The 8-4A will be even tougher this fall when Dollarway, last year’s 2-4A champions, joins the conference. The conference has recently been noted for offense, specifically Warren’s, but defense may be key for each of the main competitors.
Perennial powerhouse Warren may be the best team in the entire 4A, and the Lumberjacks will be seeking their third straight conference title and sixth in the last eight years. Eight starters return in coach Bo Hembree’s spread offense, noted for producing D-I prospects such as Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, and Chris Gragg in recent years. Arkansas State commit Darveon Brown moves from receiver to quarterback, while senior running back Kiley Cox (700 yards in 2013) is also back. The defense, which pitched three shutouts and held eight opponents to 14 points or less, returns six starters. The Lumberjacks must watch out for injuries that could drain bodies from already-low participation.
Dollarway moves into the 8-4A after capturing the 2-4A title with a 13-1 season, losing in the semifinals to state champion Booneville. The Cardinals boast a more pro-style, power running game behind a talented offensive line. Running back Keyshawn Williams (1,300 yards in 2013) is the top rusher. On defense, the Cards may be even saltier than Warren, with five starters returning from a unit that didn’t surrender more than 21 points until the final game of the season. Linebacker Chalderius Avery led the team with an impressive 183 tackles.
Star City continues to maneuver into position to unseat Warren. The Bulldogs lead the conference with a staggering 17 returning starters (nine offense, eight defense) after winning nine games in coach Jett Furneaux’s first season. The Bulldogs have quite a bit of size, but must get faster on offense and in the secondary to contend with the 4A’s elite. Junior Austin Capps (6’4, 307) plays on both lines and has an offer from Arkansas and has been attracting major D-I interest. Star City can control the line of scrimmage and should be able to hang with anyone.
Hamburg won nine games in 2013, its highest total in a decade, adding to the logjam near the top of the conference. First-year coach Cecil Ray Cossey will try to keep the momentum going, and he’ll be helped by seven returning starters on offense. Hamburg struggled to move the football against the 4A bluebloods, scoring 21 points or fewer against Camden Fairview, Star City, Warren, and Booneville. The Lions were helped by a defense that shut out five of its first seven opponents to start the season, and only gave up more than 22 points three times. Hamburg will rely on tall receivers to move the ball, namely 6-foot-3 Joquion Johnson.
Monticello, the 2009 state champion, lowered its win total in each of former coach Greg Tiner’s four seasons (8, 7, 5, 4). New coach Marty Davis will rely on a tough defense and the return of quarterback Garrett Jeffers, who missed most of 2013 with an injury, to return the Billies to the top. DeWitt won four games, it’s highest win total in a decade, and needs to control the line of scrimmage with four veteran offensive linemen reach the playoffs. Dumas fell to just two wins, it’s lowest in over a decade, and now must deal with only six returning starters. The Bobcats’ spread running attack is spearheaded by elusive backs LaDarius Harris and Lamar Hemphill. Crossett won three games in coach Sonny Nason’s first season, including an upset win over Dumas, and will rely on all-conference tackle Austin Mauser and a big offensive line to move the ball.
Make your pick for who will win the 8-4A and check out THV 11’s 40 teams in the month of August preview for Dollarway and Warren.