Central Arkansas, Arkansas Tech should open with wins

Updated: August 25, 2005, 2:43 AM ET
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK -- Central Arkansas can't wait to return to the field after a season-ending win over previously unbeaten Arkansas Tech in 2004. The Bears open Thursday against Eastern New Mexico in the Capital City Classic.

Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium, which seats 53,727, will be the largest facility Eastern New Mexico has played in. But if history is any indication, the Greyhounds will provide a difficult test. Central Arkansas opened last season with a 38-31 win at Eastern New Mexico, jumping ahead 21-0 and then holding on.

Kentrel Rogers, who ran for three touchdowns against the Greyhounds last year, will join 2003 Gulf South Conference rushing leader Willie Hopson in the backfield. Stopping the Bears' running game will be a tough first challenge for Eastern New Mexico coach Mark Ribaudo, the Greyhounds' defensive coordinator for seven years before replacing Harold "Bud" Elliott, who retired after last season.

Both teams will have new starting quarterbacks. The Greyhounds lost Steven Hinson, who passed for 1,335 yards and rushed for 1,006 as a senior in 2004. Central Arkansas senior Chris Reil will replace Zac Clark, who threw for 2,762 yards and 24 touchdowns.

But the Bears should still have plenty of offense with Rogers and Hopson in the backfield and wide receiver Michael Norvell, who needs four receptions to break the school mark of 173.

Norvell sets the record as Central Arkansas takes another early lead and wins its opener for the fifth straight season.

CENTRAL ARKANSAS 27, EASTERN NEW MEXICO 14

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Arkansas Tech beat Northeastern State 52-28 to start last season -- and both teams continued in those directions. The Wonder Boys remained undefeated until losing their last regular-season game to Central Arkansas, and the Redmen went 0-10.

In Thursday's rematch, Arkansas Tech should pick up where it left off. Quarterback Jason Campbell (26 touchdown passes in 2004) leads a loaded offense that could be even better than last year. Junior tight end Josh Rogers is back after catching 32 passes for 561 yards and nine touchdowns, and sophomore tailback R.J. Vanhook will try to improve on his 1,089 yards on 191 carries.

ARKANSAS TECH 39, NORTHEASTERN STATE 14

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Henderson State's Scott Maxfield and Arkansas-Monticello's Gwaine Mathews could have an interesting pregame discussion about which coach has made more changes.

The two teams will take the field Saturday with new coaches, new players and completely different philosophies from last year. Henderson State's triple-option offense has been replaced by Maxfield's pass-happy system, and Mathews says Arkansas-Monticello won't throw the ball as much after losing Cory Allred.

Allred passed for 3,464 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior last season.

In what could be the most difficult-to-predict game of the season, Henderson State's passing game will rely almost entirely on newcomers -- some of whom played for Maxfield at Blinn (Texas) Junior College. The Reddies can expect some growing pains, but Arkansas-Monticello, which returns just seven starters, isn't ready to take advantage.

HENDERSON STATE 28, ARKANSAS-MONTICELLO 10

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Predictions for other games being played Saturday:

HARDING 21, SOUTHWEST BAPTIST 17

MISSOURI SOUTHERN 42, OUACHITA BAPTIST 38

SOUTHERN ARKANSAS 30, TEXAS A&M-COMMERCE 21


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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