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story.lead_photo.caption Conway Coach Keith Fimple (left) and the Wampus Cats are 3-0 this season, having come from behind to win their first two games and never trailing against Jonesboro. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

Conway entered the 2018 season with a new coach and one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the state.

Keith Fimple was hired by Conway in April to replace Clint Ashcraft, who stepped down as the Wampus Cats' coach after nine seasons to become the school's athletic director.

The Wampus Cats' three nonconference games were against Class 6A state contenders El Dorado and Jonesboro, and Class 7A state runner-up Bentonville. They defeated El Dorado 48-41 in two overtimes Aug. 24 and Bentonville 24-21 on Aug. 31 in Conway, then traveled to Jonesboro on Friday and topped the Hurricane 37-16.

Conway's first two games were come-from-behind affairs. The Wampus Cats (3-0) never trailed Jonesboro on Friday.

"It was a different focus," Fimple said of his team's mindset leading up to the Jonesboro game.

Despite the early gauntlet, Fimple is proud of what his team has accomplished.

"You want your kids to be 3-0. You want them to be excited," he said.

In Conway's victory at Jonesboro, senior running back Cary McClain rushed for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries. Junior Shane Smith returned a 98-yard kickoff for a touchdown that gave the Wampus Cats a 17-10 lead late in the second quarter, an advantage they would not relinquish.

Conway is off this week and opens its 7A-Central Conference schedule Sept. 21 at Fort Smith Southside. Fimple said there's room for improvement for the Wampus Cats.

"We can fix ourselves," Fimple said. "We still have a lot of teachable things we can do as coaches. There's a lot of situational things we can learn off of.

"It's important to get those things done during the open week."


Long night

North Little Rock played the waiting game for its Battle on the Border contest against Shreveport Evangel Christian on Friday.

The Charging Wildcats were scheduled to play Evangel Christian at 8:30 p.m. Central at the Independence Bowl. But the Battle on the Border's previous game, West Monroe (La.)-McGill Toolen (Ala.), went to overtime, with West Monroe winning 31-24.

North Little Rock and Evangel Christian began their game at 10:05 p.m. It ended at 12:58 a.m. Saturday with the Charging Wildcats prevailing 35-20 behind senior fullback Tyler Day's 128 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Junior running back Brandon Thomas had 123 yards and 1 touchdown on 18 carries.

North Little Rock Coach Jamie Mitchell said the team left North Little Rock about 9:30 a.m. Friday and had a walk-through at Texarkana (Texas) High School before arriving at Shreveport. During the West Monroe-McGill Toolen game, Mitchell and the coaching staff had the Charging Wildcats go through another walk-through, this one in a parking garage at the Shreveport Convention Center, adjacent to their hotel at the Hilton Shreveport.

"It was a rat race," Mitchell said. "When that game was over [West Monroe-McGill Toolen], we were scrambling. It was a tough, tough situation. But you have to adjust."

The Charging Wildcats, the defending Class 7A state champions, adjusted well.

North Little Rock jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first half thanks to two touchdowns from Day and a 4-yard quarterback keeper by sophomore Kareame Cotton.

Mitchell led North Little Rock to the past two Class 7A state championship games, defeating Bentonville in last year's title game and losing to Fayetteville in 2016. North Little Rock (2-0) has won games this season against Louisiana's Evangel Christian and Booker T. Washington from Tulsa.

"Next to a state championship, these are the two biggest games we've played in since we've been here," said Mitchell, who has been at North Little Rock since 2015. "It's been an incredible couple of weeks. Our kids have got some memories that they'll never forget."

The Charging Wildcats will be at home for the first time this season Friday against Memphis Whitehaven. Mitchell said senior tight end Drew Martin (hamstring) is doubtful. Martin, who has orally committed to the University of Memphis, injured his hamstring during practice Tuesday.

North Little Rock's first 7A-Central Conference game is Sept. 21 against Little Rock Central.

[HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Click here for more scores, recaps and photos]


Security policies

The Bryant and Benton school districts have instituted new security policies for their home athletic events, beginning Friday when both schools host their first football games of the season.

The two Saline County schools announced their policies this week. Bryant and Benton played each other Aug. 25 in the Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, but the game was stopped in the third quarter when a fight, falling barricades and the firing of a stun gun prompted more than 38,000 people to flee their seats.

Fans attending Bryant and Benton games will be searched at the gates, with Bryant using metal detectors and Benton security wands.

At Bryant, elementary and middle school students (up to and including eighth grade) must be accompanied by an adult who will remain with them at the event. Also, there will be no loitering at Bryant events. Fans must sit in the stands and keep off the railings. Unless going to or from the restroom or concession stand, fans will be asked to be in the stands.

Benton will prohibit weapons, tobacco, vaping, outside food and drinks, and pets.

Bryant faces Fayetteville, while Benton takes on Cabot.


McCain steps down

Riverview Coach Mike McCain has resigned after five-plus seasons.

McCain went 24-31 at the Searcy school, including a 1-2 record this season with a victory over Brookland on Aug. 24 and losses to De-Witt (Aug. 31) and Highland (Sept. 7).

The Raiders made the state playoffs twice during McCain’s tenure (2013 in Class 3A, 2017 in Class 4A).

Riverview had two winning seasons under McCain. In McCain’s first season in 2013, Riverview went 6-5, then finished 7-4 last season.

Defensive coordinator Larry Davison will take over as interim coach for the remainder of the season.

Riverview, which is off Friday, hosts Central Arkansas Christian on Sept. 21 to begin 2-4A Conference play.


The Watson Chapel-Pine Bluff game Friday night was declared a 14-14 tie at halftime because of inclement weather. Pine Bluff (0-1-1), the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's No. 1 team in Class 6A, hosts Springdale Har-Ber on Friday, looking to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2009. ... Mississippi County rivals Rivercrest and Osceola meet Friday night in a nonconference game. Rivercrest, which won the Class 3A state championship last season, and Osceola were in the 3-3A Conference together before the Colts moved up to Class 4A this season. Rivercrest has won the past eight meetings against the Seminoles. ... Little Rock Catholic senior running back Samy Johnson rushed for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries in the Rockets' 42-0 victory Friday over Jacksonville at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Johnson has rushed for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns on 48 carries in 2 games this season. ... Magnolia senior running back Kadyn Roach, who has orally committed to Louisiana-Monroe, rushed for 226 yards and 4 touchdown on 19 carries in the Panthers' 42-7 victory over Monticello on Friday.

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JIMMY JONES
North Little Rock head coach Jamie Mitchell is shown at Charging Wildcat stadium in North Little Rock.

Sports on 09/13/2018

Print Headline: Conway passing all tests

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