadelphia’s dismantling of Class 6A Benton. The Panthers were christening their new stadium, but the Badgers ruined the party with a 56-21 thumping. Behind quarterback Jakahari Howell’s near 400 yards of offense, the Badgers rocket into this week’s top 5.
All of the Class 4 top 5 have opportunities to impress this week, as each team is playing an opponent from a higher classification. No. 1 Warren continues its gauntlet run, meeting Pulaski Academy on Thursday. That comes 10 days after taking a tough loss to Fayetteville at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Lumberjacks close out the non-conference schedule by hosting Camden Fairview.
I was fortunate enough to see 10 teams play last week, and the most dominating performance, regardless of class, came from Hazen. The Hornets, ranked no. 2 in Class 2A, held Class 3A Rose Bud without a first down until midway through the fourth quarter, besting the Ramblers, 46-13.
The Ramblers, a solid contender in Class 3A, scored first on a fumble-return touchdown. Hazen then rang off 46 straight points, without allowing a first down, until Rose Bud went on a 71-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Joe Besancon has a talented squad, and the winner of the Hazen-Carlisle clash in week 7 could very well be conference champion.
Conway also looked impressive to these eyes, controlling the ball and limiting Bryant’s chances in a convincing 24-7 win. Coach Clint Ashcraft has his power running game in place, and it may be time for the Wampus Cats to take a step forward in Class 7A. It was amusing, though, to longtime viewers of Conway football to note that the Cats attempted just three passes against Bryant, and there was not a peep of disapproval from the faithful.
Rankings (with this week’s opponent)
1. Bentonville, vs. Broken Arrow, Okla.
2. North Little Rock, vs. Batesville (Miss.) South Panola
3. Springdale Har-Ber, vs. Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge
4. Fayetteville, vs. Jefferson City (Mo.)
5. Fort Smith Southside, at El Dorado
1. Greenwood, at Alma
2. Pine Bluff, at Watson Chapel
3. Russellville, vs. Siloam Springs
4. Jonesboro, vs. Conway
5. El Dorado, vs. Fort Smith Southside
1. Pulaski Academy, vs. Warren (Thursday)
2. Camden Fairview, vs. Hamburg
3. Watson Chapel, vs. Pine Bluff
4. Alma, vs. Greenwood
5. Batesville, at Searcy
1. Warren, at Pulaski Academy
2. Pine Bluff Dollarway, at Little Rock Parkview
3. Arkadelphia, at Sheridan
4. Ashdown, vs. Hope
5. Hamburg, at Camden Fairview
1. Charleston, at Gentry
2. Harding Academy, at Heber Springs
3. Barton, at Des Arc
4. Fordyce, at Crossett
5. Mayflower, vs. Dardanelle
1. Junction City, vs. Rison
2. Hazen, at McCrory
3. Gurdon, at Benton Harmony Grove
4. Carlisle, at Mountain Pine
5. Bearden, at Hampton