OPINION | HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS: League play kicks into high gear

Conference play has hit all six classifications of high school football in Arkansas this week, providing some fun matchups right out of the gate.

Former Class 5A powers duking it out in Class 6A, a pair of 2021 state semifinalists facing off and two of Class 7A's top teams highlight an exciting first full week of conference play.

Bentonville West will travel to No. 6 Fayetteville to open play in the 7A-West at Harmon Field with both teams finishing 2-1 in nonconference action.

This matchup has been the scheduled conference opener for the last four years. Bentonville West won meetings in 2018 and 2019, covid-19 canceled 2020's and Fayetteville got the better of its conference foe in 2021.

The Bulldogs feature one of the better passing attacks in the state thanks to the connection between quarterback Drake Lindsey and wide receiver Kaylon Morris.

Lindsey's 960 passing yards are good for fourth in the state. Morris' 510 receiving yards rank third. The duo has connected for four touchdowns and should be busy against the Wolverines. Fayetteville 41, Bentonville West 24

LITTLE ROCK CHRISTIAN (3-1, 1-1 6A-West) AT PULASKI ACADEMY (3-0, 1-0) The holders of the last eight Class 5A championships are continuing their rivalry in Class 6A in 2022. The Pulaski Academy offense is as prolific as ever with quarterback Kel Busby leading the state in passing yards per game (397.3) and wide receiver Jaylin McKinney leading it in total receiving yards (558). Pulaski Academy 42, Little Rock Christian 27

LITTLE ROCK CATHOLIC (3-0, 2-0 6A-East) AT SEARCY (1-2, 1-1) Little Rock Catholic's improbable start to the season continued last week with a 38-14 win over Benton. Catholic quarterback Sam Sanders accounted for five touchdowns in the win. Searcy's Dede Johnson Jr. is averaging over 200 yards per game rushing. Little Rock Catholic 34, Searcy, 21

SYLVAN HILLS (0-3, 0-2 6A-East) AT WEST MEMPHIS (3-0, 2-0) The Bears have competed in all three of their games but enter this matchup searching for win No. 1. The Blue Devils are off to their best start yet under third-year Coach Robert Hooks. The Blue Devils have held all three of their opponents to 21 points or less. West Memphis 20, Sylvan Hills 14

EL DORADO (1-2, 1-1 6A-East) AT BENTON (1-2, 1-1) Both the Wildcats and Panthers are adjusting to life with new faces behind center. Both feature first-year quarterbacks in Kolin Parker (El Dorado) and Jack Woolbright (Benton). This game could come down to which running back Shadarious Plummer (El Dorado) or Braylen Russell (Benton) has the better game. Benton 34, El Dorado 21

MILLS (4-0) AT WHITE HALL (2-2) The 2021 Class 5A runner-up Bulldogs have been up and down in Year 1 of Coach Ryan Mallett's tenure. The Comets are off to their best start under third-year Coach Cortez Lee. The Comets don't feature a standout performer on offense but have four receivers with 200 or more yards. Mills 34, White Hall 24

MORRILTON (3-1) AT BEEBE (3-1) The Badgers have already matched Coach Chris Gunter's previous season-high three wins. Beebe features one of Arkansas' premier offensive talents in Kiandrea Barker. The sophomore is averaging 12.5 yards per carry and has scored five total touchdowns. Beebe 21, Morrilton 14

FARMINGTON (2-1) AT HARRISON (2-1) Six of the eight members of the 5A-West stand 2-1 heading into conference play, including these two. Farmington is averaging 42 points per game but will need to score on a Harrison defense allowing 15.3 per contest. Farmington 36, Harrison 24

STUTTGART (3-1) AT HARDING ACADEMY (3-0) Each of the Ricebirds' four games have been decided by 11 points or less, but they've come out the other side of nonconference play 3-1. Harding Academy sophomore quarterback Owen Miller has thrown for 705 yards and eight touchdowns through three games. The Wildcats have won 43 of 44 and 15 consecutive games against in-state competition, and that should continue against the Ricebirds. Harding Academy 45, Stuttgart 27

ARKADELPHIA (3-0) AT NASHVILLE (3-1) The Badgers entered 2022 as the favorites for the Class 4A title and have looked every bit the part. They face a Nashville offense led by dual-threat quarterback Sloan Perrin. He has thrown for 593 yards and rushed for 580, totaling 14 touchdowns along the way. Nashville has won six of the last 10 matchups, but Arkadelphia should be able to make it back-to-back wins on Friday. Arkadelphia 35, Nashville 27

RIVERCREST (1-2) AT POCAHONTAS (2-1) These northeast Arkansas foes will square off to open 4A-3 play. Rivercrest features a strong running game behind junior Koby Turner's 127.3 yards per game. Last year's contest featured 102 points. Rivercrest has won the last four meetings. Rivercrest 42, Pocahontas 34

CLINTON (4-0, 2-0 4A-4) AT BENTON HARMONY GROVE (4-0, 2-0) The 4A-4 Conference features three 4-0 teams, but after this one, that group will lose a member. Clinton has scored the third-most points in Class 4A with 166 and Benton Harmony Grove is holding opponents to 11 points a game. Clinton 32, Benton Harmony Grove 21

WARREN (2-1, 1-0 4A-8) AT MCGEHEE (2-0, 2-0) Conference realignment led to a 2021 Class 3A semifinalist paired with a Class 4A semifinalist in the new 4A-8. McGehee didn't play its first game until Sept. 9 but is 2-0 with a pair of 36-14 wins. All three of Warren's games have been decided by five points or less, including a 28-27 overtime win over Star City last week. McGehee 31, Warren 27

MANSFIELD (3-0) AT WEST FORK (3-0) These two undefeated teams have already matched or surpassed their 2021 win totals. Points should be at a premium as these are the only two Class 3A teams allowing less than 10 points per game. Mansfield 24, West Fork 10

PRESCOTT (3-0) AT GURDON (4-0) The Curley Wolves have won the previous six matchups dating to 2014. Prescott's senior quarterback Carston Poole has thrown for 745 yards and accounted for 10 total touchdowns. Prescott hasn't lost a regular season game since Sept. 6, 2019. Prescott 45, Gurdon 28

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