Varsity Preps

Fort Smith Northside: A Legendary Program Producing Again

The original field that would later become Fort Smith Northside’s Mayo-Thompson Stadium.

Photo courtesy of The City Wire

Those in the state of Arkansas know a few schools that have traditionally been above all the others when it comes to high school football. Even nationally some know of the schools like Little Rock Central, Pine Bluff, Fort Smith Southside, and more recently Bentonville and Greenwood. There is one school though that has as great of a tradition as any of those schools, but in the last 20 years, hasn’t shown the dominance it once had.

That school is Fort Smith Northside. The Grizzlies have 14 state titles the last one coming in 1999. Seven of those are indeed inherited from the old Fort Smith High School, but when Northside and Southside were created in 1962 and 1963 respectively, Northside was the school that would contain the majority of the old Fort Smith High students.

The history stays the same, but what is happening now at the storied program is what has college coaches paying close attention, and high school adversaries game planning.

Last year saw a new regime enter Northside, an overhaul of the previous coaching staff saw not only a change in personnel but a change in culture. With that change in culture came a core group of players that have emerged as some of the best talent in the state, and for a couple in the country.

For those that have seen my Arkansas 25 For 2015 rankings, a few names will be familiar. Daytrieon Dean and Justin Curry. Those two players respectively are 2 of the top players in the state of Arkansas.

Dean, a University of Arkansas commit attended last Thursday’s Arkansas Elite Prospect Camp in Fayetteville, with the rest of his highly recruited teammates, and showed why he is the best defensive tackle in the state. Dean was the best during the drill session with Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrist. One thing that Segrist continually told Dean was to work on always accelerating through the play and not  alternating slowing down and speeding up.

Dean said that the things he has been working on this summer, are the very things that Segrist has been wanting to see from the future Hog.

“I’m still working on my pass rush, and getting to the quarterback, bending my hips and using my hands more because last year, that was a problem for me, getting to the quarterback, so this year I want to make a big difference in the backfield, working those type of things,” Dean said.

A player that hasn’t yet received a ton of attention, but soon will is Grizzly “do everything” man Kiondre Thomas. Thomas, a junior this season, recorded one of the fastest overall times at the camp on Thursday with a 4.4. Thomas also registered a 4.33 shuttle time. Thomas only played two games last year for the varsity squad, but made a difference when he was on the field. This year, will be a huge opportunity for Thomas to exhibit his talents on the field, like he has this summer at camp. Thomas is currently being recruited as a cornerback but again, with his versatility, the options may open up more as his experience racks up.

Grizzly running back and Arkansas Justin Curry has some good genes in his family. His two older brothers, C.J. and Darius are both scholarship players at Oklahoma State, and now the youngest Curry wants to blaze his own trail.

Even though Justin Curry is set on being his own man, there is some pressure that goes along with being behind two Division 1 athletes.

“Of course there is a little bit of pressure with trying to live up to the standard that they set, they set the bar pretty high, but I mean, I try not to think about it too much, you know what I’m saying, trying to do my own thing, and make my own way and just focus on doing what I have to do, to be successful,” Curry said.

Curry is trying to start over in a way with his recruitment. Curry had offers from Purdue, Connecticut, and Arkansas State, but with each school having new coaching staffs, Curry believes that those offers may not be honored anymore. Curry is still receiving attention though from Oklahoma State, Louisville, and Cincinnati.

Curry recorded a personal best 40 time officially at 4.61. Curry said that was a large improvement from his 40 time he recorded at Oklahoma State’s camp about a month ago. Curry also showed a good initial burst in the drill period with Arkansas running back coach Joel Thomas.

The fourth and final Grizzly in attendance on Thursday is one of the most intriguing players in the state and will likely be a top 3 player in a loaded 2016 class in the state of Arkansas. Deontre Hardwick fits the bill as a physical specimen at linebacker, and that is what has coaches watching Hardwick ever so close.

Arkansas linebacker coach Randy Shannon helped Hardwick work on some fundamentals that would vastly improve his game during the drill period. Shannon appeared to be breaking down what Hardwick needed to do, down the the very step of his feet. Hardwick is very raw and so that may be contributing on his lack of offers right now. Soon though, that will likely change.

Hardwick has made it appear that an Arkansas offer could be all he needs to make his decision, but with attention rising on the potential star, Hardwick says he may want to see what other schools are recruiting him, if and when the Arkansas offer comes.

“I’m going to sit on it for a little bit first, and if all the other schools that I want to go to don’t come up with offers, then I’ll commit,” Hardwick said.

Hardwick identified those schools as Alabama, Oklahoma State and LSU.

The offers should start coming in sooner rather than later.

After 15 years of uncharacteristic football, it may be time again for Northside High School to become one of the elite programs in the state of Arkansas. They have the elite talent, now all it takes are wins on the field. There could be many of those coming very soon for the Grizzlies.

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