Where cotton once was king, pigskin has taken over Mississippi County in a big way.
Oh sure, Rivercrest – the school that enveloped a big part of the south county around Wilson – has been a solid football program for many years. But of late, the Colts have certainly not been the only good football program in Mississippi County.
Clinton Gore moved to Osceola from Forrest City one day in 1990, waved his hands over the infertile playgrounds like David Copperfield and – voila! – a football program produced bumper crops that spat forth 12 consecutive playoff berths after the school had played just one postseason game in its history.
Not only were there playoff berths, but 11 winning seasons came from Gore's fields. From those, Gore cultivated seven conference championships, four state-title berths and two state-championship teams.
Not bad for anywhere and a verified miracle for a town like Osceola, where cotton and soybeans had always been king.
Up the road a piece in Gosnell, Jim Stanley started his own magic show. What he had to work with wasn't much better than the Mississippi Mud where Gore had planted his Osceola crops. But Stanley turned things in the right direction and a new man on the scene, Freddy Bowen, reaped the rewards last season with a 12-1 campaign.
No county is more assured of having a conference champion in 2003 than Mississippi. It's three stablemates wouldn't pay much more than even money on a trifecta box.
But some things will have to change. At Osceola, a AAA-ordered suspension of Gore for a couple of weeks obviously dampened the Seminoles' spirits. The Seminoles finished an uninspired fifth in the league at 3-7, beaten to the postseason feast by East Poinsett County and Trumann.
Getting back ahead of EPC and Trumann won't be easy, but when you look back at where Osceola has been in the past 12 years, it's obvious that the Seminoles know the way.
Harrisburg, Westside – with the prefix Jonesboro because there are just too darn many Westsides in this state – and Piggott are average ballclubs in way over their heads.
Especially when they enter the treacherous field of Mississippi County.
Here's how RPS sees the 3AAA race stacking up:
4-3 East Poinsett County
2-5 Jonesboro Westside