Class 7A Week 0 Rankings, Notes & Picks

Class 7A Week 0 Rankings, Notes & Picks

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Hooten’s Arkansas Football Rankings
Class 7A, Week 0, 2020
Copyright Hooten Publishing, Inc.

1. Bryant
2. Bentonville
3. North Little Rock
4. Fayetteville
5. Bentonville West
6. LR Central
7. Cabot
8. Conway
9. Har-Ber
10. FS Northside
11. Springdale
12. LR Catholic
13. FS Southside
14. Rogers
15. LR Southwest
16. Heritage

HOOTENS.COM GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 1 Bryant vs. Class 6A No. 1 Benton.
Bryant earned its second straight state title with a defense allowing just 8.7 points per game in 2019. It was the second-fewest points allowed in the modern era (since 1969) for the state's largest classification. Only three defensive starters return, but Bryant's offense should roll with senior quarterback Austin Ledbetter (6-3, 210) and receivers Hayden Schraeder (6-2, 205), Joseph Young (6-1, 185) and tight end Myles Aldridge (6-3, 230) returning. Bryant has not lost to rival Benton since 2005. 
Benton hunts its first state title since Coach Max Graham's Panthers won the 1977 Class 4A crown with a 13-7 victory over Conway. Benton played for the Class 6A championships the past two seasons, losing to Greenwood in 2018 and Searcy last December. Senior all-state QB Garrett Brown closes in on Benton's all-time passing record after starting 19 games the past two seasons. All-league running back Casey Johnson impressed coaches with a productive off-season. All-conference offensive lineman Kyree Watkins pulls and kicks with mobility. Benton boasts the top defensive line in Class 6A, highlighted by senior All-6A-West noseguard Justin Walker and classmates Hayden Purdy and Terrance Hall. Benton committed five turnovers in last week's scrimmage at Class 5A power Little Rock Christian.

WEEK 0 PREDICTIONS (favored team in CAPS followed by point spread)
7A CENTRAL
Bryant (17) vs. Benton: See Hootens.com Game of the Week.
LR CHRISTIAN (1) at LR CentralBoth enter 2020 with lofty expectations. LR Central enjoyed Class 7A's biggest turnaround last year (improved from 1-9 to 6-5) while advancing to the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Tigers surrendered too many big passes in last week's scrimmage against Marion. Senior Lawson Gunn returns for his third season at quarterback, while senior running back Sam Franklin (10 scholarship offers) returns in the backfield. Senior all-conference tackle Makilan Thomas (6-3, 300), an Arkansas State commit, and left tackle Canaan Davis (6-2, 295), who has an offer from UT-Martin present matchup problems up front for the smaller Warriors. Class 5A LR Christian's offense played up-tempo and its defense forced five turnovers in last week's scrimmage against Class 6A No. 1 Benton. The Warriors, ranked No. 2 in 5A, plan to play two-time all-state linebacker Corey Platt, Jr., this week (missed scrimmage with a hamstring injury).
Searcy at CABOT (15): Cabot should surpass last season’s 6-5 finish with standout skill players and a solid secondary. Cabot all-state quarterback Tyler Gee passed for 2,319 yards last season with 24 TDs and eight interceptions. Cabot lost two games by a combined three points last season, which was championship coach Scott Reed’s first fall at the school. First-year Searcy coach Kenny Simpson learned the team's terminology this summer rather than having the team relearn his scheme. Searcy junior Daniel Perry shifts this season to running back after earning all-league honors last season at safety. The Searcy varsity lost a three-quarter varsity scrimmage 14-6 against Wynne, missing a 20-yard field goal and an extra point.
FS Southside at FS NORTHSIDE (7): New Southside coach Kim Dameron welcomes back seven defensive starters to try and slow explosive Northside. Grizzly senior quarterback Drey Norwood (300-pound bench press and 3.67 GPA) accounted for more than 1,000 yards and is the state’s top recruit on hootens.com. Southside was voted by league coaches to finish No. 5 out of 8 teams in the 7A West. Northside was voted by conference coaches to finish next to last in the more rugged 7A Central.
FAYETTEVILLE (2) at Conway: Fayetteville could surprise in 2020. League coaches voted Fayetteville to finish No. 4 in the 7A West, but Hooten’s Arkansas Football has the Purple Dogs at No. 4 in the state. Fayetteville welcomes back starters at six positions on both side of the ball. Second-year coach Casey Dick raves about his running backs and defensive line. Conway finished 8-4 in 2019, losing only to the four 7A semifinalist. Conway starts a new QB but has talented skill players to help, including diminutive running back Manny Smith (5-5, 140; 4.4 speed).
JONESBORO (6) at LR Catholic: Jonesboro has won three of the past four meetings, including an 18-13 decision last season. Catholic returns quality linemen but starts a new quarterback and linebacker corps. Jonesboro senior Cross Jumper (6-4, 220) starts a third season at QB and senior defensive stalwarts Nate Light (6-2, 265), Marco Avant (6-3, 210), Cameron Clark (6-2, 205) and Brodie Williams (6-0, 185), a Navy commit, anchor the defense.
LR Southwest at WEST MEMPHIS (11): The first game in LR Southwest school history. LR McClellan and LR Fair closed its campuses to form LR Southwest. Daryl Patton, who coached Fayetteville High to four state titles in 13 years and most recently worked at nearby Bauxite, is head man at Southwest. Former Osceola coach Robert Hooks succeeds Billy Elmore at West Memphis, which has not played for a state title since 2005. The Blue Devils qualified for the 6A semifinals the past three seasons, winning the 6A East in 2018.
NORTH LR is open.

