Hawgs Illustrated's 20 teams to watch in 2003
Listed in alphabetical order are the teams that might make for the best storylines during the 2003 high-school football season in Arkansas. Teams listed followed by their 2002 record and a comment as to why these particular teams would be among the more interesting teams to watch according to Rich's Power System.
Bryant (8-3) Will the Hornets be the same without former coach Daryl Patton? Of Bryant's four best seasons, Patton coached three and was the quarterback on the fourth.
Cabot (10-3) Coach Mike Malham's team won it all by beating three AAAAA-West teams and Pine Bluff in 2000. The Panthers are the "Beast from the AAAAA-East."
Conway (10-2) The Wampus Cats should make the playoffs for the ninth year in a row, but Conway fans have been waiting since 1993 for a post-Thanksgiving Day ballgame.
El Dorado (8-3) Ellis "Scooter" Register departs after taking the Wildcats to only one semifinal appearance, but did lead the team to seven consecutive playoff appearances.
Fayetteville (6-4) A new coach comes to town and the directive is to get the Bulldogs back in the playoffs for the first time this century.
Fort Smith Northside (5-5-1) Since winning the 1999 state title, the Grizzlies are in a playoff funk with only one postseason victory, a 2000 win over Conway.
Fort Smith Southside (12-2) The Rebels have been the best team in the state six times since 1983 and four times under Barry Lunney.
Jonesboro (9-3) The AAAAA-East Conference has produced just three state champions since 1968 and this is one of them, but Hurricane's only outright title came back in 1979.
Little Rock Catholic (3-7) With a big-name coach in Register, the Rockets hope to find their way back to the glory days 1984-85 when they won back-to-back championships.
Little Rock Central (7-5) The Tigers have enjoyed the luxury of a weaker conference to make the playoffs eight years in a row, but have not made the quarterfinals since 1991.
Little Rock McClellan (8-3) The Crimson Lions lost an up-and coming coach and still did not remove a hex that has kept them from winning a playoff game since 1994.
North Little Rock (2-8) Who couldn't get excited about a new coach, new artificial turf and one of the biggest pools of players in the state from which to draw?
Pine Bluff (10-1-1) After winning four state titles from 1990-95, the Zebras have won only three first-round games – and none in the second round – in seven playoff trips.
Russellville (8-5) The coaching ability of Jeff Holt will be challenged without Landon Leach coming back at quarterback. The Cyclones still have Tracey Stiger, though.
Texarkana (5-6) Only conference foe Pine Bluff has a longer continuous streak of playoff appearances with 17. The Razorbacks have been involved in 13 straight.
Searcy (7-3) Along with Fayetteville, the Lions were one of the two best teams not to make the playoffs. The next playoff berth will be Searcy's first as member of AAAAA.
Springdale (12-2) The only flaw in Springdale's game has been the inability to win it all. Last year's championship-game loss was third since the Bulldogs last won it all in 1989.
Stuttgart (14-0) Before Bobby Bolding, the Ricebirds had not won a playoff game since 1985. Bolding took Stuttgart to the semis in 2001 and then won the 2002 AAAA title.
Warren (14-1) In two postseason runs, the Lumberjacks won more playoff games (10) than they did in 30 previous seasons combined to put their stamp on football history.
West Memphis (9-3) The Blue Devils join Cabot as the only teams outside the AAAAA-West Conference to win first-round games the last three consecutive seasons.
Ten more teams to watch in Class AAAA:
Alma (12-1) Airedales have advanced to second round 11 consecutive times.
Beebe (10-2) If you missed DeWayne Lockhart, you missed quite a show.
Greene County Tech (4-6) With Mark Ford aboard, quiet Novembers may be over.
Greenwood (8-4) Dogs have made it to seven consecutive playoffs out of tough league.
Harrison (8-2-1) Last losing season came long before these current Goblins were born.
Hope (6-5) Midseason coaching change slowed up Bobcats' progress.
Hot Springs (9-2) Alfred Mohammed put ailing program back on its feet.
Pulaski Robinson (10-3) Senators' semifinal berth in 2002 was first since 1980.
Sylvan Hills (10-4) The Bears made their first title-game appearance since 1980.
Wynne (10-2) The Yellowjackets have only missed the playoffs once since 1986.
Ten more teams to watch in Class AAA:
Berryville (9-2-1) Carl Owens led Bobcats to first playoff win since 1984 before retiring.
Booneville (9-3) Only Nashville and McGehee (46) have won more playoff games (44).
Gosnell (12-1) Freddy Bowen left silver in East Poinsett County and nearly struck gold.
Nashville (11-3) The Scrappers have won 33 playoff games in the last 10 years.
Newport (10-3) Postseason qualifiers in 24 of 25 years, Greyhounds enjoy drop to AAA.
Osceola (3-7) Town formerly known as "Plum Point" was ripe for pickin' on in 2002.
Ozark (11-2) Michael Johnson picks up healthy program where Mark Ford left off.
Prescott (11-3) Curley Wolves are a dangerous playoff team (37-11) when they make it.
Pulaski Academy (9-3) All kinds of talent, but Bruins have never made semifinal round.
Rivercrest (13-2) Class AAA runner-up was almost derailed by Greenland early on.
Ten teams to watch in Class AA:
Barton (10-2) Any list of football powers has to begin with Frank McClellan's team.
Carlisle (8-4) James Clayton leaves, but did he leave behind keys to Bison dynasty?
Charleston (12-1) Tigers may be the best small-school team never to reach final game.
Danville (14-1) Beleaguered for playing in weak league, Little Johns played for it all.
Elkins (10-2) Rushing record alert: Josh Finkus racked up 1,928 yards as a sophomore.
Harding Academy (15-0) Wildcats waited 19 years between state championships.
Junction City (12-2) As good as Dragons are, they still can't crack their way into finals.
Mineral Springs (11-1) Ousted by Danville in quarterfinals, Hornets were legitimate.
Mount Ida (12-2) Another Danville victim, Lions made second semifinal push in school history.Rison (12-1) Will Wildcats remain last public school to win the Class AA crown?