Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

SPORTS>> Panther football tabbed 2nd in 7A

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

No area team impressed the publishers of Hooten’s Arkansas Football Magazine more than the Cabot Panthers.

The 16th edition of Hooten’s Arkansas Football hit the stands this week, featuring coverage of every college in the state, along with comprehensive previews of all of Arkansas high school teams.

The Panthers will start the season with a No. 2 overall pre-season ranking, with offensive lineman Jordan Gunn named to the Sonic 2008 Super Team.

Hooten’s cited the Panthers’ 18 returning starters as a real strength, while at the same time questioning their depth. They were picked to have the overall best defensive line in 7A football this year, and Chris Bayles was named as a 7A unheralded star, along with offensive lineman Matt Jackson and defensive back Hunter Hess.

Cabot was Hooten’s pick to win the Central Conference. Behind Cabot is Little Rock Central, followed by Catholic, NLR, Russellville and Bryant taking the final playoff spot, according to Hooten’s.

Mark Whatley and the Jacksonville Red Devils are picked to finish in the top half of the 6A East Conference. The Devils are tabbed at No. 3, behind West Memphis and Marion. Mountain Home is picked fourth, followed by Jonesboro and Parkview. Searcy, still expected to struggle in ’08, is picked to finish seventh in the East.

A pair of Red Devils also made the Sonic Super Team. Offensive lineman Micaiah Davis and linebacker Jeffery Tillman were both named to the pre-season all-star lineup, and running back Patrick Geans was named as a Class 6A unheralded star. Jacksonville is ranked ninth out of 16 teams.

Linebacker John Moore was listed as a 6A unheralded star. Hooten’s has the Lions finishing seventh, just missing out on the playoffs for the fifth-straight season.

Their strengths were listed at running back and linebacker. Their weaknesses were listed as inexperience on the line, along with lack of speed and depth.

If there is any solace for the SHS faithful, the Lions were ranked 13th overall, ahead of three metro schools.

No greater shuffling will occur than in Class 5A when the season starts in September. All three local 5A teams will do rearranging of some sort when fall arrives, but all three will be in the same conference. Beebe and North Pulaski will move from the East to the 5A Southeast Conference. The Falcons were in the Southeast until the last realignment back in 2006. For Beebe, it is a departure from a long tenure in the East conference, where year in and year out, they took on Wynne and Batesville, along with Blytheville, Paragould and Greene County Tech.

The biggest move will be by Sylvan Hills. The Bears ended their stay in Class 6A with a semifinals appearance in the playoffs last season, and will join the 5A Southeast for 2008.

The Badgers and Falcons will be replaced in the 5A-East by former 6A-East member Forrest City and by former 5A Southeast team West Helena.

The Southeast becomes a whole new beast. Monticello is picked to take the top spot in the reshuffled league, with Beebe picked second and Sylvan Hills third.

Despite what some believe is the best North Pulaski team in more than a decade coming back in the fall, the folks at Hooten’s picked the Falcons last in the conference for the third consecutive year.

The Badgers will start out with a No. 6 overall ranking, led by what Hooten’s proclaimed to be the best defensive line in 5A. Sylvan Hills will start at a respectable No. 8 in the preseason poll.

Senior Bear running back Lawrence Hodges was mentioned as an unheralded star, as was tight end Devin Shaw. For Beebe, linebacker Matt Dent and defensive back Brandon Purcell made the list. The Badgers’ Sammy Williams and Ross Stroud made the Sonic Super Team, as well.

A healthy returning Rollins Elam at quarterback was enough to earn Lonoke an overall No. 3 ranking in the 4A preseason polls, and a nod from Hooten’s to claim the 2-4A league title. Hooten’s listed Lonoke’s untested linebackers as a concern.

Clarence Harris, listed in the book as a wide receiver, made the 4A Sonic Super Team, and Elam was named as an unheralded player, along with Joel Harris.

Harding Academy is picked to return to the top of the 2-3A standings in 2008. The Wildcats were also picked fifth overall in the 3A preseason pole. Quarterback Matt Lincoln and defensive lineman Shane Taylor were named to the Sonic Super Team.
Riverview is launching its inaugural season and is picked to finish seventh, ahead of Rose Bud, which is entering its third season.