By: Seth McKinzie
This edition of the Monday Mailbag is sponsored by H&K Heating and Air and Women’s Health Associates.
Question: Now that the sports year is over what are your predictions for next year?
LL: Making predictions is one of LL’s favorite things to do. Once the sports seasons all come to a close it is fun to sit down and look ahead at what could be for the next season and school year. The question LL has been asked the most in the last week or two has been around the 2019 Gravette Lions football team so LL will start there.
Everyone knows the 2018 season was no fun. A 1-9 finish. Multiple “mercy rule” losses. Losing to Gentry to end the season. The list of “why” is not worth going over again and again but the Lions did register the first one-win season since 1998, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The 2019 season may be one that starts off rocky again. The Lions have another tough three games to start the season and then the 4A-1 looks to be a bit improved from last year. Pea Ridge brings back something like 15 total starters. Shiloh Christian will have a lot of talent again. Prairie Grove is always Prairie Grove (which means solid). Lincoln seems to be on an uptick. Even Green Forest had a strong showing in junior high last season and it will be interesting to see if that can translate over to high school success.
LL does not really want to make a “record” prediction but looking at the schedule it will be difficult for the Lions to get four wins. If they do, it will be an obvious improvement, and anything more than that will be a great indication of things to come under Coach Doug Greenwood.
For the other sports, track and field is humming right along and there are several athletes returning next year. LL thinks there will be a lot opportunity for a few more state titles in May 2020.
Boys basketball has not qualified for the 4A State Tournament in quite some time so LL is hoping 2019-2020 will be the year that streak is broken. With a lot of guys returning, and some who specialize and play hoops year round, Coach Matt Busch and his squad should be able to make a bit more noise than this past season.
Girls hoops has a shot at being exciting once again and returns a lot of talent and experience. The Lady Lions will face the defending state champions Batesville in November. Baseball looks to be improving year by year as does golf. Volleyball will be under the guidance of a new head coach so that will be something to keep an eye on.
Softball did not end the way most expected, or wanted, but there will be a TON of returning talent and experience in 2020, as the Lady Lions seek a state title. This will be the senior season for both Cally Kildow, Bailey Elmore, and Gabbi Scott (among others) and nothing short of a 4A state championship will be their ultimate goal.
Overall, LL expects the 2019-20 sports season to be a bit more upbeat and successful than this past year.
Q: Do you think we have a better handle on the non-football conferences and competing with the 5A schools?
LL: This is a good question. It did not seem there was too much of an adjustment for the teams this last season. Boys hoops defeated Farmington who won the conference. The baseball team was able to get a win over Farmington. The softball team whipped up on Harrison. Lady Lions basketball played Harrison tough as well as the last matchup with Farmington.
The old saying “iron sharpens iron” is true here as the athletes now know the level of competition that awaits them if they are going to win conference championships. It will be interesting to see how this next year goes with as the “straight 4A” teams adjust to this fact.
Q: If you had to make a wager, which sport do you think has the best chance at bringing home conference, and state titles next year?
LL: This is a short and simple answer: Softball.
Q: Do you think Gravette will have a soccer team in the next 2 years?
LL: No. The reason this is the thought is it takes a bit more than just a “little” bit of interest and a coach who volunteers a small portion of time.
The district would have to do a cost analysis for adding a new athletic program. This would involve equipment, travel, liability insurance, utilities (think lights for field), field maintenance, and coaching salary.
Right now, LL thinks the district is probably focused more on getting the new basketball arena to be completed at budget, as well as other construction projects. Since the question had to do with a specific timeframe, LL thinks IF soccer is added to the offerings it will be more of a 3-5 year type of deal.
Still…stranger things have happened.