Oh, to be 17 and not have a care in the world
There is so much drama in the real world.
And no, that's not a reference to the television show.
Yet, speaking of TV, anybody remember "Dawson's Creek?"
Most people did not watch the show according to the ratings, but the show did have a following.
Anyway, Dawson's Creek was "the story of five friends making the journey from adolescence to adulthood," according to its fan website.
It's about a small group of 16-, 17-, and 18-year-old kids who find themselves evolving into responsible, decision-making adults.
One of them even played football.
But it gets you thinking. After seeing everything those kids go through in just a single one-hour episode, it makes those of us who left our 17-year-old days behind long ago to wonder just how we ever made it this far.
Dawson's dad even coached the football team.
One week, they're in love with a sophomore cheerleader, the next week they can't even remember the girl's name. Sounds plausible.
Anyway, it makes you realize that if five kids can make for interesting television for six seasons, then an entire football team should have 10 times as much drama over the next 10 weeks.
OK, it's a reach. But stick with the idea for a couple of weeks, anyway.
Consider this weekly column - Rich's Power System's weekly picks - your episode guide for the 2003 season. RPS will "follow budding adults learning how to compete while refining their work ethic on the football field." Just think of it as Lincoln's Creek or Greenland's Creek ... or Fayetteville's Creek.
Mountain Home at No. 5 Fayetteville
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Harmon Field
Records: Mountain Home went 1-9 last year after reaching the Class AAAAA playoffs for the first time ever in 2001. Fayetteville has not been to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, but rebounded from a 2-8 campaign in 2001 to post a 6-4 record last year. The game marks the debut for both head coaches - Shane Patrick at Mountain Home and Daryl Patton at Fayetteville.
The series: It's been on-again, off-again between the two schools on the gridiron. Dating back to the Bombers' last win in 1983, Fayetteville has whipped Mountain Home six times in a row. Before last year, the Bulldogs last played the Bombers in 1992, posting a 36-14 victory at Harmon Field.
Last year: Fayetteville was a paltry 2-point favorite and locked in a 7-7 deadlock when the Bulldogs went for it on fourth down at their own 28-yard line. They failed to get the first down, but Fayetteville was trying to make a point. In the end, the Bulldogs had made several points and rolled like a boulder over the Bombers, 35-7.
The rankings: Fayetteville is ranked No. 5 in the state, trailing only Springdale, Southside, Cabot and AAAA state champion Stuttgart. Mountain Home has not been ranked in the last 12 Northwest Arkansas Times Top 40s. The Bombers' last appearance among the state's elite was at this time last season when they were ranked 39th in the preseason.
Outlook: Fayetteville bounced back from its worst season since 1992 by improving its record four wins in 2002. No other school in the AAAAA-West Conference can claim that kind of improvement. Mountain Home, after posting one of its best records in more than a decade in 2001, returned to its normal - and unacceptable, according to Mountain Home fans - ways with a 1-9 record. Coach Kevin Miller resigned six games into the season and interim coach Doug Young finished out the year.
RPS Bottom Line: Until Fayetteville broke that 7-7 tie last year, there was not a lot of proof that the Bulldogs had turned the corner and re-entered the upper echelon of Class AAAAA football. In all honesty, Mountain Home has never played to that level and that's why the Bombers are on their third coach since their last meeting - just one year ago - with the Bulldogs. Fayetteville won't be flawless, but it won't take a perfect effort to subdue the Bombers ... Fayetteville 36, Mountain Home 14
No. 24 Bentonville vs. Jefferson City, Mo.
Kickoff: Adkins Stadium, 7 p.m.
Records: Bentonville went 4-6 last season after Coach Gary Wear (16-7) led the Tigers to a 12-1 season and the school's first football state title in 2001. At one point, Wear was 14-1 as the Tigers' mentor. Jefferson City coach Tony Grosso struggled in his first year. The Jays, winners of 10 state titles from 1976-97, were a very uncharacteristic 2-8 last year.
The series: This is the second meeting of the two teams and Bentonville leads the series, 1-0.
Last year: Because of its long tradition, Jeff City was installed as a 24-point favorite against Bentonville. Despite coming off a Class AAAAA state title, the Tigers appeared to be in instant rebuilding mode, but the luster of that Arkansas title lasted for two more weeks as Bentonville knocked off Jeff City, 35-28, and followed that up with an even more impressive win over Webb City, 28-21, the next week.
