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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Epic Showdown Friday Between Legendary Programs Features Charleston at Rison for Berth in 3A Championship Game

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For the football purest, Friday’s state semifinal game between Charleston and Rison is as good as it gets. Two legendary football programs, led by legendary coaches, will battle it out in south Arkansas for a berth in next week’s state championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Charleston travels to Rison tomorrow for a state semifinal game with the Wildcats. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

The Rison Wildcats are led by legendary coach Clay Totty. Totty’s 2021 Wildcats team finished 8-4 on the regular season in 2021, third in their conference. Rison defeated Jessieville 46-7 in the first round of the 2021 state playoffs before losing to eventual state champion Harding Academy, 48-20.

The Wildcats followed the 2021 season with a perfect, undefeated regular season in 2022. They have won their state playoff games by defeating Bismarck, 30-19 and Prescott by the score of 34-29.

Rison is a member of the 3A-6 conference. The results of their 2022 schedule are:

at Dumas 31-12 (W)

@Bismarck 34-31 (W)

vs Dardanelle 44-28 (W)

@Pine Bluff Dollarway 51-0 (W)

vs Camden Harmony Grove 36-15 (W)

@Fordyce 37-24 (W)

vs Hot Springs Lakeside 49-24 (W)

at Barton 29-16 (W)

vs Drew Central 48-20 (W)

The undefeated season for the Wildcats was exactly as predicted by Hooten’s Arkansas Football publication. And after a tough win last week in the playoffs over Prescott, the Wildcats will be hosting this Friday’s semifinal that should be a barn burner with Charleston.

Charleston head coach Ricky May and his Tigers will be playing on the road for the first time in the 2022 state playoffs. So far, Charleston has made quick work of everyone they have faced in the state playoffs. The Tigers feature a deep, talented, and experienced team in virtually every aspect of their team. Charleston will enter the game with momentum from their first three wins of the playoffs, and the senior-heavy Tigers will be giving it all that they have to finish their careers in Little Rock next weekend.

RNN Sports asked Coach May for his assessment of the Rison Wildcats. With a deep respect for the Rison program and their coach, Clay Totty, Coach May responded by saying, “Rison is a ground and pound team that is very good at what they do with big play capability and the rightly timed pass. They are physical and get after you on both sides of the ball. They have three really good running backs that can catch the football, as well. Their defense is very good at making you work for everything you get. It will be a good high school football game. Rison is very well-coached by legendary Clay Totty. He’s very good!”

Yes, Coach Totty has had an outstanding career and has had a great influence on high school football in Arkansas. His coaching record is worthy of induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

And in Charleston, another coach is quickly building his own resume after revitalizing a Waldron football program and with a stop at Booneville before winning three consecutive conference championships and four straight state playoffs appearances. Ricky May will, in my opinion, eventually finish his career among the best in Arkansas. But for now, he will have his band of Tigers ready to play at 7 p.m. Friday in Rison.

The playoffs can be a time of reflection, but for the four teams that remain in the hunt for a state title, the time for reflection will come soon enough. For now, all focus is on the next game. But, as a writer, I have the luxury of reflecting on what a great senior class this has been for the Charleston football program. I did ask Coach May to share his thoughts on this very special group, and he said, “I feel like our team is playing their best football right now. It seems like they have improved every week. They have played with a lot of fire and have been really physical. We hope to continue that streak this week.”

For Tigers fans making the little more than three hour trip to Rison, bring everything you have. Bring your Tigers spirit and be loud and proud for the Charleston Tigers. It should be a very special night that everyone will always remember. RNN Sports will see you there on the field to bring you special coverage on Saturday of this epic showdown, along with photos from the game.

So, travel safely, and we will see you in south Arkansas on Friday night! This is going to be a heckuva football game; one that no football fan will want to miss!

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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