High school athletics were exciting to watch this year for Ouachita County residents.
Ouachita County saw the Camden Fairview Cardinals go far as the second round of the 5A State Semi-finals; multiple basketball, baseball and softball programs making it to the regional tournament; and the inaugural season of volleyball at Harmony Grove.
This school year was also the last for several incredible seniors in all three schools in Ouachita County. Camden Fairview, Harmony Grove and Bearden had great athletes that contributed to the success of multiple sports.
Two of the most prominent athletes that had some of the biggest impacts in their sports were Camden Fairview's Martavius Thomas and Harmony Grove's Kailee Riggs.
Camden Fairview's Martavius Thomas (football and baseball) has been named the 2022-2023 school year Camden News' Male Player of the Year. Harmony Grove's Kailee Riggs (volleyball, basketball and softball) is the Camden News' Female Player of the Year.
Harmony Grove's Caleb Johnson (football, basketball and baseball), Bearden's Thomas Brunston (football and basketball) and Jarvis Reed (football and basketball) were serious contenders for Male Player of the Year.
Camden Fairview's Karmen Johnson (volleyball, basketball and softball), Harmony Grove's Eliza Taylor (volleyball, basketball and softball) and Bearden's D'Mya Flint (basketball and softball) were serious contenders for Female Player of the Year.
Thomas has been one of the most electrifying playmakers in Ouachita County since entering into high school. There were a lot expectations for Thomas coming into his senior season of his football and baseball season and he was able to play at a high level to make the big plays happen.
On the football field, Thomas was the heart and soul of the Cardinals' high-volume offense that was explosive through the air and on the ground. Thomas' leadership was vital for not only the offense but the defense and the special teams.
There were several times this past football season that the Cardinals finished with a tremendous comeback. One of the most memorable comebacks was in the 35-19 road win over the Magnolia Panthers. The Cardinals came back at halftime from being down 19-14 thanks to the solid ground attack of Thomas. Another comeback came in the second round of the 5A State Playoffs, when the Cardinals beat the Valley View Blazers 26-21 on the road. The Cardinals outscored the Blazers 14-0 in the fourth quarter after being down 21-14.
In 13 games played this season, Thomas completed 137-of-250 of his passes (54.8%) for 2,223 yards, 22 touchdowns, only eight interceptions and a quarterback rating of 100.8. He was one of the most explosive and dangerous passers in the South Arkansas. Thomas was the leader of the Cardinals' dynamic and fast rushing game by leading the teams in attempts (125), yards (675) and touchdowns (13). He had three 100-yard rushing performances this season for the Cardinals. He was named an All-State selection for the second consecutive season.
While Thomas was unable to replicate his baseball team's 2022 success this season, he still had a tremendous season as at shortstop and centerfielder. His leadership and experience on the field was key in helping the Cardinals make the most out of their season.
Thomas' speed, patience at the plate, reliability and instincts made him the best overall player on the team. In 20 games this season, Thomas accounted for 18 hits, one home run, nine RBIs, a team-high 20 runs, a team-high 16 walks, only nine strikeouts, a team-high batting average of .340 and a team-high on-base percentage of .520 (of more than one at-bats). As a fielder, Thomas accounted for 35 putouts, 31 assists and five double-plays. Thomas was named All-State once again for Cardinals' baseball.
On April 27, Thomas signed his letter of intent to play college baseball at Grambling State University after being committed to the University of Arkansas for the previous two seasons. Thomas is the highest rated player in the sport of baseball to signing with a historically Black university like GSU.
Riggs has been a vital player for the three major female sports at Harmony Grove High School in her senior season, including in two she's played for the entirety of her high school career. Her leadership and athleticism were key for the Lady Hornets to make statements in volleyball, basketball and softball.
Riggs was one of a few students to help lead the first-ever Lady Hornets volleyball team this past season. She was the leading scorer in the Lady Hornets' first-ever game in the regular season, when she scored 19 points with four of them being ace serves in the 3-2 set victory at home over the Smackover Lady Buckaroos.
Her leadership and athleticism quickly shifted to the basketball court where she was one of the top players on both sides. Riggs was a solid shooter all-around the catch and was a great passer. Defensively, she was a lockdown defender in man and in zone. One of her best performances in the 70-33 loss the McGehee Lady Owls on February. Riggs scored 20 points, shooting 7-of-13 in field goals and 6-of-12 from the three-point arc while accounting for a block and a steal without four other key players providing team support.
In her final semester of high school athletics' career, Riggs showed her toughness and grit. She was one of the most consistent batters this season as well as a stout fielders in South Arkansas this season. In 70 at-bats, Riggs accounted for a team-high in hits (23), batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.420) and slugging percentage (.471). She also accounted for 15 single-base hits, six double-base hits, three runs, 13 RBIs, seven walks and only eight strikeouts. As a catcher, Riggs led the team in total chances accounted for an out at 202 and putouts at 192. She assisted with nine putouts while encountering one error throughout the entire season. She was named an All-Conference player after a tremendous senior season.