The state’s annual football encyclopedia is now available for purchase, and Hooten’s Arkansas Football magazine has a lot of nice things to say about the teams of the 6A West, at least the top four programs, including Greenwood, picked #1 by the publication to repeat as state champs in 2019.
But Hooten’s also thinks a lot of Benton, El Dorado, and Russellville, listing those schools among the top five gridiron programs in Class 6A, along with West Memphis from the 6A East.
Hooten’s pre-season coaches’ poll ranks the eight teams of the 6A West as follows: Greenwood, Benton, El Dorado, Russellville, Siloam Springs, Lake Hamilton, Sheridan, and Little Rock Hall.
The magazine’s overall rankings for Class 6A have Greenwood at #1 followed by Benton, with El Dorado and Russellville fourth and fifth, respectively. Siloam Springs is at #10 followed by Lake Hamilton (11) and Sheridan (12), with Hall holding down last place at #16.
With the start of the 2019 season less than 40 days away, Greenwood fans are getting excited about another state title run for the Bulldogs. But the other power teams in the 6A West must be dealt with first, and Greenwood plays on the road at Russellville (10/18) and Benton (10/25) in back-to-back weeks in October, clearly the toughest part of the schedule.
The Bulldogs host Fort Smith Northside (9/6) and Southside (9/13) to open the non-conference slate, followed by a road trip to Sand Springs, Oklahoma on September 20th. Greenwood then travels to Little Rock Hall (9/27) for their league opener, followed by El Dorado on October 4th at Smith-Robinson Stadium.
The ‘Dogs then host Siloam Springs on October 11th before playing Russellville and Benton on the road to conclude the month. The regular season ends with games against Sheridan on November 1st and at Lake Hamilton on the 8th before the playoffs begin on the 15th.
Based on the information provided by Hooten’s Arkansas Football, here is a bare-bones summary of the other seven teams in the 6A West on Greenwood’s 2019 schedule.
The Panthers reached the state title game last season before falling to Greenwood for the second time in two months by a combined score of 107 to 47. They finished with a very solid 10-3 record.
Benton returns eight starters in 2019, including most of its offensive playmakers from last year. But the offensive line must be rebuilt, and the defensive secondary is inexperienced.
Head Coach Brad Harris enters his fourth season at the helm and seems to have the Panthers on an upward trajectory. Unfortunately, they play in the same league as Greenwood and so far have not been able to compete with the Bulldogs.
The winner of this year’s Greenwood-Benton contest could go on to claim the league crown and both teams could make a return appearance in the state title game in December.
The Wildcats have a new head coach in Steven Jones after former coach Scott Reed left for Class 7A Cabot. El Dorado won three state titles under Reed, but haven’t enjoyed the same results since joining Greenwood in the 6A West. The ‘Cats finished 2018 with a 5-6 overall record.
But Coach Jones does have 11 starters returning this season, so the cupboard is not completely bare, though the offensive players are learning a new system.
The team looks to be strong up front with a seasoned offensive line, but young on defense. There will also be new and unproven players at quarterback and running back.
The Cyclones are led by former Greenwood assistant coach Jeff Weaver, now starting his third season at the helm in Russellville, posting a 13-10 record to date, 7-4 in 2018.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Weaver and his team will be forgetting how last season ended with a stunning 31-29 double OT loss to Sylvan Hills in the first round of the playoffs.
Seven starters return from that team, and Weaver hopes to continue his renovation of the Cyclones’ program. But he will have to do so with inexperienced and unproven players at several key offensive positions, including quarterback, running back, and receiver.
The defense has experience and overall team speed has improved, so Coach Weaver has some tools to work with this season. The schedule is also favorable for the Cyclones, hosting both Greenwood and El Dorado while facing Benton on the road.
The Panthers finished 5-6 last season, losing in the first round of the playoffs, but return 14 starters from that team, many of them on defense. Thus, most of the 2019 question marks exist on offense.
Head Coach Brandon Craig begins his second year at Siloam Springs needing to replace a quarterback and running back, both of which graduated. He has candidates, but they are unproven.
The Panthers also must play at Greenwood, El Dorado, and Russellville, while hosting Benton. Siloam Springs hasn’t reached the level where it can consistently compete with those four, but they are a threat to pull off an upset and qualify for the playoffs again.
The Wolves made the playoffs in 2018, finishing 5-6 overall. Head Coach Tommy Gilleran enters his third season with 11 returning starters, and hopes to build on last season’s modest success.
To that end, the coach will build around a solid returning nucleus on the offensive line and an experienced quarterback. But the defense lost several key starters and must find adequate replacements.
The Yellowjackets won just two games last season, but return 15 starters, more than any other team in the 6A West. So experience is one of their strengths, but quality depth remains a problem for Head Coach Lance Parker, now starting his third season at Sheridan.
The ‘Jackets have improved their overall team speed and strength, spending more time in the weight room during the off-season. But they enter the fall with an unproven quarterback, though the defense has several starters returning at key positions.
Sheridan is known for its softball and baseball traditions, earning state titles in both sports last spring, including a win over the Greenwood Lady Bulldogs in the state softball championship game.
But on the gridiron the Yellowjackets are clearly not in the same league as most of the other teams in the 6A West. They should be better, but the competitive gulf is just too great to overcome.
Little Rock Hall
The Warriors are tough to beat on the basketball court, but when it comes to football they are far behind their counterparts in the 6A West. Hall finished 1-8 last season and has only four victories in the last three years.
Starting his third campaign at Hall, Head Coach Kipchoge VanHoose is trying to bring a new attitude to the program and believes he will have improved leadership this season.
Hall returns eight starters from last year, but will have to replace virtually all of its skill players on offense. Likewise, the defense has some key holes to fill. It will be another dismal season at Hall.