Three teams from Ouachita County looked to make a big impact in the 2021 season, and two exceeded expectations by either winning their conference title or making it to the state playoffs.
The Camden Fairview Cardinals (10-2) and the Harmony Grove Hornets (8-4) both went into the season with low expectations. Despite both of their exits in the second round of the playoffs, the Cardinals and the Hornets had incredible seasons filled with great moments.
These are moments that both will take with them as they prepare for next season:
1. Camden Fairview wins conference
The Cardinals went into the 2021 season with low expectations from media outlets outside of Ouachita County. Camden Fairview came into the season as the third-rated team from the 5A South Conference. The Cardinals entered conference play and dominated with their elite productivity on offense and front-seven of their defense. Finally, Camden Fairview won four of their six conference games this season by two or more possessions. They shut out Arkansas High School at home 33-0 and made fools of the Magnolia Panthers and the DeQueen Leopards.
2. Cardinals and Hornets win first-round playoff games
After a regular season for both the Cardinals and the Hornets, they entered the playoffs with the serious goal of making it deep into the tournaments. While they did not dominate their opponents in the first round like they wanted to, Camden Fairview and Harmony Grove both got solid wins at home. Camden Fairview jumped to a 26-7 lead over the Greene Tech County Tech Golden Eagles in the middle of the fourth quarter. The Cardinals allowed two unanswered touchdowns, but ultimately won, 26-21. Harmony Grove was down at home 21-15 to the Harrisburg Hornets in the "Battle of the Hornets Nest." They had a big second half by outscoring Harrisburg 20-8 in the second half to win it, 35-29.
3. Harmony Grove's comeback win over Rison
The Harmony Grove Hornets have had some close, thrilling games against a tough schedule all season. On Oct. 29, Harmony Grove hosted the Rison Wildcats for a second-place spot in the 3A-6 conference. The Hornets allowed the Wildcats to score one more time in the first half as they went into halftime down 22-14 with the momentum all for Rison. The Hornets had a huge third quarter as they outscored the Wildcats 20-0. Harmony Grove led early in the fourth quarter and would finish the game with a big 41-30 win. Hornets quarterback Caleb Johnson threw for 11-of-18 completions for 248 yards, five touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 144.7. Freshman wide receiver Trent Haygood had a big breakout game against Rison by catching four receptions for 71 yards and three touchdowns.
4. Martavius Thomas and Jacovey Barker shatter Cardinal records
One of the biggest reasons for Camden Fairview's success on the field was the dominance from several players on both sides of the ball. Cardinals junior quarterback Martavius Thomas and senior Jacovey Barker are two of the most vocal leaders, and they dominate and break records. Thomas aimed to break the single-game passing game record in the road game versus the De Queen Leopards. He shattered the record by throwing for 514 yards in the first half against De Queen. Barker was aiming for the school's single-season sack record of 17 sacks. Barker accounted for five sacks in the first-round matchup versus Greene County Tech to bring the total to 19 sacks.
5. Camden Fairview and El Dorado create a classic
Although Camden Fairview lost to their rivals in the El Dorado Wildcats at home in week two of the season, the game will be remembered as a classic. The Cardinals faced a fast-paced offense of the Wildcats and were down 40-21 late in the third quarter, but Camden Fairview was able to find momentum in the quarter, scoring 15 points to raise the score to 40-26. The Cardinals' offense had a chance to take the lead, but a goal-line stand with less than 30 seconds left them losing in a classic rivalry game.