The most memorable moments in Carroll County Sports

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Green Forest cross country runners show off their rings at a basketball game earlier this year.
David Bell / Carroll County News

Now that school is out, it's time to back at the year that was in Carroll County sports with the top 10 sports stories of the year.

10. After Green Forest basketball coach Brandon Stone was reassigned, the Tigers began searching for a new basketball coach. After a two-month search, Green Forest hired Donnie Smith, who was most recently at Perryville. Smith hopes to build some intensity and add a higher level of competitiveness at Green Forest. Smith hopes the kids are able to buy in defensively and with that stifling defense, he believes the scoring will take care of itself.

9. While the Berryville wrestling team went to the state tournament in Little Rock knowing it had little chance to win a team title, the Bobcats hoped to win plenty of individual titles. Kris Grile, a senior 145-pound wrestler for Berryville, won an individual title.

"The last three years getting fourth place, I never would have thought I would come out with this title," Grile said. "I'm just speechless. With how hard I have worked, this means the world to me. I'm always going to be so humbled by this. I'm so happy."

Christian Lemus and Robert Allen each finished second.

8. The Green Forest boys soccer team had a streaky season. After beginning 0-5, the Tigers went on a 10-game winning streak to finish second in their conference. Green Forest lost in the first round of the Class 4A state soccer tournament to Episcopal.

"I'm extremely proud of these guys," Green Forest coach Jonathan Bryant said. "They fought hard all season. We came up short of our ultimate goal, but I couldn't be more proud of these guys. They played hard all year. I'm going to miss my seniors. They are a great group of guys."

Green Forest had impressive conference wins over Gentry, Subiaco Academy and Berryville. The Tigers' lone conference loss came in penalty kicks at Dardanelle. Huvense Rivas scored 27 goals and had 16 assists on the season. Carlos Herrarte led the team in steals. Rodolph Canoy had 111 saves through 16 games. All of those players were seniors for Green Forest.

7. The Berryville football program will be under new leadership in 2017, as Doug Shott has replaced Austin Winters. Shott, a Booneville native, was officially named Berryville's head coach in April and he has a real desire to turn the program around.

"I want to be successful at Berryville because I believe Berryville deserves to be successful," Shott said. "It would kill me if my hometown went 10 years without winning very much. I know there are people in this community that feel that same way. It's about to kill them. It's time and given the opportunity, I look forward to turning things around."

After having a successful spring practice, Shott looks forward to continue making improvements throughout the summer.

"We have a packed summer," Shott said. "I gave them their workout schedule last week and they have three times a week they will be coming down and going through workouts with us. We have a couple of 7-on-7's and a couple team camps we will be attending so we will be able to get out and practice against someone other than us. That will add a little flair to it and let us see where we are at."

6. Expectations weren't as high as they had been in years past for the Eureka Springs Highlanders basketball team entering the 2016-17 season, as the Highlanders only brought back one returning starter.

"We had three seniors, but only J.M. (Gregg) had a lot of experience in terms of minutes," Eureka Springs coach Brian Rambo said. "We had Brandon (Ray) and Avery (Walker) and those guys who had been in the program, but they hadn't played a lot of minutes because we have been so dang good. We had so many talented players ahead of them, so for those guys to come in and take to the daily grind in terms of getting better every game, sticking to it, having dedication and trusting the process really says a lot."

Eureka Springs got out to a slow 9-7 start, but finished 13-3 down the stretch. Two of those wins came against cross-county rival Berryville and Green Forest. The Tigers also defeated Alpena and Omaha, both teams that made the 1A state tournament.

"In a 16-game stretch, you win 13 games in the heart of conference, that's really fun," Rambo said. "That was fun as a coach. And I know it's fun as a player."

5. It had been three years since the Berryville football team had last won a conference game. That changed last year when the Bobcats defeated Gentry, 52-44.

"That was a big win," Berryville coach Austin Winters said. "The kids played hard. They played to the last whistle and that's what we want."

Leading 52-44 with 1:17 remaining, the Bobcats were facing a fourth-and-seven at the Gentry 35. The elected to go for it. Quarterback Luke Britt handed the ball off to Jacob Graham and he ran for 10 yards to get the game-clinching first down. The two teams combined for 862 yards of offense. Gentry quarterback Jon Faulkenberry finished with 349 yards of total offense and accounted for each of the Pioneers' touchdowns. Graham finished with 227 yards of total offense. The game was tied 22-22 at halftime.

"They would score and then we would answer back and then we would hold them," Winters said. "It was big for us to keep playing."

Britt scored on a quarterback keeper with 3:57 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Justin Bredeson converted the two-point conversion, giving the Bobcats a 52-36 lead. Britt finished with 136 yards passing. Gaven Maxwell finished with 92 yards rushing, while Charlie Archer had 15 tackles and Andrew Scroggins had 13.

4. While the issue of conference realignment hasn't affected anyone yet, it will starting the fall of 2018. The Green Forest football team has been moved up to Class 4A where the Tigers will play the likes of Berryville, Gentry and Pea Ridge.

