The 7A/6A South traded out Bryant for Parkview, becoming the 6A South this offseason. The conference contains most of the top teams in the 6A, with at least four programs capable of making deep playoff runs.
El Dorado has won four of the past five state titles and edged conference rival Pine Bluff to take last year’s crown. The Wildcats have an uphill climb to defend their title, though, as they’ll have retool an offense that lost all-state quarterback Clayton Waldrum and a defense that lost defensive player of the year Bijhon Jackson. The Wildcats do return 14 starters, including a veteran offensive line and a salty defense. Junior John Sixby and sophomore Jackson Waldrum are battling for the quarterback spot. El Dorado has a number of important positions to fill, but size and speed make the Wildcats favorites for another deep playoff run.
Pine Bluff has more of its offense in place, with eight returning starters from last year’s 9-4-1 squad that reached the state title game. Quarterback Ladarius Skelton (1,200 passing yards, 970 rushing yards in 2013) keeps the offense unpredictable. The Zebras need some work on the defense, especially up front, but are loaded with talent once again.
Lake Hamilton flew under the radar in 2013, forcing a three-way tie for second with El Dorado and Pine Bluff despite significantly less hype. The Wolves reached the quarterfinals before falling to Jonesboro. Lake Hamilton’s high-powered offense needs a new quarterback to step up, but a big line led by a pair of all-state tackles, Josh Graves and Hunter Wallace, should ease the transition.
Benton has been steadily improving under coach Scott Neathery, winning six games last fall and upsetting Russellville in a thrilling playoff game. Junior Cason Maertens takes over the reigns at quarterback, while Drew Harris, a transfer from Lincoln, will line up at running back. On defense, the Panthers will stop the run with hard-to-block defensive tackles Daniel Clegg and Bill Williams. Seven starters return for a Panther unit that was shredded by some of the better 6A teams.
Parkview slides over from the 7A/6A Central after a 3-9 season. The Patriots bring back eight defensive starters, but are looking for a quarterback and running back to step up. Texarkana brings back 17 starters from a 4-6 team that stunned El Dorado. Quarterback Keandrea Banks infused some life into a stagnant offense after taking over for the final four games. Sheridan defeated Hall (42-40) and Fair (18-15), but only managed 10 points per game, scoring single digits in six games. The Yellow Jackets lack size and speed. Hall went winless for the second straight season, scoring more than eight points just twice. The Warriors do have some size on the line in coach Tim Scarborough’s second season, but haven’t won more than two games in nearly a decade.
Make your pick of who will win the 6A South and check out THV 11’s 40 teams previews for Pine Bluff and Lake Hamilton.
40 Teams Preview: Pine Bluff Zebras