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Area 3A, 4A teams set for season

Jul 13, 2023

The 2023 high school football season is fast approaching, and the Class 3A and 4A conferences across southeast Arkansas should provide exciting title races this year.


Last year’s top four teams in Conference 4A-8 all have several starters to replace this fall, so some new faces will need to step up.

Warren remains the team to beat despite returning just three defensive starters. The Lumberjacks must also name a new starting quarterback, but whoever wins that battle will have the conference’s top two returning receivers.

Star City finished a close second to Warren last year. The Bulldogs return about half their starters, but head coach Chris Vereen said last year’s 10-2 season makes it easier to replace the rest.

“With a lot of wins that we were able to get a lot of guys playing time, that helps,” Vereen said. “When you have a good year, usually, that rolls into another one. There’s not a guy out here that didn’t get some experience on the field last year.” McGehee handled the transition from 3A to 4A well last year and will try to contend this year, though the Owls return three starters on defense. DeWitt has been competitive the past two years but returns just four starters on each side of the ball.

Crossett and Hamburg, by contrast, each return almost everyone and could take a big step forward. Monticello has the conference’s leading returning rusher and top two tacklers. Dumas has a senior all-conference quarterback returning, while Helena has several pieces to replace.

Four teams in this conference won at least one playoff game last year. Vereen said he thinks three teams could challenge Warren and Star City.

“Definitely McGehee,” Vereen said. “They made it to the [third round] last year, even after finishing third in conference. I know word on the street, Hamburg’s returning everybody. They’re going to be a lot better. Crossett’s returning 10 offensive starters. They’re going to be a lot better.”


After falling short of what would have been a third-straight conference title, Stuttgart is looking to reclaim its spot atop Conference 4A-2.

The Ricebirds were injury-ridden last season with 17 players missing at least one game. They have a lot of starters to replace, though the silver lining of the injuries was younger players getting a chance to play and get experience. They do have the conference’s leading returning rusher in DeOntae Clark.

Head coach Josh Price said the first part of the schedule will be challenging this year.

“I think everybody that we’re playing is more talented than us in the first five games,” Price said. “But then, the latter part of the schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team start off real slow and then win one, maybe two playoff games. If we can get to the quarterfinals with this young bunch, that would be a great accomplishment.” Harding Academy took the top spot from Stuttgart last year after moving up from Class 3A. Price said Harding Academy linebacker Wyatt Simmons is one of the best players in the nation. The Wildcats also have the top returning quarterback and top two returning receivers in the conference. Lonoke finished third behind Stuttgart but played the Ricebirds and Wildcats closer than anyone, losing by a combined 13 points.

The top three dominated the rest of the conference last year and may do so again in 2023.

Price said both will be tough games, but he is glad to have them at home.

“The games that concern me as a coach are your three road games, Bald Knob, Riverview and Cave City,” Price said. “They’re long road trips. We’re going to play on a grass field, little bit different atmosphere, and we’re so young and inexperienced. It’s just one of those things that really makes you nervous going into it.”


Conference 3A-6 has just six teams this year with Dollarway no longer participating, but each team has reason for optimism.

New Rison coach Caleb Carmikle said 3A-6 is a solid conference top to bottom.

“Definitely as far as athleticism, it’s gotta be up there at the top,” Carmikle said. “I think it’s one of the best conferences in the state, certainly with Rison, Harmony Grove, Fordyce. Barton is very athletic, and I think Lake Village will sneak up on some people this year.” Rison is the reigning conference champion, but Camden Harmony Grove has the conference’s leading returners in passing, rushing and receiving. Fordyce won three-straight titles before finishing tied for second last year with Harmony Grove. Barton and Drew Central each took big steps forward last year, and Lake Village Lakeside will be led by Aquavious Dunbar, a running back some say will be among the best in the state.

Every team brings back five or more starters on both sides of the ball, but everyone has holes to fill. The biggest change at the top is Carmikle replacing longtime Rison coach Clay Totty. Carmikle, who previously coached Magnet Cove, said Totty’s winning culture has made the transition easy.

“Most times when you take a coaching job somewhere, there’s usually some culture you have to change,” Carmikle said. “There’s not any here. The kids understand what’s expected, and they know what the standard is, and they know how to practice. Very mature group. So, from that aspect of it, it’s really been probably easier on my part than it has at other places that I’ve gone into.”

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