BOONEVILLE -- Carson Ray's carrying on a family tradition.
The senior has followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps by rushing for more than 1,000 yards for the Booneville Bearcats.
Scott Hyatt is in his 27th season at Booneville as head football coach and he says football and the Ray family name go hand in hand in the rural Logan County town. Ray's father, Allen, known as Gator is the school's all-time leading rusher, while his grandfather Bruce also topped the 1,000-yard plateau in the early 1970s.
"They've been around for a long time and they're just a family that loves football," Hyatt said. "Carson's just one of those kids who works hard. He's not very vocal, but gets out there and leads by example. He's a spark plug.
He sees the field well, has a low center of gravity and he's hard to knock off his feet. He's a physical kid. Just a good hard-nosed football player, but a respectful kid. People all the time ask me 'Is that Gator's boy?'"
The Booneville football tradition is similar, reaching all over the state.
"I can go to South Arkansas, back home to Rison for Christmas and my folks still talk about that game that went into overtime in 1999.
Ray's hoping to lead the Bearcats to a state championship like his father. The Bearcats (10-0), ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, begin their quest for their fourth state title in school history by hosting Baptist Prep (4-5-1) on Friday in the opening round.
He has rushed for 1,179 yards on 153 carries and 21 touchdowns this season, but Hyatt said it could more, much more. He's only played four quarters three times this season and three quarters twice. Ray has also started at linebacker for three years.
The 5-foot-7, 201-pound fullback grew up like many boys in Booneville, playing pee-wee football since fourth grade and hoping to get the chance to play for the Bearcats on Friday.
"I grew up watching Anthony Napier play and always wanted to be like him," Ray said.
But the tables have now turned and Ray knows it. He's now that player that many youngsters want to emulate.
"Coach Hyatt talks about being a good example and always giving your best," Ray said. "Because you never know who's watching."
There's plenty of state title talk around town, but Ray said coaches try to keep the players focused on each game. That's been the case for the most part, Ray said.
"They just keep telling us play hard and just let it play out," Ray said. "We could always do a little better, but I think it's been good so far."
Ray, who rushed for more than 800 yards a year ago, said he's done a better job of following blocks this season. But running virtually the same offense for the past eight years, helps too.
"I've trusted my line more," Ray said. "I think that's why I've had more success. I depend on them to make the blocks and I've made better cuts. It's like we've done it a million times and makes it run really smoothly."
Hyatt said Ray's done his job and more to hold up the family name and the Booneville tradition. And Hyatt should know. He coached Ray's father and uncle. Now Carson and his two younger brothers are in the program in seventh and ninth grade, respectively.
That means there will be another Ray playing for the Bearcats for a few more years.
Warriors looking to rebound
Lamar opened the season with eight straight wins, but the Warriors will enter the playoffs on a two-game losing streak after falling to Booneville and Charleston to close the regular season.
Despite the two losses, Lamar (8-2) still earned the No. 2 seed in the 3A-1 Conference and will host Atkins (7-3) tonight in a first-round playoff game.
"Charleston is a good team," Lamar coach Josh Jones said of the 31-6 loss. "They played Dardanelle earlier this season to a one-point game, and they beat Ozark, which won their 4A conference."
The Warriors are healthy going into the game with Atkins, Jones said.
The Red Devils run a spread-option offense led by 6-foot-4 junior quarterback Eli Roberson. Roberson has completed 90 of 186 passes for 1,474 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
"He is a big kid, but he's also quick," Jones said. "He's tough to bring down."
Atkins closed the season with a 42-0 win against Two Rivers, but the Red Devils had lost three straight games leading into the finale. Atkins has scored 40 or more points in five games this season.
Lamar runs various offensive sets including a double-tight formation, but will also shift into a spread, Jones said.
"Here lately we've run as much spread as we have under center," Jones said. "We try to mix it up and stay balanced, but we want to run first if we can."
Junior quarterback Ike Pelts leads the Warriors' offense, completing 55 of 107 passes for 768 yards and has 362 yards rushing. Jacob Parmenter, a junior running back, leads the team in rushing with 814 yards and 11 touchdowns, and is the leading receiver with 11 catches for 218 yards. Pelts has eight rushing touchdowns.
