It is common for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association all star football game to produce multiple story lines. This 59th annual edition of the game, set for 7 p.m., Friday at Estes Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, has many connected to Booneville.
For starters there is head coach Scott Hyatt who is on the West staff as an assistant to Morrilton’s Cody McNabb. Other assistants are Perry Escalante of Rogers-Heritage, Scott Neathery of Benton, Mark Taylor of Hector, Zach Watson of Morrilton and Greg Kendrick of Charleston.
"The real competition will be in practice with Kendrick the offensive coordinator and me the defensive coordinator," said Hyatt, with a tongue in cheek attitude. "I guess it will be line one of our scrimmages. We can’t blitz and other things, just like a Booneville-Charleston scrimmage."
That won’t be a problem this year because the two state champions — Booneville in 4A and Charleston in 3A — will not scrimmage, they will play a regular season, conference game on Halloween night because Booneville dropped to 3A and has been assigned to the same conference as their neighbors in Franklin County.
The staff actually has three state championship tie-ins with McNabb and Watson from 5A champion Morrilton. Hyatt would not admit that made the West a favorite or call a loss an upset.
The East leads the series 31-26-1 but since the tie in 1999, the West is 11-3.
As for the coaching itself, Hyatt, who is 69-16 in seven seasons at Booneville, said he is honored to be chosen for the assignment.
"It’s an honor to be among the coaches selected," said Hyatt. "We get to coach a lot of athletes who will be playing college football somewhere, get to know them a little bit. It’s humbling.
Recently some of the college bound players have opted to skip the game, but that isn’t the case this year.
"Some of them going to Arkansas are playing this year. When (Bobby) Petrino was there he wouldn’t let them," said Hyatt. "Of course another thing is they want them on the campus through the summer now."
For other players, like Booneville’s Cody Harrel and Dalton Gray, it is a chance to put on the gear one last time.
Of course for Gray, and Harrel in particular, it comes off an unbelievable high in their last outing, the capping of a 15-0 season with a 14-12 win over Warren in the Class 4A state title game on Dec. 20.
Harrel was named the title game MVP and Gray won a Brandon Burlsworth Award after the game that was twice interrupted by weather.
Both Harrel and Gray were named All State for the second time last season.
Harrel completed his high school career with 3,013 rushing yards after running for 1,345 yards in 2013. The quarterback ran for 15 touchdowns and threw for six more, going 24-of-44 for 407 yards.
Gray was a two-way challenge for opponents, anchoring the offensive and defensive lines at tackle.
Offensively, the unit led the way to 5,072 yards on the ground. On defense Gray had 50 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He also returned fumble for a touchdown against Maumelle in a game that decided the conference title.