Bearden favored by some as 7AA-East kicks off

We'll find out quickly just how good the 7AA-East Conference is with Friday night's games across southern Arkansas. The most important of those games in the interleague clash between 7AA-East favorite Junction City and 6AA power Augusta on the campus of Henderson State University.

The 2003 season is set to begin. The Bearden Bears, picked by several publications to win the 7AA-East Conference, travels to Spring Hill. The Bears, who have over 50 players on their roster, will be led by running back Ben Owens. Hazen goes to Hampton to face the Bulldogs. This game will be a good measuring stick to see if the Bulldogs have replaced some of the talent they lost from last season.

Strong crosses the Ouachita River to take on Harmony Grove. Like Hampton, this game will be a good measuring stick for the Hornets. Both Hampton and Harmony Grove could be the darkhorses in the conference race.

In other games involving conference teams, Mountain Pine takes on Sparkman, Norphlet travels to Woodlawn, Mineral Springs plays Smackover and Lafayette County plays Westside Christian.

Some of the key players to watch this opening weekend are Ben Owens of Bearden, Drew Smith of Westside Christian, Koby McKinnon and Brannin Carter of Junction City.

 

GAME OF THE WEEK

Augusta vs. Junction City

A battle of state-title contenders takes place at Henderson State University this Friday in

Arkadelphia. The Red Devils are led by running back James Turner who is consider one of the top backs in AA. "Augusta likes to pound the ball down your throat," said Junction City coach David Carpenter. "Nothing fancy, just line up and get it on."

On defense the Red Devils use several formations.

Thee Dragons looked very good on defense Tuesday at the Star City scrimmage. Neither Star City nor Rison could score on the Dragons. Offensively Junction City moved the ball well but turnovers and penalties killed several promising drives.

"We've got to get the kinks out," Carpenter said when asked about his team's performance." This was good for us to come over here and hit somebody different and see how our offense would do against quality defenses. Now we know what we have to work on."

Drew McKinnon will open at quarterback for the Dragons. "Drew did some good things at the scrimmage. He needs to build on that."

Once again the Dragons are being mentioned as a state-title contender. Friday night they will find out if they are.

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When the Junction City Dragons take the field this Friday night to take on the Augusta Red Devils in the season opener, it will be more than a football game for Dragons head coach David Carpenter.

It will be a homecoming for Carpenter. Not only did he grow up in Arkadelphia, his father, Ralph "Sporty" Carpenter was the head coach at Henderson State University for 21 seasons and the stadium at Henderson State is named after him. The game will be played at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium.

It is the first time that Carpenter has led a team onto the field where his father coached.

Carpenter played on the field for his father from 1976-1979. "Yeah it will hold some special meaning for me," Carpenter said when asked about this Friday. "I have played and been a assistant coach on that field but never a head coach and I am looking forward to that."

When Augusta and Junction City agreed to play each other, they decided to meet halfway. "We had three choices, UAPB, OBU and Henderson. We talked to Henderson first and they were excited to host the game."

Kickoff is set for 7:30.

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Former Dragon running back Kevin Payne made his collegiate debut last Saturday night against LSU at Tiger Stadium. ULM lost the game 49-7 but Payne turned in a great performance. He rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries and scored the Indians only touchdown on a 12 yard run. He also caught five passes for 40 yards.

Gerod Payne recorded two assisted tackles for ULM. The Indians play at home this Saturday against Stephen F. Austin.


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