Class 7A Rankings, Picks and Notes, Week 0, 2023

Class 7A Rankings, Picks and Notes, Week 0, 2023

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Hooten’s Arkansas Football Rankings 

Class 7A, Week 0, 2023

Copyright Seventy Seven’s Football Publishing, LLC

  1.  Bryant
  2. Conway
  3. Bentonville
  4. Cabot
  5. Fayetteville
  6. Rogers
  7. LR Southwest
  8. Bentonville West
  9. FS Southside
  10. North Little Rock
  11. FS Northside
  12. Jonesboro
  13. Har-ber
  14. Springdale
  15. Heritage
  16. LR Central


No. 4 Cabot at NO. 5 FAYETTEVILLE

    Fayetteville has won 3 of the past 4 meetings dating back to 2014, but Cabot won 31-28 last year en route to a solid 9-3 season. The Panthers lost to state champion Bryant 24-10 and Louisiana 5A runner-up Ruston and Bentonville in the state semifinals.
    Fayetteville’s coaching staff is led again by former Razorbacks quarterback Casey Dick. The Bulldogs lost 3 games by a total of 5 points in the regular season and might have entered the postseason undefeated if a few plays had gone their way.
     Cabot must replace 7 starters on offense and defense, but Coach Scott Reid has plenty of options with 177 players taking part in spring drills. Cabot has no representatives on the 2023 Super Team, so they will have to play the way the Panthers have for years, with  team football, and good coaching. 
    Cabot receiver Hayes Cox caught 6 passes for 117 yards last year vs Fayetteville. H-back Gavin Reardon, a state wrestling champ, is smart, big and has great hands. He is going to be a very good player if he can avoid the injury bug.  Coordinator John Panter’s defense will be led by explosive playmaker De’Kaleb Rudolph and all-state linebacker Gavin Vest (84 tackles).
    Fayetteville enters the game with 3 Super Team members: QB Drake Lindsey, a University of Minnesota commitment, who passed for 3,751 yards and 37 TDs last season. Junior receiver Jaison Delamar caught 54 passes for 770 yards last year.
    Super Team members Kaden Spencer and Noah Janksi lead the Fayetteville defense. Janski was listed at outside linebacker last year and had 73 tackles and 4.5 sacks.  Coach Dick says he is the leader on defense. Spencer comes over from Springdale High after making 52 tackles last year and Coach Dick says he is a great pass rusher.

Both Teams were a play or 2 away from turning good seasons into great one's last year. The Northwest Arkansas vs. Central Arkansas scenario adds intrigue to the matchup. Turnovers are always a big factor, but I think explosive plays will determine the winner. Play design, special teams, and whoever can call the right play at the right time will factor in on this game even more than usual.  My prediction is that Fayetteville avenges last year’s 3-point loss because of Lindsey, its experienced starter at quarterback. If Cabot can’t apply pressure on Lindsey, he will put up big numbers and should lead the Purple Dogs to a win.

NO. 1 BRYANT vs. Class 6A Benton (Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium): Five-time defending Class 7A state champion Bryant has won the Salt Bowl every year since 2005 save for a 14-14 tie in 2014. The Hornets make their debut for Coach Quad Sanders, who succeeds Buck James, who resigned in June to take over at Conway. The Hornets proved explosive on offense in last week's 48-28 victory over defending Class 6A state champion Pulaski Academy in a scrimmage. Benton seeks its second conference title in 3 seasons this fall behind senior tailback Braylen Russell, who has committed to Arkansas. Senior QB Cline Hooten earned the starting job last year at midseason and started the Panthers' final 7 games. It will be interesting to see how an SEC-caliber RB kicks off his senior year against Bryant and its first-year coach, who spent the past 5 years as the Hornets’ defensive coordinator. Benton Coach Brad Harris will have his guys ready to battle to try to put an end to Bryant’s 53-game in-state winning streak. Quad Sanders will be wanting to make his mark on the program and what better way to do it than in this showcase game.

