Expectations are high for Mena fans as the Coach Craig Bentley era begins Friday night when the Bearcats open the season against a familiar foe – the De Queen Leopards. First-year head coach Craig Bentley, a former Mena defensive coordinator, returns home after leading the Class 3A Mansfield Tigers to eight wins in 2018.
The Bearcats and Leopards open the season for one another for the 48th time in the last 59 seasons at Boyd Stadium Friday night. It’ll be the 83rd meeting between the two old foes in a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1912.
Although De Queen leads the all-time series with 51 wins to 26 for Mena with five ties, the Bearcats have dominated the Leopards over the past two seasons by a combined margin of 69-20. The Bearcats will be heavily favored again this time around, as the Leopards are coming off a one win season. Meanwhile, Mena returns several starters and key performers from an 8-4 play-off team in 2018, including 6’4” 235 pound junior tight end Mason Brotherton, who holds multiple Division 1 college football scholarship offers.
In this old rivalry game, Mena can expect to get De Queen’s best effort Friday night. In fact, the Leopards led the Bearcats 14-6 at halftime in De Queen last year. Max Montgomery, making his first start as a high school quarterback a year ago in Leopard Stadium, rallied the Bearcats to a 28-14 victory with three second half touchdown passes. Montgomery completed 10 of 12 pass attempts in the second half for 207 yards. Andrew Graves, Nick Lynch, and Zane Stephens had scoring receptions. Graves and Stephens return for their senior seasons teaming with Brotherton to give Montgomery several targets to choose from.
The Cats defense led upfront by tackle Blake Castor, linebackers T.J. Kiser and Cauy House, and safeties Marc Wilson and Gaven Hooper will have to keep De Queen’s senior tailback Marquez Ester bottled up. Ester rushed for 137 yards and two scores against Mena last year.
The Bearcats and Leopards will tee it up at 7:00 Friday night at Boyd Stadium. You can catch all the exciting live play-by-play action with Phillip Wilson and Todd Aynes on KQOR 105.3.