"It's not good for us," Green Forest athletic director Bobby Bishop said. "It's just for football. They (Arkansas Activities Association) have a proposal going before the members for basketball and the other sports to go to six classifications in the state of Arkansas. All the other sports would stay 3A. These numbers are really just affecting us in football. It wasn't a big surprise because we knew eventually we would be going to 4A. We didn't think it would be this coming cycle, but the one after. It wasn't a big surprise to me."

Berryville Athletic Director Brent Compton isn't excited about the proposal that would give all the other sports six classifications to compete in.

"I don't feel like it's in the best interest for Berryville as far as the other sports, except for football," Compton said. "It won't affect football. It will stay the same either way, but if they change the classifications, I don't think it's good for us at all. And I hope it doesn't pass."

These changes will take effect in the fall of 2018 and remain in effect until the spring of 2020. The AAA is expected to make a decision regarding the proposal over the summer months.

3. With four starters returning from a team that made a trip to the Class 4A state semifinals a year ago, there was no reason the Berryville Lady Bobcat basketball team couldn't think about making another run at the state tournament. When Berryville started the season 7-5, it looked as if the Lady Bobcats were going to be in for a difficult season, but they were able to turn things around.

"It was exciting seeing us grow as a team," Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said. "To have the injuries and the issues that we had. And then to overcome that, and watch them get better everyday in practice and see it translate to solid play on the floor was special to watch as a coach."

After a road loss to Valley Springs, Cornelison noticed a change for the better in the Lady Bobcats. They went on to reel off 10 victories in a row, including a double-overtime victory against Huntsville to claim the 4A-1 District Championship and a 53-47 win over Ozark to win the 4A North Regional Championship. The final victory came against Central Arkansas Christian, the team that eliminated the Lady Bobcats a year ago. Cornelison said this was a special victory for the girls.

"They were up for that challenge," Cornelison said. "For us to play, in my opinion, the best game we played all year long in that setting was a testament to the girls' character. It was just a phenomenal effort. A phenomenal performance. It was exciting to see that. That loss last year left a bad taste in our mouth so to avenge that loss was pretty sweet."

2. The Lady Bobcat basketball team had expectations to meet heading into the season, but the girls soccer team wasn't sure where to set its expectations, as the Lady Bobcats failed to qualify for the Class 4A state soccer tournament a year ago. It's safe to say they far exceeded expectations, as Berryville went undefeated in conference, losing in penalty kicks in the semifinals of the state tournament to Robinson.

"This group didn't make the state tournament last year," Berryville coach Aaron Hall said. "They were young and for them to improve as much as they did from one year to the next, and we did gain a few freshmen that helped our team tremendously, but the ones that were coming back just got better. They played well together as a team. They liked each other. The more your team likes each other, the more they get along, it makes things so good. Your ceiling is higher. I'm very proud of them."

The Lady Bobcats were able to beat Shiloh Christian for the first time in school history, along with Gentry and Dardanelle. Even with those wins, the Lady Bobcats had plenty to play for heading down the stretch run of the season.

"We had to beat Eureka Springs to clinch the No. 1 seed and then we go into Huntsville and now it's an undefeated season," Hall said. "It was good because we always had another goal right in front of us. Our kids couldn't take a game off."

Berryville won its first two games of the state tournament by a combined score of 15-1 before the loss to Robinson. Amber Veach, Vicky Villatoro, Maryn Jones, Natalia Hernandez and Karleigh Giles were all-state players.

1. A perfect score to win a cross country meet is 15 points. The Green Forest Tigers weren't far off, scoring 29 points. Seven Green Forest runners placed in the top 25 en route to the victory. Patrick Hunter, Rafael Rosales, Gabriel Ramos and Rhett Williamson were all-state. This is the third state championship Green Forest has won in as many years. The cross country program is the first athletic team to win three consecutive titles in school history.

"The kids did a great job as far as doing what they were instructed to do," Green Forest coach Bradley James said. "We told them at the state race that it wasn't about times, it was about going out and taking care of business."

Hunter finished second overall in 17:02, while Rosales finished third in 17:03 and Ramos finished fourth in 17:28. Williamson finished sixth in 17:46, while teammates David Nelson finished 16th in 18:45 and Matthew Hansen finished 17th in 18:46. Green Forest's Jose Lozano finished 23rd in 19:11, while teammates Tono Mendez finished 49th in 20:06 and Carlos Lemus finished 51st in 20:12. The Lady Tigers finished in second place behind Genoa Central, which James was glad to see.

"To see the girls come out and get ahead of Harding was great," James said. "We have a lot coming back and the freshman girls we had help us this year will hopefully generate some interest for the program moving forward."

Green Forest's Karina Maravillas finished sixth in 21:20, while teammates Viannie Rangel finished 13th in 22:20 and Lucy Rios finished 16th in 22:24. Jennifer Martinez of Green Forest finished 23rd in 23:19, while teammates Yaritza Quintanilla finished 33rd in 24:23 and Belinda Pineda finished 38th in 24:33.

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