As an eighth-grader at Hazen in 2014, Kade Perry saw the Hornets play in the Class 2A state championship game in the stands at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
"It was crazy," he said. "We had a lot of fans. It seemed like there were more people in the stands than there were in Hazen."
The 2014 title game between Hazen and Junction City -- a 38-6 Junction City victory -- drew 4,898 at War Memorial Stadium, which was larger than Hazen's population of 1,468.
On Friday, Perry -- a two-way starter for Hazen at offensive tackle and middle linebacker -- will get his opportunity to represent the Prairie County town on the football field at the central Arkansas home of the University of Arkansas.
Hazen (13-0) takes on Junction City (11-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.
It's the first time Hazen has played in a state championship game since 2014. The Hornets are playing in their third state championship game, losing the 1982 Class A title game 2-0 to Rison, then falling to Junction City in 2014.
Hornets Coach Joe Besancon, who guided the 2014 team to the state final, said that team helped influence this year's senior class of 12 players.
"They were here. They got to witness it," Besancon said. "I've had a few players come up to me and say, 'Coach, I was sitting right up there when y'all played last time.'
"They saw that and said, 'I want to do that one day.' They've worked their tail off, and here they are with the opportunity to do it."
The Hornets advanced to Friday's title game by shutting out Mount Ida 42-0 on Saturday in the Class 2A semifinals. They finished with 354 yards offensively.
Perry, 6-2, 217 pounds, has 125 tackles this season for the Hornets. With Perry on the offensive line, the Hornets are averaging 362.0 rushing yards per game and they've scored 46.4 points in 13 games.
"He's our heart and soul," Besancon said. "He's the guy on the team that the kids look to. If there's a big play made on defense, those 10 guys are going to look to him to make the big play.
"It helps make them better. He has high expectations for his teammates."
Junior quarterback and defensive end Blayne Toll appreciates Perry and what he's meant to Hazen.
"He's an animal at linebacker," Toll said. "I've never seen somebody read the guard so fast and shoot the holes."
Perry's leadership on defense has helped the Hornets hold opponents to 97 points through 13 games for a 7.4 average.
"We're 2A, but we play hard enough and physical enough," Perry said.
Perry is on the field for the majority of the game for the Hornets. When asked what side of the football he prefers, he said defense.
"I like playing linebacker a lot more. But I like offense when we score," Perry said. "Linebacker is just what I love to do."
Perry is looking forward to the matchup with Junction City, which is led by running backs Dhante Gibson and Jakiron Cook.
"We match up with them pretty well," Perry said. "We have good speed. They have really good team speed. We both have good offensive lines.
"It will be a good night."
At War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock
Hazen vs. Junction City, 7 p.m.
Booneville vs. Osceola, noon
Arkadelphia vs. Joe T. Robinson, 6:30 p.m.
All game televised on AETN.
Sports on 12/05/2018
Print Headline: No seat for Perry in stands this time