A look back at a year in Carroll County sports
The Green Forest Tigers won their second state soccer championship in eight years in May 2021. The Tigers’ title is the top sports story of the year in Carroll County.
Green Forest defeated Harding Academy 2-0 in the Class 3A state tournament final on May 22 at the Benton Sports Complex.
Senior Blut Htoo gave Green Forest the lead for good when he scored from close range with 13:43 remaining in the first half, and classmate Blu Doh Soh’s goal with 4:58 left in the game gave the Tigers some breathing room.
Harding Academy had a couple of chances to tie the score in the second half, but a free kick sailed over the goal at the 28:39 mark and Green Forest goalkeeper Fredy Juarez made a nice save on a header a little over four minutes later.
The victory was the 22nd straight for the undefeated Tigers after a season-opening tie against Class 5A Mountain Home. Green Forest outscored its opponents 134-8 and recorded 17 shutouts — including four in a row in the state tournament.
Senior Allan Deleon was named the game’s most valuable player.
Green Forest won the championship in its first season under coach Eric Perez, who played for the Tigers team that won the 2014 Class 4A state title.
Perez, who scored two goals as a senior in the 2014 title game, said coaching in the big game was tougher than being on the field.
“I think coaching was a little bit more stressful, because I couldn’t go out and play,” he said.
The Tigers will lose some key players from their state championship squad — including Emerson Ortiz, who was the state’s leading scorer with 41 goals — but Perez has a goal in mind for next season.
“We’re going to try to get the repeat,” he said just two days after the Tigers’ victory. “We’ll have a good chance. We’ll have a lot of kids coming back.”
Berryville’s Caleb Record is a three-time state wrestling champion after winning the Class 4A title in the 120-pound weight class at the state championships on March 5 at the Jack Stephens Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Record, who won the 106-pound title as a freshman in 2019 and the 113-pound championship in 2020, beat Ashdown’s Brayden Cross to win his third state crown. Record was named the Class 4A Wrestler of the Year.
“He got to the third period, and he looked a little gassed, a little tired,” said Payton Covington, who coached the Bobcats last season. “But he knew what was at stake. He gave it everything he had and pinned the guy, I think halfway through the third period. He just jumped up and it was like he levitated for a few seconds. He was pumped.”
Berryville senior Dylan Sperduto also brought home a state title, pinning Ashdown’s Logan Fisher in the championship match at 138 pounds.
“Dylan won, I don’t want to say easy, but he struggled the least,” Covington said. “He was fantastic. He was on a mission.”
Berryville senior Dominic Henry was the state runner-up at 132 pounds, while sophomore Tun Oo took third place at 170 pounds.
Record’s victory not only gives him three state titles, it also extends the Record family’s legacy of championships. His older brothers Garrett and Colton Record also won state titles at Berryville. Their dad, Seth, is a volunteer coach for the Bobcats, and his sons have won a total of six state titles. Caleb Record will look to make it seven at the 2022 state championships.
The Green Forest Lady Tigers fell one game short of a state championship, losing to Harding Academy by a score of 6-2 in the Class 3A state tournament final on May 22 at the Benton Sports Complex. Still, it was a season to remember for the Lady Tigers.
Green Forest won seven consecutive games before the loss to Harding Academy, when injuries and other circumstances left the Lady Tigers shorthanded.
“One of our starters couldn’t play because of a red card she had gotten the previous game,” Green Forest coach Ashley Wilson said. “We had someone to take her place but just a couple of days before we went down there, we had a starter hurt her knee. I tried to get her out there and she went out there a couple of times and hurt herself again. So I had a total of four starters who basically did not get to play much of the game, if at all. We were dealt a bad hand, for sure. We just had to deal with what we have.”
Green Forest tied the score at 1-1 on a free kick by junior Myndy Zamora with 15:48 left in the first half, but Harding Academy took the lead for good with a goal at the 4:59 mark.
“At that point, we had lost the starters,” Wilson said. “And they can try to still be confident, but of course I’m sure that was part of it. They kind of lost some momentum and confidence.”
Still, Green Forest refused to quit. Trailing 6-1 with less than a minute remaining, the Lady Tigers got a goal from sophomore Emily Lozano to cut the margin to 6-2 with 24 seconds left.
“That still felt good, to get the goal in,” Wilson said.
The Lady Tigers’ success didn’t go unnoticed. In June, Wilson was named the Arkansas High School Coaches Association’s 2021 Outstanding Girls Soccer Coach and in December the National Federation of High School Associations Coaches Association named Wilson the Girls National Soccer Coach of the Year for the state of Arkansas.
“It was a great year,” Wilson said after she received the AHSCA award. “I love those girls to death. We overcame a lot. I worked hard and they worked hard, and that’s what it takes.”
Two moments stand out about the Berryville Bobcats’ 2021-22 basketball season that ended at the Class 4A state tournament in Morrilton: the way the Bobcats earned that state tournament berth and the way it ended.
Berryville pulled off a big upset to reach the state tournament, defeating Ozark by 21 points in the first round of the 4A North Regional Tournament on the Hillbillies’ home floor.
The Bobcats nearly escaped with an even bigger shocker in the state quarterfinals, leading two-time defending state champion Magnolia for almost the entire game before the Panthers scored six points in the final 48 seconds for a 61-58 victory that extended their winning streak to 54 games.
“We had ’em,” Berryville coach Brent Compton said after the game. “It just slipped away from us there late.”
Then-junior Weston Teague had a dominant game for the Bobcats, finishing with 20 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks. Senior Landon Chester added 16 points and sophomore Jake Wilson scored 15 for Berryville.
The Bobcats advanced to the state tournament with a 55-34 victory over Ozark in the first round of the regional tournament. The Hillbillies had beaten Berryville by 15 points on the same court in December, but the Bobcats took control in the rematch by scoring the first 17 points of the second half for a 38-20 lead.
Senior forward J.D. Smith led Berryville with 17 points, while Chester and Wilson added 10 points each.
Berryville finished fourth in the regional tournament but beat Southside Batesville 53-33 in the first round of the state tournament to set up the matchup with Magnolia.
The Berryville Bobcats got a new head football coach in April when the school hired veteran coach Bryan Hutson away from Elkins to replace former coach Doug Shott, who resigned earlier in the year after four seasons at Berryville.
Hutson, who went 20-13 in three seasons at Elkins, previously was head coach at Paris, Decatur; Colcord, Okla.; Little Rock McClellan and North Little Rock.
Berryville went 2-8 in its first season under Hutson, capped by a 3-0 victory over Green Forest in the annual Carroll County Super Bowl.
Green Forest, meanwhile, went 2-7 but scored a big victory late in the season when the Tigers scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Gravette 33-29.