Despite a ton of uncertainty facing the upcoming high school and college football seasons, Hooten’s Arkansas Football has hit the shelves with rankings and insight into local and statewide teams should the pandemic allow for action this fall.
As for Saline County squads, Bryant remains at the top of the state and the 7A Central, having won back-to-back state titles the previous two years.
Coming off the only undefeated season in school history, and arguably the best season by a high school football team in Arkansas, the Hornets will be eyeing a third trip to the big dance under the leadership of Buck James.
Bryant finished the 2019 campaign 13-0 with three shutouts and eight straight mercy-rule games to start the year.
Under James, the Hornets have a combined record of 43-8 and have won at least 10 games the previous three years.
Bryant defeated North Little Rock to capture both its state titles.
The Charging Wildcats are breathing down Bryant’s neck in the Central at No. 2, according to Hooten’s.
Cabot, Conway and Little Rock Central round out the top five in this year’s preseason rankings.
Moving to the 6A West, Benton comes in as the No. 2 squad following a conference championship season and another state title berth.
Benton finished 9-4 during the season, losing to Searcy in the finals by a single point — 28-27.
Benton started the year 0-3 before popping off seven straight to end the regular season before winning its first two games in the playoffs over Jonesboro and West Memphis.
Greenwood comes in at No. 1 again this season after finishing 10-2 last year.
Searcy stopped the Bulldogs in the semifinals in 2019, winning 50-38.
Lake Hamilton, Little Rock Parkview and Van Buren round out the top five.
In the tough 7-4A, Bauxite comes in sixth and will face the hardship of new leadership as Caleb Perry takes over this fall. Former Head Coach Daryl Patton left for the job at the new Southwest Little Rock High School and took a number of key coaches with him, including longtime partner and friend Paul Calley.
Bauxite won six straight at one point last season before falling in four straight to end the year in the playoffs.
Harmony Grove ranks eighth, according to Hooten’s, after finishing 4-6 a season ago.
A tough conference stretch during the middle of the 2019 campaign cost the Cardinals a trip to the playoffs.
The top five for 7-4A sets up with Joe T. Robinson at the top, followed by Nashville, Arkadelphia, Ashdown and Malvern.
Following a 9-3 season, Glen Rose comes in as the No. 2 team this year, just after conference powerhouse Prescott.
The Beavers suffered a second-round loss to Melbourne to end the season a year ago.
Under Head Coach Mark Kehner, the Beavers are 112-37 with two state title appearances.
Jessieville, Centerpoint and Fouke round out the top five.
As for college teams throughout the state, beginning with the SEC West, Arkansas comes in last in Head Coach Sam Pittman’s first year.
Alabama, defending champion LSU and Auburn hold the top three spots coming in.
In the Sun Belt Conference, Arkansas State holds down the No. 3 spot, just behind Appalachian State and Louisiana Lafayette.
In the Great American Conference, OBU remains at the top, followed by Harding and Henderson State University.
Southern Arkansas comes in at five, followed by UA-Monticello and Arkansas Tech in sixth and seventh.
Editor’s note: Rankings were not published regarding the Southland Conference.