Final Notes from 2007 Season
December 24, 2007
Glen Rose head coach Billy Elmore may have said it best when he said he’d rather have a ring than a trophy after his Beavers had won the last of the six state championship games.
You see, Glen Rose didn’t win its conference. However, after quarterback Nathan Jones tossed a two-point conversion pass to Michael Blancher in overtime, the Beavers were Class 2A state champions with a 35-34 win over Shiloh Christian.
In the regular-season finale, Glen Rose was rocked by Bauxite, 41-12, in the 3A-8 conference championship game.
Fayetteville didn’t win its conference. Neither did Texarkana. Nor did Greenwood. Nope, not Nashville either.
Only Mount Ida was able to win both a conference and the state championship this season, capping a 15-0 season.
The playoffs, especially in Class 4A, 3A and 2A where there are five weeks of post-season play, are about endurance, perseverance and simply getting on a roll.
Perhaps the most telling of those character traits was displayed by Greenwood. The Bulldogs were blown out in week nine in the 5A-West conference championship at Little Rock Christian, 44-7. It marked the Bulldogs’ first mercy rule defeat. Ever. Five wins later, only one of which was at home, Greenwood was hoisting the state championship plaque for the third straight season.
Following the regular-season defeat, Greenwood had Get-Right Week, according to head coach Rick Jones. It wasn’t a week of punishment, just simply a week of focusing on the little things.
Fayetteville finished fourth in the 7A-West then beat two conference foes in the semifinals and the championship game to win the Purple Bulldog’s first state football title in the 100-year history of the school.
Texarkana also lost a 6A-South conference showdown to Lake Hamilton and was forced on the road in the playoffs where the Razorbacks won at West Memphis before bouncing back to beat the Wolves in the title game.
Nashville lost, 38-28, early in 4A-7 conference play to Central Arkansas Christian to snap the Scrapper’s 35-game win streak. The Scrappers, like the other state champions, also bounced back to win their third straight state championship.
UNDEFEATED REGULAR SEASONS
With only one conference champion advancing on to the winner’s circle in the state championship game, it also meant that an undefeated regular season didn’t exactly mean post-season glory.
A total of 11 teams recorded perfect regular seasons.
Corning, Marshall, Newport and Blytheville all lost in their first playoff game after going undefeated in the regular season.
Lake Hamilton, Little Rock Christian, and Bearden all had perfect seasons ruined in their respective state championship games.
Greenwood and Nashville won state titles for the third straight season to join a very exclusive list.
Following are the only teams in the modern playoff era to record three straight state championships:
Nashville 2005-2007Pine Bluff 1993-1995
Pine Bluff Dollarway 1988-1990
Barton is the only school to win four straight state title since 1968 with championships in 1986 through 1989.
While quarterbacks have dominated the statistics the past few seasons with the popularity of the new-age Spread offense, running backs took center stage in the state championship games.
Four running backs were named Most Valuable Player with Fayetteville’s Cody Hammer, Texarkana’s Dennis Johnson, Mount Ida’s Josh Baker and Glen Rose’s Doug Vinson leading their teams to state championships. Greenwood’s Tyler Wilson was the only quarterback that earned an MVP award. Receiver Tyler Serrano of Nashville was the Class 4A MVP.
Hammer and Vinson both went over the 200-yard mark in their performances. Hammer rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns in leading Fayetteville’s 28-7 win over Har-Ber. Vinson rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns in Glen Rose’s 35-34 win over Shiloh Christian.
It wasn’t a coincidence that the running backs had big performances in the state championship games. The team that rushed for the most yards won five of the six state title games.
Only Pine Bluff Dollarway, which utilizes the Wishbone, outrushed its opponent in a championship game and lost. Dollarway accumulated 292 yards on the ground while Nashville managed just 179 yards rushing in the Scrapper’s 42-26 win.
WHAT A FINALE
For the second straight season, the high school season ended with a two-point conversion in overtime.
Jarius Wright last year was ruled down just shy of the end zone as Warren lost to Nashville in double overtime in the Class 4A state championship game.
This year, Glen Rose’s successful two-point pass from Nathan Jones to Michael Blancher capped a 35-34 win in overtime for the Class 3A title.
For the past two years, there have been six classifications with the state championship games spread over three weekends. That could change.
Class 7A will propose taking six teams to the playoffs from its two conferences, meaning the championship game will be moved to the first week of December with Class 5A. Class 6A could follow suit with three state title games held then with Class 4A, 3A and 2A being held the second week of December.
The Class 7A state title game between Fayetteville and Springdale Har-Ber drew a crowd of only 4,221, according to attendance figures released by the Arkansas Activities Association.
That was the smallest crowd of the six state title games.
Even the Class 2A championship game drew more with an announced crowd of 5,284.
Greenwood’s 27-6 win over Little Rock Christian in the Class 5A championship game had the biggest crowd with 8,916.
A total of 34,783 watched the six state championships game, the fourth highest total ever. The largest combined attendance was in 2005 when over half of the total attendance of 49,557 watched Springdale’s juggernaut.
SOMEWHERE KEVIN KELLEY IS SMILING
Pulaski Academy head coach Kevin Kelley has taken a rather unorthodox approach to a couple of game strategies during the past couple of seasons. One of them is attempting to convert fourth-down tries from almost anywhere on the field at any time of the game.
In this year’s state championship games, the 12 teams combined to attempt 38 fourth-down attempts and converted 16 for an above average success rate.
With those same 12 teams combining to attempt just 31 punts, it also means the teams tried to convert fourth downs more than they punted.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME
When the Arkansas Activities Association adopted the current six-classification alignment two years ago, the organization cited more teams and players winning championships as a major advantage of the alignment.
It certainly seems to be working.
Fayetteville, Glen Rose and Mount Ida all won their first state football titles this season.
The final year of the 1.75 private school multiplier resulted in no private schools winning state football titles. Class 5A Little Rock Christian and Class 3A Shiloh Christian were both defeated in the finals.
It marked just the second time in seven years in which the private schools were shutout in football championships.
Next season instead of the 1.75 multiplier, the private schools will be elevated one classification from where their enrollment would have normally placed them.
The West and East conferences have boasted of being the top conferences in Class 5A the past several years. That could change next season.
With the new alignment, Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian joins Camden Fairview in the 5A-Southwest. That gives the conference three outright conference champions from this season.
6,000 AND BEYOND
Central Arkansas Christian’s Drew Stringfellow and Greenwood’s Tyler Wilson joined the 6,000-yard club this season. Stringfellow finished his three-year career with 8,935 yards and 78 touchdowns while Wilson finished with 8,232 yards and 94 touchdowns.
Pulaski Academy’s Spencer Keith, Lake Hamilton’s Phillip Butterfield, and Warren’s Hayden Smith are poised to join the club next season.