The Uneven Playing Field: NWA vs. Central Arkansas

Sorry, Prince. "Purple Reign" belongs to the Fayetteville Bulldogs these days.

Sorry, Prince. “Purple Reign” belongs to the Fayetteville Bulldogs these days. Courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A casual observer might call the down-to-the-wire victory Fayetteville High pulled off at North Little Rock High on November 23 an act of God. North Little Rock had just finished surging back from a 24-6 deficit early in the fourth quarter to take a 28-27 lead with 30 seconds left in the 7A state playoff semifinals. As the teams lined up for the ensuing kickoff,  the home crowd was rocking. Surely, after so many close calls, North Little Rock would make its long-awaited appearance in the state’s football championship game.

Then, the most statistically probable miracle in Arkansas sports happened.

In 25 seconds, Fayetteville drove the ball down the field with almost surgical precision. A 22-yard kickoff return and two passes totaling 37 yards led to a 38-yard field goal that sailed through the uprights and cut through the heart of every blue and yellow clad fan in the stands that bitter cold night.

Was it manifest destiny that Fayetteville return to its third straight championship game, where it would win its second straight title?

Maybe.

But, more likely, it was only the latest result of Arkansas sports’ own law of probability: Most things being unequal, northwest Arkansas football teams have the edge over central Arkansas counterpart long before they ever take the field.

Since 2004, no central Arkansas team has made the finals of 7A, the state’s largest classification. A team from the northwest, including Fort Smith, has won the title every year since 2005. Each runner-up since 2006 has also been from NWA. This year, NWA dominance extended to the second-largest classification when Greenwood beat Pine Bluff 51-44.

Central Arkansas’ biggest schools keep falling short. “Frankly, it’s almost embarrassing to those who have some pride in your athletic programs,” says Frank Williams, the athletic director at Little Rock McClellan High School, which is in 6A.

Why can’t anybody beat NWA?

“All coaches have talked about it from time to time, and everyone has their own theories,” says Shane Patrick, head coach at Springdale High School and former president of the Arkansas Football Coaches Association.

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Parkview vs. Hall headlines 7A/6A Friday games

The Friday Night Lights will burn bright between these two Top 5 teams and heated rivals. For sure, guards Anton Beard (left) and Jobe Dillard (right) will be ready. Will you? Photos courtesy of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Tom Harden of Little Rock Hall High

There’s a lot of stuff online about central Arkansas high school basketball. I’m one of the few people eager to actually wade through it all. I did so, and give you essential previews  of Friday’s big games in 6A and 7A:

Hall @ Parkview

As good as it gets in Arkansas hoops. Detailed breakdown at  ARPreps.com Prepscast. Also, Buzz 103.7 FM will broadcast the game as its featured matchup of the week.

[UPDATE – Hall won 63-56. For Hall, Bobby Portis had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocks. Javan Perry (13 pts), Jobe Dillard (11 pts) and Aaron Walton (10 points) make up the other high scorers. Anton Beard led Parkview with 20 points. I.J. Ready started slowly (was defended by Quan Jones) but heated up toward the end, finishing with 17 points. Emanuel Adoyi scored seven points before fouling out]

On Tuesday, Hall (11-3, 2-0) beat Marion 60-49. Arkansas commit Bobby Portis scored 17 points, and Jobe Dillard added 12 points.

Parkview (13-1, 1-1)  lost at home 74-63 to Jacksonville.

 The 74 points are the most the Patriots have allowed this season. No other Arkansas team has scored more than 60 on Parkview (13-1, 1-1) this season.
Jacksonville (11-3, 1-1) led 18-9 after one quarter and 40-23 at halftime.
“I can’t remember when someone jumped on us like that, especially at home,” Parkview Coach Al Flanigan said. “We didn’t play any defense, but I give Coach Joyner’s crew a lot of credit. They played well…  Parkview sophomore Anton Beard led all scorers with 27 points and he also made six steals. Junior guard I.J. Ready was held to 14 points and Emmanuel Adoyi added 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. ” – Tim Cooper, via ARPreps.com

Here’s KATV video of Parkview’s I.J. Ready against Jacksonville.

Cabot @ North Little Rock 

Cabot boys (9-2, 0-2) lost 55-52 to Catholic. Fox 16 video highlights from that game here (look at upper right corner)

North Little Rock boys (10-4, 1-1) beat Conway 72-53

Tyree Hollister, who had five 3-pointers, led a balanced North Little Rock attack with 21 points. Thomas Alexander added 12, Cody Ware 11 and Gary Vines 10 … via Conway’s Log Cabin Democrat

Cabot girls (13-4, 2-0) -

[Arkansas signee] Melissa Wolff and the Cabot Lady Panthers warmed up for Friday’s showdown with North Little Rock by winning at Mount St. Mary 66-38 on Tuesday in Little Rock.  Wolff scored a game-high 17 points and came up with five steals and four assists for the No. 5 Lady Panthers – Tim Cooper, ArPreps.com basketball

North Little Rock girls (14-2, 2-0) beat Conway 60-40:

A key for NLR was the defensive play of LaShaun Brooks, who shut down Chambers the second half.

“That was big for us,” said NLR coach Daryl Fimple. “She’s capable of playing that kind of defense.”

Chambers led Conway with 13 points and Foster added 11. Xena King led NLR with 13 points. Lexus Williams had 10 and Kaprecia Slocum nine.” via Conway’s Log Cabin Democrat.

And here’s a KATV video feature on Lexus Williams, the Lady Charging Wildcats’ 6-1 senior who’s committed to Southern Methodist University.

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Salt Bowl: Higher Ed (ition) – UALR-Benton vs. UALR-Bryant

In a previous post, I looked at some 2011’s biggest sports stories … by imagining their implications in the year 2020.
Here are more predictions:

Just wait.

3. In 2011, the Benton campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced plans for its first four-year program. The school says it’s starting small by only allowing 30 students to initially pursue the new E-commerce degrees, but talk still surfaces of building a new UALR-Benton campus.In 2020 … UALR-Benton and the brand-new UALR-Bryant announce plans to start football programs.
Proceeds from the annual football game between the teams, dubbed the “Salt Bowl: Higher Ed(ition),” are expected to fund 90% of the nascent athletic departments. Boosters of UALR athletics lament this as the first documented case of satellite campuses starting football programs before the main campus. Boosters of UALR-Benton and UALR-Bryant begin seriously examining the possibility of preserving their rivalry through football if a University of Arkansas – Saline County is formed.
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