The rankings: Bentonville is ranked 24th to start the year, its highest ranking since ending the 2001 season at No. 1. The Tigers spent six weeks in the Top 40 last year, but slowly disappeared after the start of the AAAAA-West season.
Outlook: There are sounds of excitement coming from Bentonville again. Following a third good summer of workouts with Wear, the Tigers have proven to be fast starters in the past three seasons and they are 9-1 under Wear in non-conference games. That would seem to be good enough to warrant picking the Tigers in an upset, but they are about to prowl into a mad Jays' nest. Jefferson City and a 2-8 record do not sit too well and the best way to rectify that is to come out on opening night and lay down the law. The law in Central Missouri for three decades has been that Jefferson City is a gridiron powerhouse.
RPS Bottom Line: Bentonville may think differently after getting the best of the Jays at home last season, but Jeff City still just lost to the Tigers by a touchdown with a 2-8 team. Playing at home is a little more insurance that the Jays will avenge last year's opening-season defeat ... Jeff City 37, Bentonville 18
Ozark, Mo. at Rogers
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Gates Stadium
Records: Ozark went 9-1 last year, the second consecutive 9-1 campaign posted by Coach Chris Allison. Rogers went 1-9 under Ronnie Peacock (3-17) and has been much more successful outside of the AAAAA-West Conference - where the Mountaineers are 0-14 over the past two seasons.
The series: This is the second meeting of the two schools. Ozark leads the series, 1-0.
Last year: Ozark was expected to win, 27-18, and held off the Mounties for a 21-15 victory last season.
The rankings: Rogers is unranked to start the season for the first time since 1991. The Mounties have often hovered around the lower end of the NWAT Top 40, but have not been in the Top 10 this century.
Outlook: That 9-1 record of Ozark's the past two years should indicate two things: First, it shows that the Tigers have probably been pretty good, even if they had been playing the Sisters of Mercy every week - which they weren't. Second, the fact that they've not made the playoffs indicates that the Tigers lost a key league game the last two years. It also means that Missouri's playoff system is archaic.
Ozark is not expected to be nearly as good this year and is picked by some publications to finish as low as fourth in a five-team conference behind Willard, Republic and two-time defending district champion Nixa.
RPS Bottom Line: To see Rogers playing summer football, it doesn't seem possible that this is a program that has won only three times in the last two years. Yet, the Mountaineers continue to find a way to point the ol' musket in the wrong direction and shoot their own toes off. This is a winnable game, one of six on the Rogers schedule, and it will be interesting to find out what direction the musket is pointing in 2003 ... Ozark, Mo., 26, Rogers 18
Greenland at Elkins
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at John Bunch Memorial Field
Records: Greenland finished 6-6 and made its second consecutive second-round appearance in the playoffs last year under Coach Lee Larkan, who is 16-8 at the school. Coach Aaron Clark (15-19) got off to a rocky start in his first two seasons at Elkins, but the Elks found ways to keep a five-year postseason streak alive and last year went 10-2.
The 'Speedtrap' Series: Greenland has won four of the last six, but lost last year and still has some ground to make up after losing 10 of 15 meetings from 1979-92.
Last year: Greenland entered the game a 22-point favorite, but RPS had never considered the importance of a sophomore by the name of Josh Finkus. Elkins won at Greenland for the first time since 1996 and did it handily, 28-12.
The rankings: Greenland is not ranked among the Top 20 in Class AAA after finishing the 2002 season at No. 19 - which is also where the Pirates started in 2002 before falling into the Bermuda Triangle for 10 weeks. Elkins is not ranked in the Class AA Top 20 to start the season, more of a surprise since the Elks spent the last 11 weeks in the season roaming from 13th to 18th. The Elks, though, were unranked to start the 2002 campaign and quickly bolted into the Top 20 after their win over the Pirates.
Outlook: This is two pretty good teams and two playoff contenders in their respective conferences. The shame of it all is that the two rivals have to open the season when their schools are practically equal in size. Greenland was at the very bottom of the Class AAA enrollment numbers in 2001 and Elkins was not far behind - but near the top of the Class AA numbers. Next year, the two teams will be together again and another local school on the cusp, Pea Ridge, will move up to Class AAA.
