Chris Murray: Vilonia Rallies Around Houston Cotton; New Rankings


Houston Cotton

The 2013 high school football season has not been easy for the Vilonia Eagles. Expectations were high entering the season, and Vilonia was even ranked in our preseason poll.

But the Eagles lost their first three games, and more importantly, lost one of their team leaders when running back Houston Cotton suffered a devastating injury to his knee and leg during the Eagles’ loss Sept. 13 at Wynne. Cotton was hospitalized for weeks, undergoing several surgeries to save his leg.

With Clarksville coming to town last Friday, and both teams entering the game at 1-4, there was not much spotlight on the matchup. The night became extra special for Eagles fans, though, as it was Cotton, after being recently released from the hospital, who was wheeled onto the field and delivered the game ball to midfield for the coin toss.

That brought a roar from the Vilonia fans – Cotton has great support from the community, as several raffles and fundraisers were being held Friday to aid the family’s medical bills – and seemed to inspire his teammates. The Eagles held on for a 27-20 victory over a feisty Panthers squad.

“He just got out of the hospital Wednesday,” said Vilonia coach Jim Stanley. “That did a lot for everybody. We were so glad to see him.”

The Eagles have now won two of their last three. They face a tough road test this week at Morrilton, but snagging a playoff berth remains a possibility, despite numerous injuries, which have forced many sophomores into key roles.


Lake Hamilton made the biggest waves in this week’s rankings, jumping up to no. 2 Class 6A after knocking off Pine Bluff, 33-25, last Friday in Pearcy. That loss dropped the Zebras down to no. 4. Meanwhile, the Wolves improved to 3-0 in 7A/6A-South play, and have a huge leg up in the conference race.

The other big upset came in Class 4A, where no. 2 Ashdown fell at the hands of Malvern, who is knocking on the door of the top 5. Many were already looking ahead to an Ashdown-Arkadelphia showdown on Oct. 25, but the Leopards spoiled things, going into Ashdown and emerging with a 16-6 win.


A pair of the most intriguing matchups in the state this week are in Class 3A. No. 3 Barton plays host to No. 5 Mayflower. The Bears are undefeated overall, while the Eagles’ are still unbeaten in the congested 2-3A. Both teams have Harding Academy waiting on the schedule, so this looks like an elimination game for the conference title.

In the 6-3A, No. 4 Smackover hosts Fordyce. The Redbugs were stunned in a 22-21 loss at home last week to Prescott. The Buckaroos remained undefeated with a thrashing of Drew Central. Without that Fordyce loss to Prescott, this one would be even more anticipated. Still, Smackover can’t look past the Redbugs.


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

Class 6A
1. Greenwood, vs. Little Rock Hall
2. Lake Hamilton, vs. El Dorado
3. Jonesboro, vs. Mountain Home
4. Pine Bluff, vs. Little Rock Fair
5. Russellville, vs. Little Rock Catholic

Class 5A
1. Pulaski Academy, vs. Little Rock McClellan
2. Camden Fairview, at De Queen
3. Watson Chapel, vs. White Hall
4. Alma, vs. Huntsville
5. Batesville, vs. Wynne

Class 4A
1. Arkadelphia, at Pulaski Robinson
2. Pine Bluff Dollarway, vs. Lonoke
3. Hamburg, vs. Lake Village
4. Warren, vs. DeWitt
5. Valley View, vs. Trumann

Class 3A
1. Charleston, at Lamar
2. Harding Academy, vs. Riverview
3. Barton, vs. Mayflower
4. Smackover, vs. Fordyce
5. Mayflower, at Barton

Class 2A
1. Junction City, at Woodlawn
2. Carlisle, at Hazen
3. Bearden, idle
4. East Poinsett County, at Cedar Ridge
5. Dierks, vs. Lafayette County

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