-- Chip Souza • @NWAChip
High-scoring Pirates ready to go
The Greenland Pirates' first-round matchup in the 2018 3A Playoffs is Harding Academy (6-3), a Searcy school that fell at home in its regular-season finale.
"I feel good about it," Larkan said. "Harding is a very good team. I'm sure they're extremely well coached, and their kids are gonna do everything they're supposed to do."
The Pirates (6-4) are on a three-game winning streak in which they've averaged 39 points a game while giving up only 8, 7 and 6, respectively. Harding senior quarterback Davis Morgan is listed at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, and he has several tall receivers to throw to, including 6-foot-4 junior Connor McGaha. A big part of Greenland's gameplan will be to keep Morgan from getting too comfortable.
On the offensive end, Larkan said he wants the line to set up the running game.
"For us, can we run the football? I think if we can run the football, we'll have a shot," Larkan said. "We try to mix it up with the run and pass, but when it comes down to it, we want to run the football."
Though the Pirates' final record was essentially even in terms of wins and losses, the team was better than its record indicated, Larkan said. The Pirates were on the losing end of two close games against Mansfield and Lamar, and the winning streak at the end of the year could be a good momentum boost heading into the game against Harding.
"We played in a really tough conference," Larkan said. "I'd argue it's as tough as any conference in the state in 3A, so hopefully we'll be prepared for it."
The last time these teams played each other was in the 2011 playoffs, where Harding trounced Greenland 42-7 before losing to Charleston in a lopsided game the next week.
-- Andrew Epperson • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Ross growing into QB role
Charleston coach Greg Kendrick said the game finally slowed down for Brayden Ross last Friday night.
The result was a 31-6 Charleston victory over Lamar, which gives the Tigers momentum heading into the playoffs.
Charleston (6-4) hits the road to face a tough Clinton team this week in the first round, but Kendrick likes his team's chances coming off that performance.
"That was probably as good as we've played in three years," Kendrick said. "If we play like that, we've got a chance against about anybody."
The Tigers were ravaged by injuries, including starting quarterback Brayden Caudle, who suffered a shoulder injury in week four and then a torn anterior cruciate ligament in week seven.
That forced Kendrick to move Ross from receiver to quarterback. It also forced Kendrick to adjust the offense to fit Ross, who had a different skill set than Caudle.
"Just in the last three weeks, it's been drastic watching him grow up in our eyes," Kendrick said. "As a quarterback, seeing him settle in and handling the pressure. He's worked hard. He's a three-sport athlete who works hard. He's different in what he can do and we had to adjust.
"We were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, but we've made changes to adjust game planning to our offensive philosophy based off his skill set."
Ross has thrown for 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns with only four interceptions while completing more than 60 percent of his passes. He's also run for almost 200 yards and three scores. Senior Hunter Kengla has also been a strong contributor on offense with a team-high 38 receptions for 362 yards and two TDs, along with a team-high 275 yards rushing.
-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Red Tigers pleased with playoff berth
Mansfield coach Craig Bentley said his team responded with a big win to finish the regular season, after back-to-back close losses.
The result was a 7-3 record and the Red Tigers will get to host Melbourne in a playoff game on Friday night.
"Seven wins and hosting a playoff game, that's pretty good," Bentley said. "We don't have a lot of history in our program. . I'm proud of them. We kinda felt like we shot ourselves in the foot the last two weeks. We had opportunities to put those games away and didn't. But we bounced back from that."
Senior quarterback Ethan Stovall has enjoyed a banner season, throwing for 1,946 yards and 22 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. He's also run for 376 yards and 10 touchdowns and grown up as the season has progressed, Bentley said.
"He does a great job running the offense and he's taken more ownership and control of the offense as the year's progressed," Bentley said. "He's a great leader by example and the kids see that, too.
Stovall has also stepped up when needed on defense, too, starting at cornerback the last three weeks.
Bentley also credited his seven seniors, who didn't walk away despite back-to-back 2-8 seasons.
"Those guys stuck it out," Bentley said. "They've been through the highs of this year and the lows of the last two years. Those guys have done a great job. When I walked into a football program with 17 players."
Mansfield has also benefitted from an opportunistic defense, which has 27 tackles for loss and 15 turnovers (five interceptions/10 fumble recoveries). Junior Jaicy Griffin, sophomore Randall Claude and senior Max Lovelace lead the way with 65 tackles each.
-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulBPreps Sports on 11/09/2018
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