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Today marks the earliest opening day of high school football season in Arkansas, thanks to the new Zero Week addition to the schedule.

This week, 48 games are scheduled to be played involving Arkansas high school football teams from today through Saturday, with Wednesday being the only off day.

Little Rock McClellan and Pine Bluff Dollarway kick off the 2018 season at 5 p.m. today at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, with Nashville and Watson Chapel scheduled for 7:30 p.m., or about 30 minutes after the McClellan-Dollarway game.

McClellan Coach Maurice Moody, who led the Crimson Lions to their second Class 5A state championship game in three seasons last year, is glad his team is one of the first to open the season.

"The matchup is going to be phenomenal," Moody said. "I can't wait for Monday night."

[ARKANSAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Preseason rankings + previews by class, more]

The Arkansas Activities Association's governing body passed a proposal in 2016 that added an extra week to the high school football regular-season schedule. Schools have four weeks to play three nonconference games.

States neighboring Arkansas that have a Zero Week in their football schedule include Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Warren, the defending 8-4A Conference champions and Class 4A state runner-up last season, faces Southside Batesville at noon Saturday in the second game of a doubleheader at North Little Rock High School. Bauxite takes on Conway Christian at 10 a.m. in the first game.

Lumberjacks Coach Bo Hembree will have his team play a week earlier than usual. He said because of his team's offseason plan, he's not concerned with the early start date.

"Football is pretty much year-round except for three to four weeks," said Hembree, who referenced the AAA's two-week dead period and Christmas break. "We've been going every day since July 9. If we actually started July 31, it would be bad because we wouldn't be conditioned. But we've been able to work with our kids in the summer."

Greenwood, the defending Class 6A state champion, will open its season with a pair of road games at nearby Fort Smith Northside (Aug. 31) and Fort Smith Southside (Sept. 7).

Bulldogs Coach Rick Jones, who was hoping to schedule a Zero Week game but couldn't find an opponent, is in favor of Zero Week, especially for Northwest Arkansas schools.

"I think it's a great thing, especially for those teams that are close to the border because it gives them some flexibility," Jones said. "Flexibility is a big thing."

While Nashville Coach Mike Volarvich is wanting to play in Zero Week, he would like to have extra practice time for teams that do play during that week. Teams began fall practice on July 30.

"I think the teams that start Zero Week should be able to practice a week earlier," Volarvich said. "Whether it is like, hey, 20-22 practices like they do at the collegiate level, everybody starts however many days before their first game. What it has done is cut down our fall camp.

"Most teams will play Friday of Zero Week. But we're playing Monday of Zero Week. I lose two weeks of practice compared to our next opponent, Hope, who'll have a month of practice before their first game. [Nashville plays Hope on Aug. 31].

"That's going to be tough. But on the flip side of it, we also have 11 days until our second game. It does give you a little bit of time to go back and reflect on your mistakes and correct those things. There are good things I like about it. If I had to go back, I'd do it all over again. It's going to be good."

One thing Zero Week has brought to the state is marquee matchups.

For the first time since 2011, Pulaski Academy will play a Class 7A opponent. The four-time defending Class 5A state champions head to Springdale Har-Ber on Friday in what is one of the most anticipated games of Zero Week.

"I think they're really, really good," said Bruins Coach Kevin Kelley, whose last 7A opponent was Cabot. "I'm so glad to be playing a team like that in-state to kick off Zero Week. I think it's pretty cool."

Other key Zero Week matchups include West Memphis against Little Rock Central on Tuesday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock; El Dorado at Conway and Batesville at Little Rock Christian on Friday; and North Little Rock taking on Tulsa Booker T. Washington on Saturday at Bentonville High School.

Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
McClellan football coach Maurice Moody talks to his team during the 5A High School Football State Championship against Pulaski Academy.

Sports on 08/20/2018

Zero Week schedule

All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted

TODAY’S GAMES

At War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

Little Rock McClellan vs. Pine Bluff Dollarway, 5 p.m.

Nashville vs. Watson Chapel, 7:30 p.m.

TUESDAY’S GAMES

At War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

Des Arc vs. England, 5 p.m.

Little Rock Central vs. West Memphis, 7:30 p.m.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

Mansfield at Hackett

Joe T. Robinson at Springdale

At War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

Mountain Home vs. Sheridan

FRIDAY’S GAMES

CLASS 7A

El Dorado at Conway

Rogers Heritage at Fort Smith Northside

Pulaski Academy at Springdale Har-Ber

Fayetteville at Vianney (Kirkland, Mo.)

Bentonville West at Owasso, Okla., 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 6A

No 6A teams hosting games

CLASS 5A

Hamburg at Ashdown

Mena at De Queen

Star City at Forrest City

Beebe at Greenbrier

Jonesboro Westside at Greene County Tech

Pea Ridge at Harrison

Batesville at Little Rock Christian

McGehee at Magnolia

Searcy at Morrilton

Gosnell at Nettleton

Highland at Valley View

CLASS 4A

Sylvan Hills at Arkadelphia

Gentry at Dardanelle

Stuttgart at DeWitt

Cascia Hall, Okla. at Gravette

Brookland at Riverview

CLASS 3A

Cutter Morning Star at Bismarck

Clarksville at Booneville

Johnson County Westside at Cedarville

Benton Harmony Grove at Centerpoint

Cave City at Hoxie

Magnet Cove at Mountain View

Perryville at Paris

At Hendrix College, Conway

Melbourne vs. Charleston

CLASS 2A

Magazine at Bigelow

Hazen at Cross County

England at Des Arc

Mansfield at Hackett

Atkins at Hector

Camden Harmony Grove at Junction City

Prescott at Lafayette County

SATURDAY’S GAMES

At North Little Rock High School

Bauxite vs. Conway Christian, 10 a.m.

Warren vs. Southside Batesville, noon

At Bentonville High School

North Little Rock vs. Tulsa Booker T. Washington, 4 p.m.

Bentonville vs. Midwest City, Okla., 7:30 p.m.

At War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

Bryant vs. Benton

Print Headline: Zero Week gets kicks in earlier

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