Enrollment numbers are a strange thing. This week's smallest of the three schools might be the biggest school next week.
RPS Bottom Line: School size aside, Greenland and Elkins are relatively equivalent on the football field. The Elks' home-field advantage is probably nullified by Greenland's motive for revenge. It all really comes down to finding people on the Pirates' side of the ball who are willing to step up and stop Josh Finkus versus Elkins' ability to slow down Greenland receiver Travis Grogan ... Greenland 24, Elkins 13
West Fork at Lincoln
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Wolves Stadium
Records: West Fork posted a 3-7 record last year, but has to break in a new coach - the third in three seasons - in Bryan Dougan. Lincoln coach Mike Guthrie endured a 1-9 campaign in his first year as a head coach.
The series: In two different conferences for the second time since 1992, Lincoln and West Fork have often been evenly matched. West Fork owns a 10-9 edge over the last 19 meetings and the Tigers have won six of the last 10.
Last year: West Fork was a 9-point favorite and knocked off Lincoln, 21-13.
The rankings: Neither team is currently among the Class AAA Top 20.
Outlook: Just when it looked like West Fork was getting up some traction to turn the proverbial corner, the Tigers were met with another setback late last spring. Tommy Cody, one year removed from leading Hampton to an 11-2 record, bolted from West Fork to Sheridan. Chances are, he won't win nearly as many games at Sheridan this year.
But if West Fork thought it had problems, then the Tigers can always be thankful that they aren't Lincoln. Elevated expectations resulted from good spring numbers and then, when two-a-days began, the bottom fell out on the Wolves. Lincoln is again relegated to a low body count and, to make matters worse, a fire to the school's old gym - the weight-training area for the players - did massive damage.
RPS Bottom Line: This is one of those "winnable" games for two programs that need every one of those "winnable" games they can get. Getting the early traction is important - both for Dougan in his first game as head coach and for Guthrie in his effort to turn things around. It's a game that can go either way, but Lincoln will need one or two more breaks than West Fork to win it ... West Fork 24, Lincoln 19
No. 33 Harrison at Prairie Grove
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Records: Harrison went 8-2-1 last year and returned to the playoffs for the first time since winning the 1999 Class AAAA state title. Tom Tice (170-62-5) has never had a losing season at Harrison, which is where Danny Abshier (62-46-2) coached before going to Prairie Grove more than 10 years ago. The Tigers went 6-3-2 last season and have been to the Class AAA playoffs seven consecutive times.
The series: This is the second meeting of the two programs. Last year's game ended in a tie.
Last year: Harrison, by even the least complicated of rankings, was a prohibitive favorite going into last year's game. Yet, Prairie Grove fought and clawed its way to earn a 14-14 tie with the Goblins in a game Abshier called "a good tie." A week later, the Tigers would still be winless - and unbeaten - when they suffered a "bad tie" against Dover.
The rankings: Picked by AAAA-West coaches to win the conference, Harrison opens the year ranked No. 8 in Class AAAA and 33rd among nearly 200 teams in the state of Arkansas. The Goblins have been in the Class AAAA Top 20 for 181 consecutive weeks - that's more than 15 years - and last were missing from the Top 20 in 1987. Prairie Grove is becoming a more regular member of the Class AAA Top 20 and opens the 2003 campaign at No. 19.
Outlook: Again, don't put too much emphasis on preseason scrimmages, but take note: Harrison defeated Fort Smith Northside, 21-14, in one half of play. The Golden Goblins have not one, but two quality quarterbacks and both of them outrank the young sophomore that Prairie Grove is going to put behind center tonight. Harrison rides into town with a bit of a bur under its saddle. Tice's team was caught a little off guard by Prairie Grove last year and was in no way satisfied with the 14-14 deadlock.
