A casual observer might call the down-to-the-wire victory Fayetteville High pulled off at North Little Rock High on November 23 an act of God. North Little Rock had just finished surging back from a 24-6 deficit early in the fourth quarter to take a 28-27 lead with 30 seconds left in the 7A state playoff semifinals. As the teams lined up for the ensuing kickoff, the home crowd was rocking. Surely, after so many close calls, North Little Rock would make its long-awaited appearance in the state’s football championship game.
Then, the most statistically probable miracle in Arkansas sports happened.
In 25 seconds, Fayetteville drove the ball down the field with almost surgical precision. A 22-yard kickoff return and two passes totaling 37 yards led to a 38-yard field goal that sailed through the uprights and cut through the heart of every blue and yellow clad fan in the stands that bitter cold night.
Was it manifest destiny that Fayetteville return to its third straight championship game, where it would win its second straight title?
But, more likely, it was only the latest result of Arkansas sports’ own law of probability: Most things being unequal, northwest Arkansas football teams have the edge over central Arkansas counterpart long before they ever take the field.
Since 2004, no central Arkansas team has made the finals of 7A, the state’s largest classification. A team from the northwest, including Fort Smith, has won the title every year since 2005. Each runner-up since 2006 has also been from NWA. This year, NWA dominance extended to the second-largest classification when Greenwood beat Pine Bluff 51-44.
Central Arkansas’ biggest schools keep falling short. “Frankly, it’s almost embarrassing to those who have some pride in your athletic programs,” says Frank Williams, the athletic director at Little Rock McClellan High School, which is in 6A.
Why can’t anybody beat NWA?
“All coaches have talked about it from time to time, and everyone has their own theories,” says Shane Patrick, head coach at Springdale High School and former president of the Arkansas Football Coaches Association.