With the rise of late-summer heat and humidity, so does the anticipation.
Football season, which amounts to a long holiday season in the South, is upon us.
This one is characterized with curious overtones — for Bret Beliema’s second season at Arkansas and Blake Anderson’s first at Arkansas State — and particularly in Faulkner County, where there are new and intriguing touches almost everywhere.
It starts with two new coaches — Steve Campbell at UCA and Todd Langrell at Mayflower.
Campbell’s Bears get it all started Saturday in Lubbock, Texas against Texas Tech, a highly regarded Big 12 team that is arguably the toughest opponent in its history.
Langrell, the highly successful offensive coordinator during the revival of the Greenbrier program, takes over at his alma mater for Jed Davis, who left last spring for Marion.
There are updated facilities:
Conway has a new press box — two stories and replacing one of the most outdated in central Arkansas.
Conway Christian has enhanced its concession and restroom facilities and has added a bell tower as a benchmark entrance to Mission Field.
There are veteran coaches at different places. Longtime UCA assistant Brooks Hollingsworth, who was not retained during the coaching change, is coaching the offensive line at Conway High. Bill Buckner, who has served as head coach and assistant at both Greenbrier and Vilonia, retired from Vilonia’s schools and is now working as a volunteer assistant at Hendrix.
Fresh hopes are everywhere.
UCA, which returns a veteran team and several revived injured players from last year, has strong ambitions as one of the favorites in the Southland Conference. Bear fans are excited with a new coaching staff under Campbell, who has led teams to NCAA Division II and junior college national titles and has never had a losing season.
Hendrix has greater numbers and stronger and experienced players for its second season since reinstating football for the first time in 53 years.
Conway is the favorite in 7A/6A Central and seems poised to make another playoff run.
Greenbrier has a posse of capable quarterbacks and hopes to be one of the top teams in 5A-West.
Vilonia is trying to recover from an injury-ravaged season last year.
Mayflower, one of the top offensive teams in the state last season, may be ready for a deeper playoff run.
Conway Christian tries to continue as one of the top teams in a balanced 2A league.
As usual, there are shifts in conference alignments.
Siloam Springs and Alma, former conference rivals of Greenbrier and Vilonia, move into Conway’s conference.
Little Rock Christian, one of the projected top teams in 5A, returns to 5A West and Maumelle and Farmington are other new members.
Atkins is a member of Mayflower’s 3A conference.
England moves into Conway Christian’s conference.
Most colleges begin this week.
The high schools begin a week later. Greenbrier will be one of the first prep teams to open play (Sept. 2 against Beebe at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
Hendrix will open on the road at Westminster on Sept. 6.
A bunch of folks can hardly wait.