Posted on August 9, 2016
Published by El Dorado News Times
By Randal Curtman
EL DORADO — Football fever came to the El Dorado Conference Center on Monday when Great American Conference rival head coaches met to announce this year’s Murphy USA Classic lineup.
On October 22, the Henderson State Reddies will face the Southern Arkansas Muleriders in the eighth college football matchup to be held in El Dorado since the series, originally called the Boomtown Classic, began in 2009.
The first Boomtown Classic featured a matchup between the South Arkansas University Muleriders and the University of Arkansas at Monticello Boll Weevils to celebrate both schools’ centennial years.
Chaired by Bob Risor, the Boomtown Classic was a hit. Before the 2009 Boomtown Classic, college football had not been played in El Dorado since 1933, Risor said.
In 2011, Murphy USA became the title sponsorship, which meant the Classic organizers could expand the event by transforming the stadium grounds into a full game-day experience complete with food, games and tailgating.
“The Boomtown Classic was already a success, but things have only improved since adding Murphy USA as a title sponsor,” said John Thomas Shepherd, Classic committee vice-chairman.
SAU head coach Bill Keopple and HSU head coach Scott Maxfield were featured speakers at Monday’s luncheon. Both coaches spoke of the skill of their opponent’s team and of the joy of playing college football in El Dorado.
“We had a great team last year, as far as camaraderie went,” Maxfield said of his Reddies.
In 2015, the Reddies finished at the top of the GAC Championships with a 10-1 conference record and a 11-2 overall record.
In 2015, not only did the Reddies claim their fourth conference title in six years, they also tied the school record for wins in a season.
“This year we don’t know what we’ll do, it’s different every year, but we have some strong players returning, including an offensive player of the year who is returning.
Also returning to the gridiron as a linebacker for the Reddies is El Dorado’s own Josh Davis.
“Josh has finished his degree and is working on his master’s now,” Maxfield said. “I hope you’ll all come out to watch him play here in his hometown.”
Davis is the son of Lachunda Davis of El Dorado.
While playing at EHS, Davis lettered three seasons in football and the Wildcats won the Arkansas 6A State Championship in each of the years he lettered./
As a senior, Davis recorded 85 tackles, 18 of those for loss yardage, forced 11 fumbles, recovered one fumble, and picked off one pass. He was named all-state, all-area, and all-conference in his senior year at El Dorado.
Playing for SAU from Union County will be Smackover High School graduate Keiandre Purifoy. The freshman running back hails from Calion.
In 2014, as a junior, Purifoy rushed for 10 touchdowns and 808 yards. On defense, he led the team in tackles with 111, 64 of which were solo. “We like to say we are the university of South Arkansas,” Keopple said. “After all, it’s in our name — Southern Arkansas University.”
When recruiting locally, Keopple says being SAU helps remind potential players that they would be joining their regional team.
There are six Arkansas teams in Divison 2 football, and all six schools battle for players, Keopple said.
The Muleriders finished fourth in the GAC last year with a 7-4 season. “We’ve had four winning seasons in a row,” Keopple said.
Keopple said he’d enjoyed having the Murphy USA Classic trophy in his office for the past year, and he hoped to have it back for a second year.
“I really didn’t want to give it up when they came to take it back,” he said, laughing.