After such a sensational season in 2008, it would be tough to expect the Central Cougars to in the Class 5A championship game a second straight year.


After such a sensational season in 2008, it would be tough to expect the Central Cougars to in the Class 5A championship game a second straight year.
Then again, Central was picked by Hooten’s magazine to finish fourth in 5A in 2008 and instead rolled past all seven league opponents en route to the 5A title game in Little Rock against Pulaski Academy.
Hooten’s 2009 edition just off the press picks Central to finish second in 5A East behind Batesville and fifth in 5A overall behind Greenwood, Monticello, Little Rock Christian and Alma in that order.
Central surprised many with its 46-29 season opener last August at Cad Polk Stadium against PA.
The victory catapulted Central to the top of 5A and by the end of the regular season the Cougars are the No. 1 school overall.
Pulaski Academy used a couple of trick plays to catch Central of guard in the showdown at Little Rock last December.
Central dug itself out of a 35-12 hole in the second half but time proved to be the Cougars’ biggest nemesis as Pulaski Academy held on for a 35-32 win and the 5A crown.
It was by far the best championship game at any level of high school football in 2008.
Central head coach Russell Smith said good bye to 19 seniors at graduation, but by that time he was already penciling in potential replacements in beginning   the groundwork for the 2009 season.
The good news is the schedule works more in Central’s favor this time.
5AEast oppopnents Batesville, Blytheville and Forrest City all have to visit Cad Polk Stadium instead of the Cougars having to make the three crucial road trips they endured last fall.
Likewise, always tough 6A foe West Memphis will come to Central.
The Blues Devils are No. 3 in 6A behind Pine Bluff and El Dorado.
Hooten’s staffers had to begin their work from scratch months ago to get the magazine out this week.
A lot could still transpire by the kickoff for the first games of the season.
Central returns 11 starters – seven on offense ands four in defense – in trying to duplicate its 12-1-1 season mark.
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Barton is picked second in 2-3A behind Harding Academy and 16th overall in Class 3A.
Until Harding Academy’s enrollment forces it to move up Barton will have to contend with the Searcy-based parochial school.
Public school adninistrators scorn the Arkansas Activities Association guidelines that permit private schools to compete on the same plane with tax-dollar supported schools.
Public schools have to play with the hand – players – in their respective territory whereas private schools can look around for players well beyond their confines.
But, that’s issue that remains unresolved.
Marvell High School, which surprised many with its first playoff victory in memory last season, is relegated to 5th place in 6-2A play.
The Daily World’s pre-season football section will be out in August prior to the start of the season and will include all five area schools: Central, Barton, Marvell, Marvell Academy and DeSoto.
DeSoto, the Mississippi Private School Association’s Class 1A overall state champion in 2008, will be trying to fill positions – especially in the offensive line that opened up holes for the Thunderbirds scoring.