Chris Murray: Arkansas High School Football Playoffs – Epic Semis


Arkansas High School Football Playoffs - Epic Semis



You would have to ask an historian, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better set of playoff games than the ones played last week in the semifinals of the three largest classifications in Arkansas high school football playoffs.

In Class 7A, Bentonville broke a 14-14 tie with a third quarter touchdown and made it stand in a 21-14 win over a rugged Conway team. That was the widest spread out of the six semifinal games.

Fans got a wild shootout in Cabot, where the Panthers needed a gutsy two-point conversion to edge North Little Rock 43-42 in double overtime. The Charging Wildcats scored in the final minute to force overtime. The teams traded touchdowns in the first OT, and after NLR scored to take a 42-35 lead, Cabot scored on Zach Launius’ fifth touchdown run. Coach Mike Malham elected to go for two, and Launius just barely found the end zone for a 43-42 Cabot win.

Class 7A: Bentonville vs. Cabot. After falling short to rival Fayetteville the last two years, Bentonville looks to complete its mission and win another state title. Cabot is perfect at 13-0, and its precision run game could be just the foil to the Tigers and the 7A-West’s deathgrip on the 7A title.


The biggest story of the night had to be Pine Bluff snapping Greenwood’s 50-game winning streak, and thus preventing the Bulldogs from a fourth straight state title with a 37-34 win. Greenwood led 31-20 before the Zebras stormed back in the final minutes. Austin McGehee nailed a 42-yard field goal as time expired before a stunned Greenwood crowd, as the third longest winning streak in state history came to an end.

The other 6A semifinal also ended on a field goal, with even more on the line. El Dorado trailed Jonesboro when Trent Harter lined up for a 29-yard field goal. His kick was also good, and the Wildcats punched their ticket to Little Rock for the fifth time in six years. Jonesboro overcame a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 21-20 lead, but could not hang on.

Class 6A: El Dorado vs. Pine Bluff. The Wildcats defeated the Zebras earlier this season in a 7A/6A-South game. The Zebras made it to last season’s state final, losing to Greenwood. El Dorado won three straight state titles from 2009-2011. These two familiar foes look to be evenly matched. Can Pine Bluff come down from the thrill of finally beating Greenwood?


Batesville earned its third straight trip to the finals with a 31-28 win at Alma. Behind a power running game and strong special teams, the Pioneers were able to survive their trip to Crawford County. The Pioneers fell short in both 2011 (Greenwood) and 2012 (Camden Fairview) state championship games.

Morrilton went on the road in the playoffs to best Pulaski Academy and Hope. The Devil Dogs surged ahead 24-7 at halftime. Hope rallied to within 24-21, but a late interception preserved the victory for Morrilton.

Class 5A: Batesville vs. Morrilton. While Batesville plays a ground-and-pound style, Morrilton has a high-powered, quick-strike offense and a dangerous return team. Batesville has the experience, but Morrilton has the hot hand, and someone seems to have forgotten to tell the Devil Dogs they don’t belong.

Here are the complete brackets for the Arkansas High School Football Playoffs.


It’s semifinal week in the three smaller classifications:
• Class 4A – Warren won the showdown with previously unbeaten Arkadelphia. The Lumberjacks now have to be the favorites in 4A. They host Valley View in one semifinal. Booneville travels to Pine Bluff for a meeting with Dollarway in a battle of unbeatens.
• Class 3ATy Storey’s 500-plus yard, seven-touchdown passing performance lifted Charleston past Harding Academy in Searcy. The Tigers host an Earle team that finished fifth in the 3-3A, but has knocked off Fountain Lake and Hoxie. Smackover travels to Haskell to meet Glen Rose in the other semifinal.
• Class 2A – Bearden pitched its second straight shutout, this time at Lepanto over previously unbeaten East Poinsett County. The Bears’ reward is a trip to Des Arc in the semifinals. Defending champ Junction City disposed of Hector, and hosts Carlisle in the other semi.


Spotted last week: Batesville-Alma was a classic case of two evenly-matched teams. And as is often the case, it came down to one play. With the score tied, Alma had the ball near midfield. Batesville’s Raleigh Jeffrey came around the end and delivered a crushing sack of Evan Burris, who fumbled. Jorge Romero recovered for the Pioneers, and Osvaldo Espericueta kicked the winning field goal with just over one minute left.

Class 7A
1. Bentonville
2. Cabot
3. North Little Rock
4. Conway
5. Springdale Har-Ber, season over

Class 6A
1. Pine Bluff
2. El Dorado
3. Greenwood
4. Jonesboro
5. Lake Hamilton, season over

Class 5A
1. Batesville
2. Morrilton
3. Alma
4. Hope
5. Pulaski Academy, season over

Class 4A
1. Warren, vs. Valley View
2. Pine Bluff Dollarway, vs. Booneville
3. Booneville, at Pine Bluff Dollarway
4. Valley View, at Warren
5. Arkadelphia, season over

Class 3A
1. Charleston, vs. Earle
2. Glen Rose, vs. Smackover
3. Smackover, at Glen Rose
4. Earle, at Charleston
5. Harding Academy, season over

Class 2A
1. Junction City, vs. Carlisle
2. Des Arc, vs. Bearden
3. Bearden, at Des Arc
4. Carlisle, at Junction City
5. East Poinsett County, season over

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