To help you count down the days until football season arrives, the 5NEWS Sports crew has put together 11 different countdowns looking at players, coaches and games to be looking forward to this fall.
On Friday night we took a look at the five biggest games of the regular season and all could have a big impact on the postseason in just a few months.
#1 – Bentonville at Fayetteville, Week 7
This game needs no introduction as the Purple Dogs and Tigers have been the class of the 7A-West almost since day one of the classification in 2006. Bentonville has won at least a share of the 7A-West title in six of the past seven seasons and these two teams have combined to win seven of the past nine state championships. Both start the year ranked in the top three in the state.
#2 – Booneville at Mansfield, Week 7
Booneville was the cream of the crop in 3A last season as they ran the table to become the only undefeated team in the state. The Bearcats have a few holes to fill and Mansfield could be the one team that could derail the Bearcats for a 3A-1 title. The Tigers won eight games last season and returns 15 starters but must adjust to new head coach Tim Cothran.
#3 – Bryant at Fayetteville, Week 3
The Hornets and Bulldogs have met six times in the past four seasons, including twice in both 2017 and 2018. Of the past four meetings, all four have been decided by three points or less. Bryant won three of those meetings and now Fayetteville must break in a new coach for this year’s clash. Don’t be surprised if the week three meeting is the first to two games between them this season, again.
#4 – Ozark at Mena, Week 4
The first conference game of the season is tough. When it could very well determine a conference championship, it’s even tougher. Ozark is the favorite to repeat in the 4A-4 but the Bearcats bring in a proven winner with Craig Bentley at head coach and they got a taste of victory last season with an opening round playoff win. Hillbillies will hit the road this year after posting a 20-0 win over Mena at home in 2018.
#5 – Pea Ridge at Shiloh Christian, Week 10
It’s the final game of the regular season for the Saints and Blackhawks but it very well could determine the 4A-1 conference champ again. These two have been among the top three in the conference for most of the last decade and that’s not expected to change this year. Pea Ridge has won four of the last six meetings, but the last two have gone to the Saints.