7A WEST
Har-Ber at JENKS, OKLA. (14): Har-Ber coach Chris Wood welcomes back veteran offensive linemen and linebackers plus depth at running back. The Wildcats (8-4 in 2019) will start a new QB and lack experience at receiver in the secondary. Tradition-rich Jenks has a new coach after finishing 8-5 last season.
Bentonville West at BROKEN ARROW, OKLA. (15): This Saturday game will be televised live on ESPN. Both were originally schedule to play this week against teams from Texas, which has delayed the start of its season. West returns nine starters from last year’s 7-5 team. The Wolverines lost twice to state champion Bryant a year ago, including 35-0 in the semifinals. West’s offensive line is a strength and receiver Stephen Dyson was named to the Landers Preseason Super Team. Broken Arrow (9-3 in 2019) features college prospect Sanchez Banks at running back. The Tigers lost twice to Owasso last season, including 42-27 in the second round of the playoffs.
Rogers at SILOAM SPRINGS (8): Rogers slipped Class 6A Siloam Springs 34-33 in 2017, the last meeting of these schools. Near defenseless Rogers won twice last season, allowing five touchdowns or more in its nine loses. Rogers returns a veteran secondary but graduated standout QB Hunter Loyd and all-state receiver Mason Ross. Siloam Springs developed crucial depth at most positions during training camp. The Panthers lean this season on senior tailback Palvinson Phizema (4.5 speed).
FS Southside at FS NORTHSIDE (7): New Southside coach Kim Dameron welcomes back seven defensive starters to try and slow explosive Northside. Grizzly senior quarterback Drey Norwood (300-pound bench press and 3.67 GPA) accounted for more than 1,000 yards and is the state’s top recruit on hootens.com. Southside was voted by league coaches to finish No. 5 out of 8 teams in the 7A West. Northside was voted by conference coaches to finish next to last in the more rugged 7A Central.
Springdale at VAN BUREN (15): Van Buren pounded Springdale 31-12 Week 10 last season. Springdale beat Heritage 49-20 for its only 7A win a year ago but welcomes back starters at seven positions on offense. Coach Zak Clark leans on good linemen while breaking in a new QB this fall. Van Buren boast two of the state's top recruits in QB Gary Phillips and receiver/cornerback Jaiden Henry. Look for Phillips to execute more called runs this season. Van Buren downed Class 5A Farmington in a scrimmage last week, when Phillips completed 11 of 19 passes for 170 yards and two TDs. Henry snagged five passes for 92 yards and a score.
Heritage at FARMINGTON (7): Heritage trailed by an average score of 36-5 at halftime last season. The War Eagles are 2-48 over the past five years. Farmington goes for its first win over a 7A program. Farmington’s secondary was scorched last week in a scrimmage against Van Buren.
FAYETTEVILLE (2) at Conway: Fayetteville could surprise in 2020. League coaches voted Fayetteville to finish No. 4 in the 7A West, but Hooten’s Arkansas Football has the Purple Dogs at No. 4 in the state. Fayetteville welcomes back starters at six positions on both side of the ball. Second-year coach Casey Dick raves about his running backs and defensive line. Conway finished 8-4 in 2019, losing only to the four 7A semifinalist. Conway starts a new QB but has talented skill players to help, including diminutive running back Manny Smith (5-5, 140; 4.4 speed).
BENTONVILLE is open.

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