BY JACLYN ROSE –
Coach Craig Bentley began his athletic career as a Mena Bearcat, when his family moved back to town. After graduating from Mena High School in 2003, he went on to obtain his Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Henderson State University. After graduating in December of 2007, Coach Bentley moved back to Mena, where he helped out with spring football and substituted at the school before accepting his first coaching job at Pea Ridge. Coach Bentley then spent two years coaching at Springdale High School in Northwest Arkansas before moving back to Mena in 2001, where he has been since, first coaching junior high football before moving to the senior high defensive coordinator and the senior high boys soccer coach, he also is the 7th grade head football coach and he teaches Physical Education, Health, and a Lifetime Wellness class for 6th graders at Mena Middle School.
“I’m a Bearcat, born and bred. It’s hard to put into words what it means to be able to coach at my school, but it means a lot more than the next guy. I bleed red and black and I know the pride the community takes in our schools and how important it is to represent our city and school. It’s special to have lived it and then to be able to teach others how to live it,” said Coach Bentley.
After a highly impressive football season in 2014, the Bearcats and coaching staff are working hard to be ready for another great year. “We have another great group of kids and they are really getting after it. We have another great senior class and we are ready for next year,” explained Coach Bentley. “I have never been a part of a better staff than we have here in Mena. Coach Harper is the most genuine person I’ve ever been around. He practices what he preaches and genuinely cares for the guys. I owe so much to him personally and professionally. It’s not every day that your boss also baptizes you and your wife and daughter, but Coach Harper is also our pastor and he has done a lot for my family. Professionally, he gave me the opportunity to move up to the senior high defensive coordinator which allowed me to fulfill a dream of mine. I couldn’t ask for a better guy to work for. The other coaches are all great. We all get along and have a lot of fun. They all care about the kids and treat them right and try to lead by example and everyone pitches in. We just have a lot of fun,” Coach Bentley added with a smile.
Coach Bentley and his wife, Sarah, graduated from high school the same year and were the best of friends, though they did not date until after graduating college. They were married in 2010 and have two daughters, Rylie and Harper. Without a doubt, family is of utmost importance to him. “Sarah is definitely my rock. She has sacrificed a lot of herself as a coach’s wife, especially during my seasons, both football and soccer. She’s always supportive, very loving and caring and is the most thoughtful person I know. She’s changed my life so much. We have both focused on our faith and that has brought us so much closer together. She is the first person I look for every Friday night after a game because she is as excited as I am. She’s always there through the good and the bad. I really enjoy watching my daughters grow up and become their own little people. We try to teach them right from wrong and to lead them through faith and help them understand that God is important in their lives. Every day they change and grow and do something different and it’s really fun to watch,” said Coach Bentley.
The Bentley’s attend Faith Missionary Baptist Church, where Coach Harper serves as the Pastor. “We started going to Faith Missionary Baptist a year ago and joined two months ago and it has had a major impact on us as a family. They are a great group of people and are really growing in size. We love it,” Coach Bentley explained.
“We love Polk County because of the people, my family and my wife’s family are here and the people are great. I love the pride everyone takes in the town and the school. It’s a special place. I’ve lived in bigger places where you don’t know everybody and it’s not the same, it’s not like the relationships you are able to build with people in a small town,” Coach Bentley said.