RPS Bottom Line: Prairie Grove held Harrison at bay last year and the Tigers' defense appears to be strong again this time around. It would be hard to match last year's feat, though, and the Goblins are much more aware of the fact that they play a good brand of football in Prairie Grove ... Harrison 10, Prairie Grove 7
Huntsville at Farmington
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Allen Holland Field
Records: Huntsville posted a 2-7-1 record last year, its first season in Class AAAA (although the Eagles were a Class AAA competitor before every classification added a letter) and the second time around, for Ken Harriman. Farmington starts over under Mike Adams, the former Charleston and Fayetteville coach. The Cardinals went 5-6 last year, but have been to the state playoffs three years in a row.
The series: The teams have played annually for the past 16 years and Farmington holds a narrow 9-7 advantage. The Cardinals had won three in a row before last season's meeting.
Last year: Farmington was a 1-point favorite, but Huntsville played more like a Class AAAA team and outscored the Cardinals, 33-30.
The rankings: Neither team is ranked among its classification's Top 20.
Outlook: Here are a pair of teams on the playoff cusp in their respective conferences and, although Huntsville is in a higher classification, these two teams are relatively even on paper. Huntsville has a lot of players back from that two-win team of 2002 and the Eagles, picked last by the coaches of the AAAA-West Conference, have to feel like they can do what Clarksville did last year and sneak into the playoff picture.
At Farmington, the Cardinals are getting more respect from their peers, but they are still in the middle of a logjam of teams - Gravette, Green Forest and Gentry - who could battle for the 1AAA Conference's last available playoff spot.
RPS Bottom Line: Of course, since both teams enter the game unbeaten, there probably isn't much talk about "just" making the playoffs. Everybody in the state is harboring conference-championship hopes and the winner of this battle will have a little bit more momentum to build on ... Huntsville 23, Farmington 21
McDonald County, Mo., at Siloam Springs
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Glenn W. Black Stadium
Records: McDonald County went 4-6 last season under sixth-year coach Jeff Wilkie (20-30) and posted a 6-4 record in 2001. Siloam Springs, under second-year coach Chris McBride, is coming off a 3-7 campaign. The Panthers have not posted a winning record since 1995.
The series: The teams played eight consecutive seasons from 1983-90 and Siloam Springs won all eight games, including the last one, 48-12. The closest the Mustangs came to the Panthers was a 27-14 loss in 1985.
Last year: A long vacation from playing seemed to aid McDonald County when the two teams met last season across the Missouri border. The Mustangs went on a scoring rampage and dusted the Panthers, 47-21.
The rankings: Siloam Springs is not ranked in the Class AAAA Top 20.
Outlook: McDonald County had an outstanding quarterback last year and the Mustangs did run roughshod over Siloam Springs. But McDonald County hasn't won a game in Siloam Springs in at least 20 years.
Panthers coach McBride had less than three months to prepare last year's team as he was not given the head-coaching job until June 11, 2002. The three months that spanned the 2002 season, however, showed that McBride can do the job and the reward was that the Panthers were still alive for a playoff spot when they met Clarksville in the regular-season finale last November.
RPS Bottom Line: Siloam Springs is getting some respect from the AAAA-West coaches, who noticed the improvement in the program last fall. McDonald County is breaking in a new quarterback and will not be nearly as threatening on offense as it was last season. The Mustangs will have to come back some other time to collect a victory in Arkansas ... Siloam Springs 25, McDonald County 17
Gentry at Cedarville
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Pirate Field
Records: The Gentry Pioneers posted a 4-6 record that included a 43-42 win over playoff-bound Greenland. Jeff Stewart moves in from England to take the reins at Gentry. Cedarville also starts the 2003 season with a new head coach. Shannon Rhea takes over a 3-7 squad that has not posted a winning record since 1999.
The series: The teams met for the first time ever two years ago and Gentry came away with a 14-12 road victory. The Pioneers lead the series, 2-0.
Last year: Gentry was a hefty 19-point favorite and proved to be far better than the spread indicated. The Pioneers welcomed the Pirates to Gentry and handed out a 47-0 beating. It took until the seventh game of the year for Cedarville to score a season total of 47 points.
The rankings: Neither team is ranked among its classification's Top 20.
Outlook: With Cedarville located a stone's throw from Van Buren, it will be interesting to watch what happens to the Pirates' football program in the next couple of years. It's not a question of competition, but it is a question of commitment - by the school to the health of its athletic programs and by the state to the health of its small schools.
