BY NORM BETZ –
The Mena Bearcats finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed in region 7-4A and will be awarded a first-round home playoff game. Mena finished with an overall record of 8-2, 5-2 in conference and went 4-1, both at home and on the road. This will be the Bearcats first home playoff game since 1996, but a school record fifth straight trip to the State Playoffs.
“I am just so proud of all these young men, they have truly bought in to the TEAM concept,” said Bearcats Head Coach Tim Harper. “It is truly amazing what we can accomplish when we work together.”
Going into the season Coach Harper and the Bearcats knew it was going to be an uphill battle, changing to the new conference, but they’ve proved to be more than up to the challenge. After winning all three of their non-conference games, the Bearcats knocked off the first three teams in the new 7-4A conference before losing two in a row. Mena finished out the regular season with back-to-back victories.
Coach Harper talked about the first game of the season and how their backs were against the wall. “I felt like half-time of the De Queen game really set the tone for the season,” explained Harper. “They had a decision to make, throw in the towel or Trust in teamwork and tenacity… they choose the latter and we are still reaping the benefits!”
The Bearcats will host Central Arkansas Christian (CAC) on Friday night with the kickoff slated for 7:00 p.m. The Mustangs will travel to Mena with an overall record of 6-4, 4-3 record in conference play and finished 3-2 both at home and on the road. Mena has put 369 points (36.9 points per game) on the board this season, while CAC has scored 344 points (34.4 ppg). The Bearcats have given up a total of 229 points (22.9 ppg), while the Mustangs have given up 316 points (31.6 ppg). Mena is ranked eighth in class 4A, while CAC is ranked 26th out of the 48 teams.
“All sports teach you life lessons, but football knocks you around mentally and physically,” said Harper. “The question is will you keep on keeping on, even when the odds are stacked against you… that is why we’ve been a good second half team. We have promised one another 48 minutes and that is what we have done.”
The Bearcats have their sights set on defeating the Mustangs and moving into the second-round of the playoffs. The second-round match-up would feature the winner of the Newport vs Star City game. Newport won region 2, while Star City finished fifth in region 8. If Newport wins, the Bearcats would have to play on the road, while they would host Star City if the Bulldogs could pull off the upset.
Just like the old saying, “Two out of three ain’t bad”. Coach Harper has reached two of his three personal preseason goals. 1) Qualify for State Playoffs – Check, 2) Win Conference Championship – Finished 2nd, and 3) Host a Playoff game – Check! Mena hasn’t won the Conference since their 10-0 1996 season, the same season the Bearcats hosted their last playoff game.
Looking back on the 2014 season, the Bearcats won their first six contests, outscoring their opponents, 231 to 126. Mena defeated De Queen 41-21 in week one, defeated Hot Springs 22-21 in week two, defeated Mansfield 35-14 in the final non-conference game of the season, defeated Ashdown 55-34 in their first 7-4A contest, defeated Malvern 36-22 in week five, and then defeated Bauxite 42-14 in week six. The Bearcats dropped their next two games to Arkadelphia 40-28, and then to eventual conference champion Nashville 35-7. Mena defeated Fountain Lake in week nine 47-28, and then got their first shut-out of the season on Senior Night, blanking Waldron 56-0.
This is Mena’s school-record fifth straight trip to the State Playoffs. Last year the Bearcats lost to Hamburg in the first-round, 48-12. In 2012, the Bearcats went two rounds deep defeating Arkadelphia 42-29, before losing to Ozark 33-12. In 2011, Mena loss to Prairie Grove, 43-27, in the first-round. In 2010, the Bearcats played three-rounds deep, defeating Lee 14-6, Dumas 31-28, and then losing to Robinson, 50-22.
Make plans now, get to Randall Whorton Field at Boyd Stadium early to cheer on the Bearcats to victory! The first-round playoff game against Central Arkansas Christian is slated for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff. If you are unable to make the game, you can watch them live by clicking this link: http://citylinktv.com/channel/mena-mypulsenews-tv/