Chris Murray: Cabot Panthers Are Legit; Arkansas High School Rankings


In Arkansas high school football, if a challenger to Northwest Arkansas’ dominance of Class 7A was going to emerge from the central part of the state, most figured that team would be North Little Rock, or perhaps Conway.

The Cabot Panthers have emerged as a legitimate threat, especially after their 48-32 thumping at North Little Rock last Friday. That came a week after a 23-9 win over Conway in Cabot. It is definitely possible that some (ahem) might have overlooked the Panthers. As a result of those wins, the Panthers have rocketed into our Class 7A top 5.

Zach Launius led the way for a potent Cabot – you guessed it – rushing attack with 231 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries. Using their trademark ball-control T formation, the Panthers ran for 431 yards as a team.

It’s a long season, but Cabot should be favored to win its remaining games, with a tough trip to Jonesboro set for Nov. 1 being perhaps the biggest hurdle.  The Panthers could be looking at multiple home games in the playoffs. In his 33rd season at Cabot, head coach Mike Malham looks to have a squad that can contend for another state title.

Just a week earlier, the Charging Wildcats had fought mighty Batesville (Miss.) South Panola off its feet in a narrow loss. Then North Little Rock lost star running back Juan Day for the season to an ACL tear, and now it is in full regroup mode. The Charging Wildcats are out of our top 5, and will have to rally to save their season.


We told you last week that the Arkadelphia-Nashville game should be one to watch, and it did not disappoint. The Badgers, ranked no. 1 in our Class 4A poll after dominating larger schools in non-conference play, faced a stern test in Nashville in both teams’ 7-4A opener.

Arkadelphia trailed for much of the game and into the second half before a pair of late touchdowns held off the aptly named Scrappers. Kris Oliver rushed for 185 yards and two scores, while standout Badgers quarterback Jakahari Howell passed for a touchdown and ran for another.


The no. 2-ranked Gurdon Go-Devils went on the road to Dierks for their 7-2A conference opener and took a 34-15 throttling from the Outlaws. Dierks (pronounce it however you like) got three rushing touchdowns from Trendon McKinney, as well as a pair of safeties from its defense.

Gurdon took a tumble out of the top 5, while Dierks makes its poll debut.  While Class 7A and Class 2A saw significant changes this week, Classes 3A through 6A are unchanged.


Spotted this week:  A pair of sophomores at Conway showed a tantalizing sign of things to come for Wampus Cats fans. Breylin Smith completed 22 of 26 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to DJ Johnson, as Conway defeated rival Russellville, 38-24. Johnson finished with seven catches for 124 yards. That duo, both sophomores, could produce big dividends in Faulkner County for the next two-plus years.


Class 7A
1. Bentonville, at Siloam Springs
2. Fayetteville, vs. Springdale
3. Cabot, vs. Marion
4. Fort Smith Southside, vs. Little Rock Catholic
5. Springdale Har-Ber, vs. Rogers Heritage

Class 6A
1. Greenwood, vs. Little Rock Parkview
2. Pine Bluff, at Bryant
3. Jonesboro, vs. Little Rock Central
4. Lake Hamilton, at Texarkana
5. El Dorado, at Sheridan

Class 5A
1. Pulaski Academy, vs. Helena-West Helena Central
2. Camden Fairview, vs. White Hall
3. Watson Chapel, at DeQueen
4. Alma, at Morrilton
5. Batesville, vs. Paragould

Class 4A
1. Arkadelphia, at Arkansas Baptist
2. Pine Bluff Dollarway, vs. Marianna
3. Ashdown, vs. Bauxite
4. Hamburg, at Monticello
5. Warren, at Star City

Class 3A
1. Charleston, at Paris
2. Harding Academy, vs. Rose Bud
3. Barton, at Riverview
4. Fordyce, at Fouke
5. Smackover, at Prescott

Class 2A
1. Junction City, at Hampton
2. Carlisle, vs. Clarendon
3. Bearden, vs. Parkers Chapel
4. East Poinsett County, vs. Walnut Ridge
5. Dierks, at Foreman

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