One thing needs to be said about weaker-than-well-water football conferences: They don't prepare teams for strong runs to the state title.
It makes perfect sense. A team in Class AAA is going to have to win five consecutive games to win a state title and at least two of those wins are going to have to come against conference champions. Mix in a couple more games against teams with nothing to lose and the five-game run to a state title is the toughest five games of the year for any team in just about any classification.
The point being that, in the 2AAA Conference, a good team enters the playoffs with little or no idea what the competition is going to be like until they get there. After a Round 1 game, a team like Newport is left with 15 other schools that are possibly all better than the second-place team in the 2AAA Conference.
OK, enough running down the 2AAA. But there's a reason for pointing out these little tidbits.
When Newport joined the 2AAA last year, the Greyhounds gave the league immediate credibility. What did the conference give Newport? Very little preparation for the playoffs.
Let's also interject the RPS theory of equilibrium here: Great programs in mediocre leagues often become really good programs in above mediocre leagues.
The bottom line: Newport gives the 2AAA a lot more than what it gets in return.
There are some developing programs that are capable of pulling off an upset of the Greyhounds, though. Pocahontas dropped down in classification in 1998 and has enjoyed five consecutive playoff trips. Yellville-Summit football used to be an oxymoron before Calvin Mallett came on the scene and the Panthers have been postseason participants in six of the last eight seasons.
Yesteryear's powers like Highland and Corning are of no immediate consequence nor do they present much danger to the top three teams in the league. Yet, the most interesting aspect of the 2AAA race in 2003 will be the race for fourth place between Mountain View, Highland, Corning and Hoxie.
We would mention Heber Springs, but out of our loyalty to Joe West, we'll just leave readers with one lone statistic: Heber Springs has lost 21 consecutive 2AAA games since making a 1999 playoff appearance.
Speaking of the playoffs: Wherever that fourth-place team goes for the first round of the playoffs, it's going to be a long, humbling trip home.
Here's how RPS sees the 2AAA race stacking up:
3-4 Mountain View
0-7 Heber Springs