It was pretty much a forgettable area ’14 football season all around

For Hud Jackson, Marty Davis and Steven Moore, 2014 was a season they’d just as soon forget—or one they’ll likely put in their rear view mirrors rather quickly. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches in my time and none of them count moral victories. All our local teams started the fall with such high hopes that the eventual results could be considered nothing short of extremely disappointing.

Davis at Monticello and Moore at Drew Central were making their debuts as head coaches of their respective high schools, while Jackson was looking forward to his fourth season with 10 players who had been with him at UAM since he came here. Alas, the years all three hoped for was not to be, though.

Four area teams—Drew Central junior high (of which Moore was also head coach), Drew Central and Monticello high schools and the University of Arkansas at Monticello—finished the year at a combined 6-32. Only Monticello’s junior Billies had a winning record, finishing 6-2 overall and winning the Class 4A, District 8 junior championship with a 6-1 league mark. Coach Kenny Pace’s team finished the season on a four-game winning streak.

For the first time since the 2003 season, the Billies failed to make the state playoffs, finishing 3-7, 1-6 in conference play. As much as I hate to keep reporting this fact, the Pirates extended Arkansas’ longest high school losing streak to 42 games with an 0-10 campaign. The junior Pirates did finish third in the Eastern Division of Class 3A, District 6 with a 1-2 record but were 1-7 overall.  And the Boll Weevils suffered some unbelievably bad breaks early and limped home 2-8.

Monticello’s season got off to a good start as the Billies christened the new artificial turf at Hyatt Field with a victory over Lake Village Lakeside but quickly went downhill from there—thanks to back-to-back-to-back games against three of the powerhouse teams in 4A-8 (all of which are still in the state playoffs, at least until Friday night). Drew Central went through the growing pains, both in junior and senior high, that come with a new coach and a new system. But Moore is building the Pirate program the right way.

And UAM was snakebitten from the first game. Never in all my years of covering sports have I seen something like what happened to Jackson and the Weevils in 2014. From the blown call that wiped out what should have been the game-winning touchdown reception way back in September, it seemed like UAM was on the road at home. Teams usually can catch a break or two along the way; the Weevils were not so lucky.

Losing four of its first five games by six points or less—the first three in the last minute—put UAM behind the 8-ball and the Weevils just couldn’t recover from those disappointments. Jackson did get his first road win in four years, though, against Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla., on Oct. 25.

Those results don’t mean there’s not promise for al the teams—there is. Both high school squads were quite young and had to play a lot of people coming back for 2015. Jackson and his staff have recruited well, return some very talented athletes and will undoubtedly add another strong new class in February.

It’s just a shame players the caliber of this year’s seniors at all three schools couldn’t have been sent off with better finishes to their playing careers.

The legend continues

Before she leaves Monticello High School, the name Sara Claycomb will be forever etched in the minds of every sports fan in Arkansas, if it hasn’t been already.

The three-time Class 4A individual state cross country champion and seven-time All-State performer already in both cross country and track and field, Claycomb was one of 24 Arkansas representatives in last Saturday’s Arkansas-Oklahoma All-Star meet at Rogers High School.

Despite having to run in bitterly cold weather and losing her right shoe with three-quarters of a mile to go, Claycomb managed to finish eighth in 19 minutes, 24.9 seconds over the 5-kilometer course. She was the second Arkansas runner to cross the finish line, prompting even Monticello cross country coach Danny Chisom, who has seen all Claycomb’s exploits, to marvel.

“That hurt her race,” Chisom said, “but it happens. She did a great job to be the second Arkansas runner under those conditions. It’s just a testament to her competitive nature—she doesn’t quit.”

Fans can witness that fire for themselves this spring as Claycomb and the Lady Billies look to unseat two-time defending state champion Crossett in 4A-8.

Claycomb told me last week after the state cross country championships she is planning to train “harder than I ever have before for this spring.” With her determination and God-given talent, 2015 could be her best year on the track.

It’s worth watching. 

The Advance-Monticellonian

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Monticello, AR 71655

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