When it became apparent that the Booneville Bearcats would be in this week’s state championship game, attention turned to the opponent.

Updates – thanks John Chase, even if we are miles apart on our views on college football — showed there was a heck of a game going on a little further south and east of Golden Lion Stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff where the Bearcats pounded Pine Bluff Dollarway, 43-14.

For a while it looked like Valley View would win. However, apparently there was a fumble followed by a length of the field drive and Warren took the lead on the way to the win.

From the time I first saw the bracket I thought Warren would be in the finals – even though the folks on a certain radio program, okay it was Overtime, handed the trophy to Arkadelphia weeks ago – so it’s not as if I was surprised.

If a return to the title game doesn’t take one back there, then a matchup with Warren has to lead one back to 2001. Especially those who played in the game. Predictably, much was said on social media even before the family stopped so I could have strawberry and banana French toast on the way home.

Judging from the Facebook posts the interest in the game is huge but I wouldn’t say it can hope to approach the 2001 game with Warren. All that game did was attract a still standing, Class 4A record, 10,033 fans. Pretty good considering there aren’t that many people in the two towns combined.

But then that was far from an ordinary game. It’s impossible to think of the 2001 season and not remember the tragedy with which that season started with the deaths of Matt Oxford and Justin Thompson. I won several awards for our coverage of the deaths and the season. But honestly, I’m not particularly fond of them.

I think of those deaths often and especially every year at the end of the equivalent of two-a-days. I imagine most close to the program do so as well.

It is equally difficult not to think of the 2001 title game and not think of Nathan Adair. Adair, who also left us way too early, along with Brad West, who will likely be there Friday, are the principals in what is likely the best two point conversion in the history of state title game play.

The emotions of that season and that night not withstanding, those 48 minutes were classic in every sense of the word. Simply put it was the best game in which I’ve ever witnessed Booneville take a loss.

It’s also one in which the opponent is still thought of quite well, which is kind of rare for me.

Warren had one kid in particular I truly wanted to see get on a Booneville bus and go home with us. Bret Smith went on to play at the University of Tennessee and I was genuinely happy to see the Volunteers do well while he was there.

Smith went on to play in some type of senior game at the end of his career and made what I thought was one of the 10 best catches I have ever seen.

Ironically I had a conversation about the 2001 final between Booneville and Warren just a few weeks back with Dale Mann – one of those who indicated he would be taking in Booneville-Warren 2013 – about that game.

Mann, then a defensive coordinator here, said he would like to have a copy of the game. I have one on VHS. It has been in the player once, and stayed there until Booneville scored on the game’s first possession.

For the record, about everybody who has seen the game replays says Brad West did not fumble. I would have loved to have seen how that game might have played out in an overtime. Or two. Or 10.