Sully Says: PA and McClellan is my favorite rivalry
KATV news anchor Chris May, who's an avid sports fan, thinks Disney should make a movie based on Little Rock McClellan's unlikely rise on the football field. They do appear to have everything Hollywood seems to like in a "true" underdog.
McClellan High is failing academically. Their football field is without a doubt the worst in the county, and the Lions locker room/coaches offices/weight room are old and very crowded.
Then there's McClellan coach Maurice Moody. In an age of the buttoned up, control freak coaches, this guy is the total opposite.
If you look from a distance, you would say there's no way that this is a winning program.
Again this season, McClellan has won more games than all the other city schools combined, and they remain the biggest threat to the four-time defending state champs who reside in West Little Rock.
There are few things better than unexpected success, and I have loved watching Coach Moody and his staff work their magic on Geyer Springs Road. What was a football failure factory has become the second best 5A program in the state.
What Kevin Kelley has done at Pulaski Academy is also amazing. He took over a good program and made it one of the country's most successful and visible high school programs.
His teams are never the biggest or most gifted physically, but as Coach Moody says, "They play like their hair is on fire." And they win.
Pulaski Academy hasn't lost to another in-state team in five years.
Kelley does it his way: almost no punts (they punted once against Lions last year) and all onside kickoffs. It's high risk, high reward football and it's paid off in a big way for the PA coach.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of Fridays watching PA and McClellan play. I have gotten to know both coaching staffs well. Watching them work, it's easy to see why both programs have so much success.
The schools are just miles apart, but the players on these squads live in very different worlds. Kevin Kelley has pointed out several times that none of that matters when they hit the field. He's right.
In recent years, McClellan has pushed PA like no other team in the state.
A year ago, PA needed a little late magic from quarterback Layne Hatcher to get by the Lions, 37-36, to win their 4th straight state title. Two years ago, PA needed a game saving tackle from Hayden Henry to hold off the Lions in a mid-season battle at McClellan.
The teams have met 10 times since 2010, and PA has won all 10 meetings.
Will this season be any different? We will see Friday night, when these unlikely rivals go at it in round two of the playoffs.