Tenderfoots craning their necks at 7A foes
August 26, 2012
If you have ever had to move, you know what it’s like being the new kid on the block.
You are going to get tested, teased and harassed until you prove you belong.
A lot of high school football teams will have to adapt to new surroundings for the next two seasons because of reclassification. Greenwood, which has dominated Class 5A in recent years, is now in the 7A/6A Central, where the Bulldogs will compete against teams like Fort Smith Southside, Fort Smith Northside, Little Rock Catholic and Conway.
Former small-school power Shiloh Christian moves to the 5A-West Conference, where the Saints can expect some head-knocking from Alma, Morrilton and Harrison. Lincoln was rewarded for a rare winning season by being bumped up to the 1-4A Conference.
The most dramatic change will occur in the 7A/6A-West, where Siloam Springs and Van Buren will replace longtime conference members Fort Smith Southside and Fort Smith Northside. That means the Pointers and Panthers will be greeted by teams like Fayetteville, Bentonville and Springdale Har-Ber, and they won’t be handing out cookies and milk.
Welcome to the neighborhood.
“It’s all about attitude and effort,” Siloam Springs Coach Bryan Ross said. “We can’t control what league we’re in. That’s out of our hands. What we can control is our preparation and how hard we play. We expect our kids to be accountable in their work and play to the best of their ability.”
Van Buren should know what to expect. It played in the 7A-West before moving to the 7A/6A-Central. Both the Pointers and Panthers hope to be competitive in their new surroundings and help the league maintain its reputation as the state’s best.
“We played in a tough league last year, but we didn’t face teams like Bentonville and Fayetteville,” Van Buren Coach Brooks Coatney said, referring to the past two state champions in Class 7A. “Although we’re one of the smallest schools in 7A, we’re not going to use that as an excuse not to do well.
“Most people consider this league the best in the state, and we expect to be competitive in it.”
Coatney knows all about accepting challenges, beginning in high school when he set passing records as a three-year starter at quarterback for Greenwood. He played baseball at Arkansas State and was head coach for two years at Ozark before taking over last season at Van Buren, which has largely struggled after winning a state championship in 1996.
“We’ve got a team this year that has a chance to be successful,” said Coatney, who was 3-8 in his first season at Van Buren. “Our biggest concern is depth, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.”
The adjustment to the 7A/6A-West will likely be more difficult for Siloam Springs, which last made the playoffs in 2008 while competing in the 5A-West Conference. But the Panthers will at least get to drop down and compete in the 6A playoffs regardless of how the regular season unfolds.
“We’re going to be playing the best of the best in conference, but if we stay healthy we’ve got a chance,” Ross said. “Week 11 is where it really matters for us with the start of the playoffs.”
Conference play in the 7A/6A-West opens Sept. 21 with Van Buren at defending state champion Fayetteville and Siloam Springs hosting Rogers Heritage before it faces Bentonville for the first time as a league member. That’s an almost unfair beginning for two teams who have been thrown into a league that has produced every state champion in Class 7A since 2004.
Still, no one in the conference will be feeling sorry for the Pointers and Panthers.
Welcome to the neighborhood.
E-mail Rick Fires at