With August just around the corner, that means only one thing — football season is a little more than a month away. With the first game scheduled for Sept. 2, it won’t be long now until Friday nights become the busiest night of my week.
While I love football and every pulse pounding hit that comes with it, the pressure of trying to maintain fair and balanced coverage is always a huge obstacle.
Last year was my first full football season and I thought, for the most part, with just two full time newbies, our coverage of Saline County football was one of the best in the state, especially as the season progressed.
I am actually looking forward to the Salt Bowl this season because I believe it might not actually be one-sided this year. Last year’s game, despite the lopsided score, was still impressive because of the number of people in attendance.
The amount of support just kind of blew me away and with both sides wearing blue or maroon it was impressive to the eye as well. No word yet if they plan on doing the same thing this year, but I hope so because it is still cool to drive around both towns and see one of those shirts.
With nine wins on the year, Bryant claimed its third league title (sharing it with Conway) under Coach Paul Calley and earned a trip to the second round of the playoffs for the second time in the past three years.
The Hornets won five games in a row, including a double-overtime thriller over Conway.
In may, Bryant graduated 36 seniors, its most successful class in school history (25 wins from 2008-2010). All-state defensive end Josh Hampton who had 104 tackles and four sacks in 2010, signed with Missouri State, while all-state center Justin Rauch received a scholarship from Henderson State.
Benton made the playoffs last fall for the first time since 2006, despite adjusting to a new offense and new head coach Scott Neathery. After an 0-6 start, the Panthers defeated Sheridan, Little Rock McClellan and Little Rock Fair to earn the No. 5 seed in the 6A State Tournament.
The win over LR McClellan snapped an eight-game losing streak at C.W. Lewis. However, their three wins were later forfeited for using ineligible players.
Fifteen seniors graduated in May, including two-time all-state linebacker Lucas Haley. Benton returns starters at 16 positions and promotes more than 40 players to varsity this fall.
What I would like to see implemented is making a bigger deal out of the Bauxite/Glen Rose football game that happens on the same night of the Salt Bowl. Last year, the Saline Courier nick-named this series the “No-Name Bowl,” so naming this rivalry should be a first priority by the residents of these two towns.
Second, the idea of playing a double-header at War Memorial on a Saturday should also be considered. I realize that the Arkansas Razorbacks call Little Rock its home on Saturday, but I think if Bauxite and Glen Rose played each other first and then Bryant and Benton played each other afterwards, I think it would benefit all sides.
Just an idea to consider.
Bauxite struggled in its first year in the 4A conference, winning just one game — a 42-21 win over Carlisle. It was their worst season since 1962 and was the just the second time in the 17 years that the Miners would miss the playoffs.
Eleven seniors graduated in May, including all-league lineman and three-year starter Taylor Appling. With 20 lettermen returning this year, the Miners could make a push for the playoffs this fall.
The Glen Rose Beavers won their first-ever conference championship, finishing the season with an undefeated record before losing in the third round of the playoffs. Returning this year is junior quarterback Collin Hunter who passed for more than 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall.
In their first-ever varsity football season, the Harmony Grove Cardinals won two games — a 35-14 win over Poyen in the season opener and a 41-0 win over conference foe Cutter Morning Star. The Cardinals have a good core of running backs but lack size and experience at the offensive line.
Last year was our first year to include the Sheridan Yellowjackets, which created a little buzz because county residents didn’t understand why we included them in our coverage.
For one, some residents of Saline County that live in East End attend Sheridan High School. Sheridan is also in a bermuda-triangle for newspaper coverage. They are just out of our reach and also out of the reach of a couple of other state papers as well.
The Sheridan Yellowjackets won five games last year, including an upset victory over Texarkana, 17-14. This year, veteran coach Louis Campbell hopes to install the Spread offense and reactionary defense.
They made it to the first round of the playoffs but were defeated by Jacksonville.
I think this year will be a good fall for Saline County and I look forward to covering all of our sports including football, volleyball, golf and tennis. Alongside assistant sports editor Josh Briggs, who begins August 5th, we will try our best to keep you informed about your local sports news.
Information provided by the 2011 Hooten’s Arkansas Football magazine.
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Sam Pierce is the Co-Sports Editor for the Saline Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 315-8228 ext. 257.