Powerhouse program duel for 3A titles
At a glance
HARDING ACADEMY VS. PRESCOT
WHAT Class 3A State Championship
WHEN at noon today
WHERE War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock
RADIO KABZ-FM, 103.7, in Little Rock
TV Arkansas PBS
TICKETS $ 7, available online at gofan.co/app/school/AAA
RECORDS Harding Academy 12-2; Prescott 14-0
TRAINER Harding Academy: Neil Evans; Prescott: Brian Glass
Harding Academy coach Neil Evans recalls the overwhelming logistics of his first trip to the state title at War Memorial Stadium in 2019. However, two years later, he’s essentially a seasoned veterinarian.
After beating a 12-1 Osceola team for their first title in four years in 2019, Evans’ Wildcats competed again last season, beating an undefeated McGehee roster for consecutive trophies. Now, for the third year in a row, Harding Academy is returning to the War Memorial against another powerhouse from a small Prescott school.
“This year I’m taking it all a little more calmly,” said Evans. “Two household names, Harding Academy and Prescott, coming to the War Memorial. I don’t know if you could write it much better. “
Although the Wildcats and Curley Wolves only played three times, the two programs have a lot of history. They have teamed up for 67 playoff appearances, 55 conference championships and 13 state titles in their history. And while Harding is betting on a three-peat, his opponent is no stranger to the recent championships, having won a class 3A championship in 2016.
“Look at Prescott,” said Evans, “there are no weaknesses.”
Prescott (14-0) is the only team in the state of Arkansas that is still unbeaten and has won convincingly all fall, averaging 48.5 points per game and an average of 33.8 points.
Junior Carston Poole commanded Curley Wolf’s passing attack with 2,636 passing yards and 30 touchdowns thrown. Jaylen Hopson has led the floor game with 1,879 yards and 30 touchdowns, despite Prescott coach Brian Glass telling reporters on Wednesday that Hopson has less than a 1% chance of playing today due to a broken fibula he suffered three weeks ago .
Glass said Hopson was medically cleared by his doctors, but the location of the injury would limit his ability to perform.
“If he was a lineman, he could probably play,” said Glass. “But if you are a foursome 4/4 40th[-yard dash] Guy and you’re a jitterbug like him, you’re not yourself with that kind of injury. “
Eric Grigsby took the place of Hopson, and Branen Bradley and Travion Dickens have done a ton of carries over the past two weeks. Those three backs together have scored 668 yards and 14 touchdowns.
While the Curley Wolves will be back without their feature, the Harding Academy (12-2) should have their two biggest offensive weapons – quarterback Kade Smith and running back Andrew Miller – ready for action.
Miller’s 1,557 yards and 28 ground touchdowns lead the Wildcats in both categories, with Smith being the team’s only other rusher with over 100 yards. Smith, who is in his freshman year as the Harding Academy starting quarterback, has 2,657 passing yards and thrown 24 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
The Wildcats are largely cruising after a four-game stretch that included two non-conference losses to Valley View and Briarcrest, Tenn. Earlier this year. Evans said stretch was the best thing that could have happened for the program.
“I think these experiences change the mental make-up and psychology of a team, and it’s also a great safety net to understand that the sun comes up after a loss,” said Evans. “When you lose a game it’s a huge advantage because you understand how much bigger the picture is, but if you just win … it’s not the life and the lessons you learn from losing surpass any profit anyone could have. “