NO. 3 BENTONVILLE at Broken Arrow, Okla.:  Bentonville (11-2 last year) won this matchup 56-48 a year ago. The Tigers’ offense revolves around starting QB Carter Nye and top receiver, C.J. Brown. Nye threw for almost 3,000 yards and 28 TDs, and Coach Jody Grant says he will be one of the state’s best. Brown excelled in the playoffs, including a 33-yard TD reception in the semifinals and 4 TDs in the quarterfinals vs. North Little Rock. Brown has at least 15 Power 5 scholarship offers, including Arkansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Purdue. Bentonville’s defense will be led by Ben Pearson, who had a drive-wrecking 16 QB sacks last year. Rivers Wiseman returns at linebacker (nearly 100 tackles last year) to lead a defense that yielded an average of 14 points per game last season. It’s great to see Arkansas teams playing out-of-state games and showing everyone around us what good football we have here! 

No. 7 LR Southwest at NO. 6 ROGERS: The Mounties won 49-20 last year, but this is a matchup of teams on the rise. Coach Daryl Patton says he will be disappointed if the Gryphons don’t make the playoffs and says he feels like “we are starting to look like a 7A football team.”  Those are strong words from a coach who has been to the top and knows what it’s like to win a state championship (3 at Fayetteville) but is coming off a 2-win season. He definitely has my attention. 

The Gryphons have 30 seniors on the roster after 11 last season and zero in 2021. That experience, along with increased knowledge of Patton’s system, should help them take a big step forward. Watch out for senior WR Jabron Lewis, who rushed for 888 yards and 7 TDs on 130 carries as a RB last year. “I think he’ll be the best receiver in the state,” Patton said. Add Logan White, who came over from Parkview, and Aaron Granado who transferred in from Bryant, and it looks to be a threesome at receiver that teams will have to find a way to deal with. The defense is led by Ter’quan Anderson in the secondary and defensive linemen Egeston and Kennedy, who has offers from Missouri, UT-Martin, and UAPB.

Rogers is coming off back-to-back 9-win seasons and Coach Chad Harbison has the Mounties in the best 2-year period in more than 50 years. He says the expectations are starting to get where he wants them. I truly believe that is a big part of being successful. The team and the community need to believe and expect success, and that goes a long way in preparation and execution.

Dane Williams (2,369 passing 25 TDs) returns at QB for Rogers. But the staple for the offense appears to be Jacob Jenkins who ran for 1,507 yards and 17 TDs.  I have seen Coach Harbison’s teams play, and he knows how to use his running backs to open the passing game. The defense will be led by Benet Tiner on the defensive line and Tyler Pinkerton at linebacker. The Gryphons’ speed will test Rogers, so the Mounties’ front 7 has to make sure it doesn’t allow runners to break free into the secondary and allow a 5-yard run to turn into big plays.

NO. 8 BENTONVILLE WEST at Booker T Washington, Okla.: The Wolverines open the season on a mission: “We’re building the expectations that we aren’t going to be happy unless we win it,” Coach Bryan Prat said in the offseason. Pratt is referring to winning a state championship, and I commend him. That should be the goal with all the hard work players and coaches put into a season. Going public with that sentiment shows he believes the team can take another step in the right direction after suffering 4 losses last season. All 4 of those losses came to teams that reached the playoff quarterfinals. The Wolverines will be built around QB Dalton Rice, RB Cole Edmonson at  RB, and WR Jaxon Brust. Rice completed 9 TD passes with 4 interruptions as a part-time player. Rice threw for 382 yards and 4 TDs in his only start, against Springdale Har-ber. Bentonville West beat Booker T Washington 28-7 last year, and I don’t think a trip to Tulsa will slow it down.  I am pulling for the Arkansas team here and I believe it will win.

No. 11 Fort Smith Northside at NO. 9  FORT SMITH SOUTHSIDE: The Mavericks hold a 14-8 lead in the series over the past 22 seasons, although Northside won 42-24 last year. I expect a defensive battle this time. Southside Coach Ken Dameron will want to take some of the pressure off his starting quarterback, relying on a defense that returns 8 starters and RB Isaac Gregory (203-1,507 rushing, 21 TDs) to lead the way. Northside Coach Felix Curry said the Grizzlies never recovered after a heartbreaking early loss to Class 6A power Greenwood last year. A game with your cross-town nemesis always helps a team focus.

