The ultra-competitive 7-4A will be one of the toughest conferences up for grabs this fall.
Arkadelphia roared to its second straight conference title – this time unanimously – going 10-0 in the regular season and finally falling to Warren in the semifinals. Eight starters return from a potent defense that held five opponents to single-digit scoring in 2013. The challenge for the Badgers will be replacing its starting quarterback and running back, both of whom signed with Ouachita Baptist last spring.
Malvern has been a model of consistency, finishing in the top three of the conference in four of the past five seasons. However, the Leopards have yet to capture a conference title in that span. Second-year coach Mike Scarbrough will rely on workhorse back Montae Hernandez (1,800 yards in 2013) but must improve a front seven that was shredded by Arkadelphia and playoff foe Lincoln.
The Nashville Scrappers have won three conference titles and a state title since 2007, all under coach Billy Dawson, but sank to six wins in 2013, the lowest win output in Dawson’s eight (non-consecutive) seasons. The Scrappers struggled to produce on offense against bigger and stronger opponents, totaling 21 points or fewer against Hope, Watson Chapel, Ashdown, Malvern, and Lincoln. Senior quarterback Lucas Liggin (2,100 passing yards in 2013) is one of the stars the Scrappers will rely on to improve that figure in 2014.
Ashdown pushed its way back into the thick of the competition in 2013, winning nine games behind an occasionally nasty defense (just 26 total points surrendered to Malvern and Nashville). Do-everything quarterback Brandon Northcross leads a fast offense that could overwhelm slower opponents. Former 3A power Fountain Lake (2009 3A state champs) will bring its misdirection offense into the conference, where it will rely on quarterback Carson Chandler to navigate the bigger, faster defenses of the 7-4A. Mena (5-6 in 2013) moves over from the 4-4A, and the Bobcats are relying on the arm of Sage Kesterton (2,200 yards in 2013). Bauxite won just one game in 2013, but boasts a potent offense that scored 40 or more points four times. Waldron, coming with Mena from the 4-4A, hasn’t won a game since 2011, but new coach Dale Mann will try to change that.
Pick your 7-4A champion and check out THV 11’s 40 teams in the month of August preview of Malvern.