Realignment bit the 7A/6A Central, as Parkview, Hall, and the Fort Smith schools are replaced by Bryant, Alma, Siloam Springs, and Van Buren.
Greenwood finally lost in the 6A semifinals to Pine Bluff, ending an incredible 50-game winning streak. Life after The Streak begins with the transition to new quarterback Reid Wheeler, who threw for 700 yards in limited action last season. The Bulldogs are renowned for offensive and defensive discipline, but have to replace eight defensive starters. Kevin Jones, Ryan Padilla, and Grant Morgan – brother of Razorback Drew Morgan – headline Greenwood’s elite receiving corps.
Conway broke through to the 7A semifinals, giving state champion Bentonville a close game (21-14) on their home field. The Wampus Cats are big and physical, using a brutal downhill running game combined with accurate quarterback Breylin Smith (1,970 passing yards in 2013), who has an offer from UCA. Physical straight-ahead runner Kevin Chamorro (980 rushing yards in 2013) is a load to bring down. The Cats’ 3-4 defense has been known in recent years for big, physical linebackers, but Conway must replace a front seven depleted by graduation.
Bryant captured the 7A/6A South title as its lone 7A member a year ago, but the competition gets tougher in the Central. Quarterback Brandan Werner (1,000 passing yards in 2013) took most offensive snaps last season, while Brushawn Hunter (700 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in 2013) is the top offensive playmaker. Bryant has a good defense, but has to be able to move the football against bigger defensive fronts, after being held to seven points each in losses to Conway and North Little Rock.
Little Rock Catholic finished 5-6 under first-year coach John Fogleman. A late-season three-game winning streak followed by close losses to Conway and Har-Ber have increased enthusiasm. The Rockets are looking for playmakers and quarterback and running back, and need more depth. Alma moves up from the 5A after capturing the 5A West title a year ago. Nine offensive starters, led by all-5A quarterback Evan Burris (1,700 passing yards in 2013) provide the Airedales’ best shot at a playoff run. Russellville posted a 5-6 record, but returns just seven starters. The defense has to improve after getting torched in winnable games against Northside and Catholic. Siloam Springs blew a three-touchdown lead against Har-Ber, but finally won a conference game as a member of the 7A/6A West, knocking off Van Buren in the season finale. Quarterback Chris Lampton (1,800 passing yards in 2013) is back, but needs playmakers to distribute the ball to. Van Buren fell to 1-9 in Brooks Coatney’s third season. The Pointers should be improved on defense, but the offense lacks playmakers.
Make your pick of who will win the 7A/6A Central and check out THV 11’s 40 teams previews for Conway, Bryant, Catholic, and Russellville.