Central vs Barton. It happened this past Friday in basketball for the second time this season. Two pressure packed volleyball matches occurred in the fall. In the spring, the two schools will tangle on the baseball and softball diamonds. The Bears typically travel west to Cad Polk Stadium for track meets. The contests have been competitive, spirited, and well-attended. Fans love it. The schools make more money than they do on most of their other games. That begs the question: Why not meet in football?
This is an idea whose time has come. As a 1993 third-generation graduate of BHS who proudly still has my maroon and white letter jacket and as a parent, former teacher, booster, and School Board President for CHS, I have a unique perspective. I know the arguments for and against as well as anyone. I am convinced that this is an idea whose time has come for many reasons.
First, both fan bases want to see it. The fans have voted with attendance. More fans show up for this basketball game than almost any other. More fans showed up for this volleyball game. The same is true for the spring sports as well. Imagine the attendance at either Cad Polk Stadium or Frank McClellan Field if these two were to tangle on the gridiron.
Second, in the current environment for AAA conference assignments where the Cougars are begin sent to Crossett and the Bears are being sent to Lake Village, both would benefit from playing a nonconference game close by. The student-athletes at both schools are going to be spending plenty of time on a bus during the seven weeks of conference play. It only makes sense to play the three nonconference games as close to home as possible.
Third, both schools have athletic departments that need to generate as much money as possible. There is no doubt that the ticket sales for a Barton vs Central matchup would far exceed the ticket sales that Central gets for Earle or that Barton gets for a game against Cross County.
Fourth, the game would be exciting most years. The disparity in numbers, which was one of the most often cited reasons by Barton for not playing the game when I played is simply not an issue anymore. Barton will have over 30 players dressing out most years. Central’s roster typically hovers around 40. There isn’t that much of a difference. Both teams have some talent and have had recent success with postseason appearances. Both schools are upgrading their facilities.
Fifth, the kids would enjoy it. The teams enjoy competing against each other in all of the other sports. The same would be true for football. It would provide both schools with a true rivalry game every year, which is something the AAA’s conference assignment practices have virtually taken away from the two schools during conference play.
This is good for the kids, the fans, the schools, and the communities. The time has come for the administrators leading these two institutions to come together and make this game happen. The Phillips County Chamber of Commerce could sponsor a traveling trophy attached to this game to add some additional spice to what would already be a fierce rivalry.
Let’s get this done. It will be fun for the students and exciting for both communities. Starting the season with Central vs Barton on a Labor Day Weekend would have the entire county buzzing. The stadium would be full. The bands would be loud. The concession stand lines would be long. This wouldn’t be just a football game. It would be a social event that people circled on their calendar. Alumni from both schools from around the region would come home to watch this one. It is simply time to do it.
Before I close, I do want to take time to recognize Adam Goodall from the mighty Central Cougar Band. Adam was recently selected to the Sr. High All-Region Band as a 2nd Band, 6th chair alto saxophone player. Adam joins Eboni Holloway and Collin Bagley who were selected for the Jr. High All-Region Band earlier and will be attending the clinic this weekend. The All-Region Bands will perform in concert on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 at the Searcy High School Performing Arts Center. Congratulations! Until next time, GO COUGARS!