Chris Murray: Elite High School Teams Getting Separation; Weekly Rankings


The Arkansas high school football season hit the midway point last Friday. And after a first half with plenty of upsets and changes in the Sporting Life Arkansas rankings, it is interesting to note that none of the ranked teams in the six classifications lost last week.

Part of that is due to some scheduling luck – such as that none of the ranked teams in the small-numbered 7A or 6A played each other last week.  But it also might be an indicator that the elite high school teams have separated themselves from the rest, and we may have the top teams identified.


One of the most compelling matchups this week comes from Class 6A, where no. 4 Lake Hamilton hosts no. 2 Pine Bluff. Both teams stubbed their toes in non-conference play, with each losing once and Pine Bluff also playing to a tie. Now they are both 2-0 in the 7A/6A-South.

The Zebras are coming off a 9-3 victory over Bryant where their defense shined, but the offense failed to execute in the red zone. They will have to do better this week against a Lake Hamilton squad that has been clicking on offense. Quarterback Nathan Sawrie is a dual threat for Jerry Clay’s Wolves. This clash should make for an entertaining night in Pearcy.

Staying with the 6A theme, Greenwood extended its winning streak to an incredible 43 games with a ho-hum 42-0 blanking of Little Rock Parkview. Rick Jones’ Bulldogs should have little trouble with Little Rock Catholic and Little Rock Hall, but will definitely be tested by the time they hit 45 in a row. Greenwood then has consecutive road games against Fort Smith Southside and Conway, before ending the regular season by hosting Russellville.


Malvern travels to Ashdown in what should be a major test for the Panthers, no. 3 in our rankings. The Leopards are 2-0 in 7-4A play after a 55-24 drubbing of Pulaski Robinson, and have been in the “others receiving votes” column of our rankings.

Meanwhile, Ashdown is undefeated at 5-0 after a 59-12 win over Bauxite. Outside of Arkadelphia (which is 5-0 with dynamic quarterback Jakahari Howell), Ashdown has maybe been the most impressive team in Class 4A. We should know more about both teams following this meeting in Little River County.


elite high school teams Batesville turf install

Batesville High School new turf installation. Photo courtesy Blake Guinn, KAIT-Jonesboro weekend sports anchor.


Spotted this week:  As part of my 20-year class reunion, I got to witness much of Batesville’s 42-0 drubbing of Paragould on Friday. I stopped short of requiring California to tumble into the sea before I went back to my old school, but my return visits have been few and far between.  It’s stunning to see the difference in the program from 1993 to 2013. The community support and facilities are top notch, with a video scoreboard, field turf, and even Neyland-inspired checkerboard end zones.  But it’s the on-field success that is the biggest difference. Under coach Dave King, now in his 18th year, the Pioneers are annually expected to win their conference and compete for state titles (they’ve won one, and lost in the finals the last two years).  Things sure have changed.


Class 7A
1. Bentonville, vs. Rogers
2. Fayetteville, at Rogers Heritage
3. Cabot, at Mountain Home
4. Fort Smith Southside, at Little Rock Hall
5. Springdale Har-Ber, at Van Buren

Class 6A
1. Greenwood, vs. Little Rock Catholic
2. Pine Bluff, at Lake Hamilton
3. Jonesboro, at North Little Rock
4. Lake Hamilton, vs. Pine Bluff
5. El Dorado, vs. Texarkana

Class 5A
1. Pulaski Academy, at Little Rock Christian
2. Camden Fairview, vs. Magnolia
3. Watson Chapel, at Hope
4. Alma, at Harrison
5. Batesville, at Forrest City

Class 4A
1. Arkadelphia, vs. Central Arkansas Christian
2. Pine Bluff Dollarway, at Clinton
3. Ashdown, vs. Malvern
4. Hamburg, vs. Star City
5. Warren, at Dumas

Class 3A
1. Charleston, vs. Atkins
2. Harding Academy, at Bald Knob
3. Barton, vs. Perryville
4. Fordyce, vs. Prescott
5. Smackover, at Drew Central

Class 2A
1. Junction City, at Spring Hill (Thursday)
2. Carlisle, vs. Brinkley
3. Bearden, at Hermitage
4. East Poinsett County, vs. McCrory
5. Dierks, vs. Mineral Springs

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