When a team plays well during the regular season, they get an opportunity to extend the year with a trip to the playoffs. After compiling 8-2 and 6-4 records respectively, it's time now for the Barton Bears and Helena-West Helena Central Cougars to saddle up for postseason action.
Both squads are coming off disappointing yearend losses. The Bears lost to their arch rivals the Harding Academy Wildcats last Thursday evening by a 24-20 score after leading almost the entire first half. The Cougars dropped a heartbreaking 20-13 decision to the Little Rock Mills Comets. Likewise, Central led most of the first half and still had an opportunity to pull out a victory with less than 1:30 to play. The second season starts Friday night and now it's win or go home. The Bears are matched against the Lamar Warriors. It will be quite a road trip for the Bears as Lamar is located in Johnson County in western Arkansas. To give you a reference point, Lamar is near Clarksville. Lamar finished the season at 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the 4-3A Conference. Despite such a solid season, the Warriors finished as the runner-up in the conference to the Charleston Tigers, which completed a perfect 10-0 season. Charleston is the top ranked team in Class 3A according to the final regular season Associated Press high school poll. Despite the disappointing loss to Harding Academy, Barton returned to the No. 5 spot in the AP poll. The Bears were not ranked the previous week but reached as high as No. 3 in the poll earlier in the season. Lamar received three votes in the AP poll and ranks among the top 10 Class 3A teams. Lamar is coming off a 33-21 victory over the Paris Eagles at the Eagles' home roost. In 2012, the Warriors advanced to the second round of the playoffs before being bounced by Harding Academy by a lopsided 44-6 score. Lamar nipped Hoxie, 21-18 in the opening round. The Warriors are relatively young on defense with only three returning starters. Barton suffered two tough losses in the highly competitive 2-3A Conference. The Bears are blessed with a lot of speed coming out of the backfield and plenty of depth. Running backs Cameron Anderson, Quinton Simmons, Chajobie Fulcher and Jarrod Chandler can score from anywhere on the field. The tandem of quarterback Laquarius Hall and Justice Cole force opponents respect the Bears' passing game. On defense, linebacker Phillips Thomas has repeatedly made the big play for a solid Bear defensive unit. What else can you say about Cole who currently owns the state record for interceptions by a high school player at 29? – Except don't' throw at him. The Central Cougars 2013 season was full of surprises. They defeated at least three games that the so-called experts said they couldn't beat and took a fourth team to the limit in the regular season-finale. The Cougars finished 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the 5A Central Conference. Central will face yet another uphill challenge because they certainly did not draw a cupcake in the playoff's opening round. The Cougars will have to make a long trip to reach Cardinal territory at Camden Fairview. The Cardinals ended the season on a high note by defeating 5A South Conference rival Watson Chapel by a 28-14 score. Camden Fairview was 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the conference, losing only to Hope, 17-12. Camden Fairview is the defending Class 5A state champion. They will be looking to repeat at the expense of the Cougars. The Cardinals pounded Beebe 70-20, Alma 42-28 and Wynne 34-21 before defeating Batesville's Pioneers, 28-10 in the 2012 championship game. Camden Fairview ranks second in Class 5A in the final regular season AP high school prep poll and is the ninth ranked team overall. While Central managed only two touchdowns last Thursday against Little Rock Mills, it was the defense that kept the Cougars in the tight contest. Quarterback Curley Brewer is a threat to throw and run the football. His favorite receivers include Sandy Wright and Anthony Lewis. Central distributes the ball on the ground between Keith Hayes, Keith Rowan and Devonta Herred. Kickoffs are set for 7 p.m.