Malvern looking for first state football title since 1993


It may be 2022, but Malvern is hoping to party like it is 1993.

Malvern (11-2) will face Harding Academy (12-0) Saturday at noon at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium in the Class 4A state championship game.

The Leopards are trying to win their first state gridiron title in 29 years when  future University of Arkansas star tailback Madre Hill led them to a 20-9 victory over Lake Hamilton.

“It’s been a great year and a long time coming,” Malvern head coach J.D. Plumlee said. “I am just super proud of our five seniors that we have and their leadership. We are our junior heavy. When I got this job here four years ago, these juniors were seventh graders and it has been kind of fun to watch them grow up in front of me and watch the process and kind of buy into what we have been trying to do around here. I am glad to see their hard work paying off.”

Plumlee’s team only losses this season have been  at Mississippi power Hernando (59-14) on Sept. 16 and at Arkadelphia (49-13) on Nov. 5 in what was a defacto Class 4A-7 championship game.

“I’ve said this all along to get to the state championship game, you have to one be good, two you have to have some luck on your side and three stay healthy,” Plumlee said. “Those three things we have been able to do during this run.”

Malvern has come back from three scores down in its last two playoff wins at Warren (28-21 in overtime) and last week against Nashville (56-37).

“That kind of gave us a shot of fresh air,” Plumlee said. “I was super impressed with how our guys handled the Warren game in the quarters on Thanksgiving (weekend). First of all, going to Warren is always tough and it had been a long time since we had won a quarterfinal game.

“We had gone down there, got down 14-0 and didn’t plat well at all in the first half offensively – lot penalties, just dropping footballs and didn’t play well.

“W came out in the third quarter and feel good about it, but on the second play we throw a pick six and it’s 21-0. We are just trying to rally the troops and they came off the field after Warren kicked the extra point to go up 21-0 and said ‘Coach, we’re good.”

“…We were very fortunate to get back and tie that game up and win in overtime obviously.”

The Leopards high-powered offense is led by quarterback Cedric Simmons, tailback Jalen Dupree, wideouts Dylan Carradine and Dalton Cagle and offensive tackle Vinnie Winters, who has offers from Arkansas, Missouri, Memphis and more.

Simmons has over 3,400 yards total offense while Dupree has rushed for 2,541 yards and 34 touchdowns while Carradine and Cagle have combined for 78 catches for 1,663 yards and 15 touchdowns. 

But the Winters-led offense line gets its love as well.

“That is where it all starts,” Plumlee said. “Those skill guys – the pretty boys as we call them – they get all the love, but around here in the community and in these walls, our linemen get loved up just as much…We don’t have one senior up front.”