LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A new champion will be crowned in Class 2A on Friday when Hazen and Carlilse meet at War Memorial Stadium.
Both teams combine to have nine state championship appearances, but neither school has been able to capture a title.
Hazen quarterback Luke King has been preparing for this moment all his life.
“It‘s something I’ve dreamed about, and all of us have dreamed about since we were little kids," King said. "To actually get a chance to do it, it’s a blessing.”
Hazen Coach Joe Besancon believes the impact of bringing home a state championship goes beyond the sidelines.
“Whoever wins it's gonna be huge for that community," Besancon said. "Both of these are small towns and small towns love their football teams."
And these small towns are just ten miles apart along Highway 70.
“A lot of our kids know a lot of their kids," Carlisle Coach Caleb Shock said. "We’ve got kids that grew up hunting and fishing with those kids."
Although the ties between Hazen and Carlilse are close, King explained that when it's time to put on the helmet, all that goes out the window.
“After the game your friends," King said. "But during the week that we play, we don’t communicate.'
Hazen handed Carlisle its only loss this season with a 38-30 victory on Nov. 4 in the annual Highway 70 Smackdown. King came into the game in the second half and guided the Hornets to victory with a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We had a few issues defensively that allowed for some points,” Shock said. “And when they got their quarterback back in the second half that made a big difference because he’s a big-time player. He’s a special kid.”
King said he's excited to face a rival in the state championship game because it means more bragging rights are at stake.
“[We] already played them once this year," King said. "They’re a big rival, raise the bar, [and it] makes you want to win even more."
Beating a team twice in one season is no easy task and Besancon knows what it will take to capture the school's first state championship.
“They know what we do, we know what they do," Besancon said. "So, it just comes down to who can stop who. We could both probably play right now if we had to.”
Hazen and Carlisle kick off the 2A State Championship at noon, but don't expect too much activity in either town on Friday. The schools will shut down and the stands will be packed.