BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
The annual Hooten’s Arkansas Football magazine has been released with 2016 statistics, 2017 predictions, player profiles, and much more. Among other things, the annual magazine has ranked and made predictions for Mena’s 7-4A conference. Over the years, the 7-4A has been a daunting league to play in with a grueling schedule that wears on the teams. In high school football, the 7-4A conference is like the West Division in the SEC.
This year the Hooten’s staff has pegged the Bearcats to finish 5th out of the 8-team conference. Despite the ranking, Bearcat fans should be excited as the team returns 7 starters on both sides of the ball. It is also worth noting that in the Bearcat’s run to the 2014 State Championship, that Bearcat team was also picked in the middle of the pack and overachieved. In the same way, Mena returns good experience, including a three year starting quarterback and multiple defensive standout that should help the team surprise some people in the league and around the state.
As noted, the Bearcats play in one of the toughest conferences in 4A and in the state, period. To put into perspective the success the Bearcats have still achieved in the gauntlet of a schedule, consider these statistics put together by Hooten’s:
-There are 5 teams from the 7-4A conference in the State Top 20 rankings, one of those being Mena
-8 players from the conference have been named to the 4A Super Team, 3 players from Ashdown alone. Bearcat Justin Dean was named to this list
-5 players have been named to the Top 50 Recruit List, 3 of those players from the Ashdown Panther team
-4 players from the 2016 class signed with the Razorbacks
-5 of the 8 teams made the 2016 State Playoffs
-The 4 teams above Mena in the Conference rankings have a combined 143 playoff wins
Despite the grueling schedule and vast amount of college talent on several teams in the conference, since 2010 Mena has averaged almost a 7 win season. If the Bearcats continue on this track, Mena is looking at more than 5th place, the team may very well be fighting for a place as the Conference Champ. As usual, the Bearcats can be expected to grind out games, play tough football that will keep them in games and win the close ones. Last season, Mena lost two games by four points or less, but with good experience coming back and senior leadership, those are games that the Bearcats should pull out this year.
Look to a future edition of the Pulse as we countdown to Bearcat Football with player and coach profiles and coverage of all things Bearcat Football.