SPORTS >> Hootenís picks Panthers, Wildcats in league
Leader sports editor
Hootenís Football Magazine picked Cabot and Harding Academy to win their conferences, but the annual prep publication had little love left over for the other Leader-area teams.
The Panthers earned Hootenís nod despite returning only nine of 22 starters off last seasonís 9-2 team. Among those returners, running back Michael James, noseguard T.J. Bertrand and linebacker Spencer Neumann were named to Hootenís 7A Super Team, while defensive back Joe Bryant and quarterback Seth Bloomberg were listed among the unheralded stars.
James, Neumann and Matt Bayles comprise what Hootenís listed as the best backfield in 7A.
Cabot was ranked third overall in 7A.
Jacksonville, which lost a lot of talent off the offense but which returns nine starters on defense, was picked to finish fifth in the 6A East and was ranked 10th overall in 6A.
The Searcy Lions, under first-year head coach Tim Harper, was picked to finish ahead of only Little Rock Hall in the 6A East and was ranked 13th overall. Running back Hayden Mercer was tabbed as an unheralded star.
First-year head coach Rick Russellís North Pulaski Falcons were picked to finish last in the 5A-Southeast after losing 15 of 22 starters.
Sylvan Hills, which was listed as having the best linebackers in all of 5A, was picked second in the Southeast Conference behind Monticello. The Bears were tabbed ninth overall in 5A.
Running back Juliean Broner made Hootenís Super Team, while quarterback Jordan Spears, defensive end Nic Brewer and linebacker Michael Robinson were all listed as unheralded stars.
John Shannon will begin Season 3 at Beebe with as little experience returning as heís had since he took over in 2007. Only eight starters return, though one, Spencer Forte, was named to the 5A Super Team, while running back/safety Victor Howell was named an unheralded star. The Badgers are picked fourth in the Southeast, 17th overall.
Lonoke, coming off a 10-2 season, but with only seven starters back, was tabbed third in the 2-4A Conference, while fullback/defensive end Morgan Linton was a member of the 4A Super Team. Running back Brandon Smith and receiver/defensive back Todd Hobson were named as unheralded stars.
The Jackrabbits, under first-year head coach Doug Bost, are ranked 12th overall in 4A.
Harding Academy, with unheralded stars in quarterback Seth Keese, running back Tyler Gentry and center Matt Calhoun and Super Team defensive lineman Montgomery Fisher, are picked to win the 2-3A Conference and are ranked sixth overall.
Riverview, entering its second year as a varsity program, was picked fourth in the 2-3A after reaching the playoffs in its inaugural season. Grafton Harrell, Ben Overstreet, Stetson Evans, Chance Hunton and Chayse Parson were listed as unheralded stars.