Written by Hayley Kate Webb
The race for the 2021 Arkansas high school football state championship trophy began on Friday, Nov. 12. Three White County schools competed in the first round of play. Harding Academy and Riverview competed in the 3A bracket. Searcy High School competed in the 6A bracket.
The 8-2 Harding Academy Wildcats hosted the 3-7 West Fork Tigers at First Security Stadium on Friday night. The Wildcats defeated the Tigers by a score of 56-6.
Harding Academy head football coach Neil Evans said the Wildcats’ performance this year has been tremendous. Evans said he is especially proud of what his seniors have accomplished on the field throughout their careers, winning three conference championships and never losing a conference game. If the Wildcats win the remainder of their games, they will finish the season with their third straight state championship trophy.
“They will go down in Harding Academy history,” Evans said. “I would love for us to continue on the trajectory that we are currently on, in hopes of being able to play as long as possible throughout the playoffs.”
The 5-5 Riverview Raiders traveled to face the 9-1 Paris Eagles in the first round of playoff competition. The Eagles defeated the Raiders by a score of 17-14, ending Riverview’s season.
The Raiders were coming off of a winless season in 2020. Under the leadership of a new head coach, the Raiders began the 2021 season 4-1, before suffering several injuries to key players. Riverview head coach Chris Keylon said he was impressed by his team’s perseverance this year.
“We played a good Paris team,” Keylon said. “They were strong offensively and defensively.”
In the 6A state playoff bracket, the 4-6 Searcy Lions traveled to Little Rock to compete against the 8-2 Parkview Patriots. The Lions were defeated by the Patriots by a score of 52-6.
Searcy High School head coach Zak Clark said the Lions had an inconsistent regular season. Clark said the team was starting to play their best football when they lost their quarterback in the game against El Dorado.
“I was hopeful we could make a run in the playoffs,” Clark said. “Parkview is extremely talented.”
The Riverview Raiders’ and the Searcy Lions’ seasons came to an end in the first round of the state playoffs. The Harding Academy Wildcats will compete on Nov. 19 in the second round of playoffs.