By John R. Schirmer
Scrapper fans heard some of what they wanted to hear July 19 when Barry Groomes of Hooten’s Arkansas Football Magazine spoke to the Nashville Rotary Club.
The latest edition of the magazine picks the Scrappers to win District 7-4A, a popular choice among the Rotarians. On the other hand, Hooten’s listed the Scrappers fifth overall in Class 4A, with the Lumberjacks of Warren picked to win the 4A title.
Groomes said the magazine is in its 25th year. “We try to promote high school football in a positive manner. We have the names of 5,000 athletes. We interview each coach in the state. Coach V [Scrapper Coach Mike Volarvich] can vouch that we call two or three times to check the information.”
Last year, the Scrappers were featured on the cover of one of the Hooten’s editions. “It was an excellent cover and our first ever high school cover,” Groomes said. The Scrapper cover sold well. “Sales in a town 10 times the size of Nashville weren’t half the sales in Nashville,” according to Groomes.
“The farther south, the better the football. Nashville fans always take pride in their football program,”Groomes said. “Tradition is one thing that separates Nashville from a lot of towns. Few towns can produce that.”
Hooten’s offices have more than 20 filing cabinets of newspaper clippings dating back to 1992, telling the story of high school football during that time, Groomes said. “We clip every high school article in state papers.”
Groomes said Scrapper quarterback Tyler Hanson “could be one of the better players in 4A.” Question marks for Nashville include inexperienced offensive and defensive lines.
Arkadelphia was picked second in district and seventh in 4A, Groomes said. The Badgers started two freshmen last year who are now sophomores.
Joe T. Robinson is third. The Senators “are getting good again.”
Ashdown, fourth, “is one of the more talented teams in 4A. They have to put it together.”
Malvern “has one of the better players in the conference,” Groomes said.
Fountain Lake, Bauxite and Mena round out the conference.
Among area schools in District 7-2A, Mineral Springs has a new coaching staff, including head Coach David Bennett who came from Horatio after a lengthy tenure at Dierks.
The Murfreesboro Rattlers have new Coach Mark McRae. Groomes said the Rattlers will rely on J.C. Motley. Other than that, they’re really young.”
Dierks will have the third coach in three years in Jonathan Bates.
Groomes discussed college football in Arkansas, starting with the Great American Conference.
The coaches’ poll listed Southern Arkansas University as the pre-season pick to win the GAC title. The Muleriders return 17 starters and recruited a number of Arkansas players. “It’s important to have them come in. It spurs interest in the program,” Groomes said.
Ouachita Baptist was second. “I’ve been told by high school coaches that Coach Todd Knight and his staff do the best job in the state recruiting,” Groomes said. “They visit every high school in the state at least once.”
Four of the Tigers’ starters are from District 7-4A, including center Cameron Alexander of Nashville. Alexander was a guest at the Rotary meeting.
Henderson State was picked third, with Harding fourth.
In the Sun Belt Conference, Arkansas State was picked second. The Red Wolves have only two Arkansas players on their two-deep roster, Groomes said. “They need to have more and have to prove themselves to state players.”
In the Southeastern Conference, Alabama was picked to win the title and likely the national championship, according to Groomes.
The Arkansas Razorbacks are picked fourth in the SEC Western Division. “There’s a lot of pressure on Arkansas to produce,” Groomes said. “My personal prediction is a 6-6 record.”
Hooten’s began in the fall of 1992, the Razorbacks’ first year in the SEC. “Coach Frank Broyles led the move to the SEC. He saw profit there. Arkansas made $17 million from the SEC last season. In comparison, Oklahoma State got $2 million from the Big 12. Coach Broyles deemed the Southwestern Conference a dying conference.”
The Razorbacks “have not recruited Arkansas as well as they should,” Groomes said. “The level of high school football in the state is very good. Arkansas is tenth per capita in Division I high school players. There could be 30 D-I players from Arkansas this season. The Hogs have to recruit better in the state.”
Overall, “Nobody will be the power in the SEC until Nick [Saban] leaves Alabama. Seven or eight from their defense were drafted last year.”
In response to questions from Rotarians, Groomes said next year “is it for Arkansas in Little Rock.” He expects the Razorbacks to move all home games to Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, with none at War Memorial Stadium.
The University of Arkansas, Little Rock is considering the addition of football after an absence of about 60 years. “It’s tough to get fan support. They will have a couple of big donors initially. Their goal is to get in the Sun Belt.”
Groomes said the administration at Arkansas is “very content with where they are” in terms of Razorback football. “Only a drastic drop in ticket sales or a season with one or two wins could change it.”
Last week’s visit marked the eighth appearance for Groomes at the Nashville Rotary Club.
In addition to Alexander, guests included Garrett Lance, a Scrapper senior and the son of Rotarian Dr. Glenn Lance.