Meanwhile in Gentry, the Pioneers are reaping a harvest by being the nearest town to a school that has succumbed to the crunch of being a small district. Several Decatur players have been released from their school district and are now attending Gentry. Decatur football was not bad at all last year and at least a couple of those former Bulldogs will be able to help the Pioneers.
RPS Bottom Line: Gentry ripped Cedarville last year and is bigger and better to start the 2003 season. Stewart, the Pioneers coach, has paid his dues at England and refers to Gentry as "Paradise." Whatever makes you happy, Coach. How about a victory? ... Gentry 33, Cedarville 16
Green Forest at Pea Ridge
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Blackhawk Stadium
Records: Green Forest posted a 3-7 record last year and Coach Bill Gotto (92-82-2) suffered his second consecutive losing season at the helm. Coach Mike Harrod (10-10-1) begins his third year at Pea Ridge, where the Blackhawks hung up a 7-4 mark and earned a trip to the Class AA playoffs.
The series: Green Forest leads the series with an 11-5-2 record dating back to their first meeting in 1971. Because of a two-year layoff and recent losses to the Blackhawks, the Tigers had not beaten Pea Ridge since 1996 ... until last season.
Last year: A 13-point favorite at home last season, Green Forest pulled out a 14-12 victory over the Blackhawks. In their last trip to Pea Ridge, Green Forest battled the Blackhawks to a 14-14 deadlock.
The rankings: Neither team is currently among its classification's Top 20.
Outlook: Something does not seem right about the RPS rankings this preseason. No, it's not as bad as some other rankings - rankings that will pick a team to win a conference title in one place and then rank them behind a conference foe in the other area. But it does seem odd that Pea Ridge is picked to finish ahead of Elkins in the 1AA Conference. The truth about the two clubs will probably not be apparent until the teams actually meet two weeks from tonight.
Looking into the reasoning for Pea Ridge being ranked ahead of Elkins, it seems that the Blackhawks are the only upper-echelon team from the 1AA Conference with 17 starters or more returning. That's a lot of returning starters from a team that won seven games last year.
RPS Bottom Line: There is more: If Pea Ridge is so good, then why aren't the Blackhawks picked to win over a sub-.500 team like Green Forest? The answer is in the pudding. Last year, Green Forest won four fewer games than Pea Ridge, but one of those was over the Blackhawks. This is a close call, but one that has some support ... Green Forest 19, Pea Ridge 17
Lamar at Gravette
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Bernard McAbee Field
Records: Under fourth-year coach Jay Holland (5-24-1) the Lamar Warriors went 1-9 last season and winless in the 5AAA Conference. Holland, the former coach at Farmington, is opposed again by longtime Farmington nemesis Charlie Phillips (59-45) and the Gravette Lions who are coming off their first 10-0 regular-season record in school history.
The series: The schools played three times from 1993-95 with Gravette winning two of them, both by a single point. Lamar's only victory in the series came 10 years ago, 20-13, at Gravette.
Last meeting: In 1995, Gravette defeated an independent group of Warriors who were coached by Dwain Pippin, 19-18. It was the last time that Lamar did not post a losing record, going 4-4-1.
The rankings: Neither team is currently among Class AAA's Top 20.
Outlook: Gravette opened the 2002 season at Decatur and ended up with its hands full in a 28-20 victory. Few could have known that the win would mark the start of a 10-game winning streak with several close calls along the way. The Lions bettered Berryville, 19-17, in what turned out to be the battle for the 1AAA Conference title. A month later, Shiloh Christian's offense put up 34 points on Gravette before falling, 35-34.
The Lions, though, like so many teams in the state, have had nine months to let soak in a season-stopping loss.
So consider what Lamar is going through with a nine-game losing streak. The Warriors have won just nine games in the past six full seasons. Last year's only victory was in the season-opener against Westside Johnson County.