Class 6A NO. 5  LR CATHOLIC at Class 7A No. 10 North Little Rock: The Charging Wildcats have won 11 of the past 20 meetings with LR Catholic since 2001, but the Rockets launched their successful 2022 season, which resulted in a 6A East title and run to the semifinals, with a 23-6 conquest of the Charging Wildcats in the season opener. Catholic returns 17 starters for 2023, including all-league tailback Dominic Keeton, all-state receiver Brooks Ward, all-conference linebacker Jaxon Hatchett, and all-6A East cornerback Cade McConnell. Coach John Fogleman will want to build on last year and get an inspired start in 2023 to get that same momentum going. I expect trick plays, aggressive defense, and a fast start against a Charging Wildcats team that hired Clint Reed to take over in mid-June. The Wildcats will be talented, as they always are, but Catholic is riding the wave of 2022 that included the win against NLR.

Class 6A No. 6 WEST MEMPHIS at Class 7A #12 Jonesboro:  Traditional conference rivals meet for a nonleague game for the second season in a row. West Memphis won last year's clash 27-20 but Jonesboro has won 2 of the past 3 meetings. Starters return at 15 positions for West Memphis, including all-state QB Keland Mills, and all-state receivers Dylan Greer and Scotty Dobbins. West Memphis downed Class 4A Blytheville in its scrimmage last Tuesday night.

Class 5A NO. 1 LR PARKVIEW at Class 7A No. 13 Springdale Har-ber: Defending 5A state champion Parkview won this matchup last year 46-28. This year, with a championship to defend, and 12 of 22 starters back, Parkview will rely on returning QB Eric McGehee (2,102 passing, 24 TDs) and star RB Cameron Settles, who had 1,019 yards on 145 carries with 9 TDs. Coach Brad Bolding says Settles would be a “2,800-yard” back if he was the Patriots’  only running back. Parkview’s defense, with Brad’s brother Bobby running it, gave up 16 points per game and 11.7 points when not facing 7A foes. Har-ber will be rebuilding this year as Missouri Hall of Fame Coach Brett Eckley replaces longtime coach Chris Wood.

Class 7A No. 14 Springdale at Class 5A NO. 17 HARRISON: Harrison won last year 24-14 in the opener that was played at Springdale. This year’s game moves to Harrison, and Goblins Super Team RB Braden Long will be a player to watch in the inter-class game. Springdale Coach Brett Hobbs is switching to the Flexbone offense, which also should be intriguing to see.

Class 7A NO. 15 ROGERS HERITAGE at Class 6A No. 17 Siloam Springs: Heritage won 16-14 last year and looks to repeat the win as it tries to build on a 3-win season last year. Siloam Springs plays in the 6A West, one of the state’s most competitive conferences, and would love to get in a win early to build confidence. It will be a difficult task with a new QB and 3 returning starters on offense. 

Class 7A Little Rock Central at Class 6A NO. 1 LITTLE ROCK CHRISTIAN: Little Rock Christian is 3-0 all-time against LR Central, including a 41-6 season-opening victory last August. LR Christian coach Eric Cohu compares the 2023 Warriors to his 2018 team that won the school’s only state championship. Senior QB Walker White, an Auburn commit, headlines 7 returning starters for a LR Christian offense that averaged almost 40 points per game last year. Seniors Preston Davis and Cooper Jones are the top returning tacklers for Hooten's Arkansas Football's top linebacking corps for 2023. Little Rock Christian is ranked No. 1 in the preseason rankings, but is picked third in the 6A West by conference coaches. The Warriors have something to prove and want to get off to a good start. Little Rock Central has a new coach, Anthony Robinson, and has 8 starters returning on each side of the ball, including their starting QB, senior Adrian Bing, who might have been the only player in the state to take every snap last season. 

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