Nate Olson: The Case For Arkansas High School Football Spring Games (Poll)

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I spent some time in Southwest Florida last week. On Saturday I picked up the local paper and was surprised to see a story about a high school football game. Not a spring intersquad scrimmage, but a game. Between two different teams? In May? Yep. My eyes hadn’t deceived me.But it gets better. It appears both teams were trying to win, as the game went down to the final play. The benches hadn’t emptied to make way for the reserves and sophomores, as is the case for fall “benefit” games in Arkansas.

After reading the article, I immediately thought of Arkansas high school football. I could really dig a Fayetteville and Greenwood or North Little Rock and Pulaski Academy matchup this week. A May football game is just what the doctor ordered as the Dog Days begin. An appetizer, if you will, as the main course is three months away. I can only imagine what kind of crowds some of those games might draw.

Don’t laugh. When I came to Arkansas in 1998, spring football didn’t exist. Since its implementation, the period has expanded and teams often play spring games. That May practice is one of the reasons Arkansas prep football talent has increased in the past decade. More time on the field gives players more of a chance to develop. It allows rising sophomores to get a taste of varsity action before fall camp.

About the time spring football arrived, summer 7 on 7 tournaments became popular. Now, there doesn’t seem to be a program that doesn’t at least play in a weeknight league or occasional tournament. Coaches who keep the ball on the ground began playing to expose their defense to the aerial assault. That, too, has contributed to the rise of some of the super power programs and has contributed to Arkansas being ranked in the Top 10 nationally of Division I football recruits produced per capita.

More than 10 years ago somebody decided to follow the trends of states around us. It’s paid off. Maybe adding a spring football benefit game is the next step. Arkansas may never be Texas or Florida or Louisiana, but it’s clear that it’s the most popular prep sport in the state and biggest revenue producer in most districts. The growth and popularity has only helped schools and its student-athletes.

The concept would be an easy sell to coaches. They are tickled to have 10 practices to work with. That period capped off by a game against another team would be useful —  game film of your current personnel against another team. It’s where two quarterbacks could audition, and you could see just how talented that sophomore running back is. Practice only shows so much. There is no substitute for the Friday night game atmosphere.

Part of the games’ proceeds could go to the Arkansas Activities Association catastrophic insurance fund that goes to players who sustain serious injuries. Currently, the games or scrimmages that precede the fall schedule help sustain that fund. This would be one more way to raise money for an important cause.

I can’t think of many negatives. Injuries are always a possibility. Losing a key player in May would be tough to swallow, but there’s always a chance a player could be lost in practice or an intersquad scrimmage, too. Scheduling would be a bit of a challenge with the completion of spring sports championships in late May and graduations. But it can be done. I’m sure detractors have other reasons, too. They always do, but the positives look to outweigh the negatives. Spring football is already in place, just add one more game.

Arkansas high school football has come a long way since 2000. I think most agree the rise in popularity has been a positive for the state’s districts and definitely its student-athletes. Growth can continue with more tweaks and improvements. Adding a game in May seems to be a step in the right direction.

Should Arkansas high schools add a spring football game?

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