RPS Bottom Line: Lamar has not lost a season-opener since 1999, going 2-0-1 in the last three years. Granted, the Warriors haven't been opening with teams of Gravette's caliber. Two of the wins were over Class AA Hartford. Gravette is thankful to have a game after Decatur dropped its program this season and should be even more thankful that its first opponent is a team the Lions can whip ... Gravette 29, Lamar 16
at Conway 20, Cabot 0
Fort Smith Southside 23, El Dorado 21 (at Conway)
Shiloh Christian 34, Benton 30 (at War Memorial Stadium)
Bryant 43, Warren 20 (at War Memorial Stadium)
Springdale 62, Pulaski Academy 0 (at War Memorial Stadium)
Ozark 22, Clarksville 15 (at War Memorial Stadium)
at LR Catholic 28, North Pulaski 16
at LR Central 15, West Memphis 14
at LR Fair 12, LR McClellan 32
at Pulaski Robinson 33, LR Hall 21
at Greenwood 27, LR Parkview 23
Camden Fairview 29, at North Little Rock 20
at Osceola 24, Blytheville 21
Wynne 19, at Forrest City 12
ay Jacksonville 35, LR Mills 8
at Jonesboro 26, New Madrid, Mo. 8
Sylvan Hills 25, at Searcy 22
at Lake Hamilton 18, Hot Springs 14
at Pine Bluff 20, Fort Smith Northside 18
Sheridan 21, at White Hall 16
Texas High 26, at Texarkana 15
at Watson Chapel 31, Hot Springs Lakeside 17
Russellville 30, at Morrilton 16
Alma 24, at Van Buren 22
at Magnolia 20, Crossett 18
Malvern 6, at Stuttgart 34
at West Helena Central 30, Marianna 12
Batesville 19, at Newport 17
at Beebe 29, Greenbrier 19
at Paragould 27, Greene Co. Tech 19
Rivercrest 25, at Marion 9
Trumann 25, at Nettleton 17
Pulaski Oak Grove 17, at Vilonia 12
at Dumas 22, Arkadelphia 13
Monticello 27, at Hamburg 24
Hope 18, at Nashville 17
Berryville 18, at Cassville, Mo. 7
Corning 36, at Rector 15
at Heber Springs 34, LR Lutheran 13
at Highland 24, Piggott 22
Hoxie 28, at Walnut Ridge 19
at Mountain View 34, Marshall 13
at Yellville-Summit 20, Clinton 9
Pocahontas 23, at Jonesboro Westside 13
at East Poinsett County 23, Marked Tree 13
Gosnell 29, at Lonoke 15
Harrisburg 33, at Parkin 13
at Booneville 25, Mena 9
at Mansfield 33, Mountainburg 9
Charleston 32, at Paris 8
at Atkins 21, Subiaco Academy 13
at Waldron 24, Dover 23
Danville 15, at Dardanelle 14
at Perryville 36, Bigelow 22
at Mayflower 17, Hector 16
Harding Academy 29, at Bald Knob 15
Brinkley 29, at Clarendon 9
Central Arkansas Christian 40, at Bismarck 13
at DeWitt 29, Dermott 17
at Star City 48, England 12
at Pleasant Grove, Texas 14, Ashdown 10
at Broken Bow, Okla. 20, DeQueen 16
at Fouke 27, Horatio 14
at Fountain Lake 32, Magnet Cove 12
Prescott 23, at Gurdon 6
at Liberty Eylau, Texas 23, Dollarway 6
at Fordyce 16, Rison 14
at Lake Village 42, Eudora 23
McGehee 25, at Bernice, La. 10
at Hackett 34, Pottsville JV 25
at Magazine 24, Hartford 16
Mount Ida 22, at Lavaca 8
at Earle 28, Elaine 18
Barton 19, at Hughes 12
at Des Arc 23, Palestine 21
at Thayer, Mo. 17, Salem 14
at Gillett 41, Turrell 22
Carlisle 21, at Arkansas Baptist 8
at LR Cathedral 26, Caddo Hills 21
at Glen Rose 20, LR Christian 16
Marvell 28, at LR Lutheran 16
at Ola 28, Cutter Morning Star 26
at Bauxite 23, Foreman 18
at Dierks 27, Centerpoint 14
at Jessieville 23, Murfreesboro 9
Mountain Pine 30, at Sparkman 17
Junction City 18, Augusta 12 (at Arkadelphia)
Hazen 15, at Hampton 14
Bearden 25, at Spring Hill 6
at Harmony Grove 29, Strong 17
Norphlet 31, at Woodlawn 22
Mineral Springs 23, at Smackover 10
Lafayette County 24, at El Dorado West Side 21