There are plenty of teams in the playoffs with a rich tradition in football who are regulars in postseason play.
From Barton to Bentonville, and Stuttgart to Smackover, these programs are familiar to high school football fans throughout the state.
Waldron is making its first playoff appearance since 2003. The Bulldogs had lost 43 straight games before winning their 2016 season opener.
Then there is Waldron, which broke a 43-game losing streak and four straight 0-10 seasons, in the season-opener in 2016. The Bulldogs are 5-5 for the second consecutive year and in the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Waldron will play at Pea Ridge tonight after the Bulldogs secured a playoff berth when quarterback Trey Williams took a knee on the final play of a 19-0 victory over Dover on Senior Night three weeks ago.
"Our kids were pretty excited, obviously, and our fans started coming down out of the stands with about four minutes left," Waldron coach Ricky May said. "Our quarterback, Trey Williams, said 'taking a knee never felt so good.'"
May began his coaching career at Waldron, where he was an assistant for five years. He then moved to Booneville and spent 19 years as an assistant on one of the top football programs in the state.
Waldron called again in 2015 and May left Booneville to replace Dale Mann, who lasted one year after replacing Shane Davis, who resigned after two seasons with the Bulldogs.
"I was a youth pastor in Waldron when I was an assistant coach there and I got to know a lot of people," May said. "They were 0-33 when I got there as head coach but our superintendent, Gary Wayman, assured me he was going to do everything he could to help us develop a program that could succeed and that's what he'd done."
Waldron lost 10 more games in 2015 before the Bulldogs' ended the state's longest losing streak with a 45-0 win at Mansfield to begin the season in 2016. A playoff appearance was within grasp last year but Waldron missed out after being shut out in consecutive games against Dover and Dardanelle to end the season.
The school replaced its grass field with an artificial surface over the summer and the Bulldogs took the field with renewed determination to begin the 20017 season. Waldron opened the season with consecutive victories over Mansfield and Cedarville then managed three wins in conference play to earn a rare playoff appearance.
In 2003, the Bulldogs went 9-3 and won the 4-AAA Conference championship. Waldron beat Green Forest 46-6 in the first round of the playoffs before being eliminated 49-21 in the second round by Pulaski Academy. From 1999-2003, Waldron was competitive and made the playoffs multiple times, but from 2004-2015, the program went 12-108 and had five 0-10 seasons.
Wayman said the program's revival is all due to the efforts of May and his coaching staff who have the players in Waldron believing in themselves.
"Ricky deserves 100 percent of the credit," Wayman said of Waldron's improvement from a program that owned the state's longest losing streak. "He knew who we were when he came here. He set out with an attitude to change things and everyone rallied behind him."
May emphasizes uniformity and one of his first moves was to make sure the pee-wee and junior high coaches in Waldron were teaching the same type of run-oriented system the Bulldogs employee on the senior high level. The plan appears to be working after Waldron's 7th-grade team went 9-0 this season and its junior high team finished 7-3.
There are still challenges ahead and Waldron will be a huge underdog tonight against Pea Ridge (9-1), which advanced to the state championship game last year in Class 4A. The Blackhawks will be refocused at home tonight after losing at Shiloh Christian, a defeat which cost Pea Ridge an outright championship in the 4A-1 Conference.
Williams has had a solid season for the Bulldogs in the run-oriented offense, rushing for more than 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"I copied a quote that said 'Sometimes you have to face Goliath to pull out the David within you,'" said May, a Pentecostal preacher. "It's a big task playing Pea Ridge at their place. We have to do everything right to win this game, but we're just glad for the opportunity."
Sports on 11/10/2017
Print Headline: How 'Bout Them Dogs! Waldron to make rare appearance in football playoffs