Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
McRae among heroes in Har-Ber's run to Southwest Elite title
Springdale Har-Ber tight end Errington McRae makes a touchdown catch as Bixby (Okla.) defensive back Tanner Doyle defends on Saturday, July 13, 2019, during the championship round of the Southwest Elite 7-on-7 Tournament at Shiloh Christian's Champions Stadium in Springdale.
Springdale Har-Ber has mostly had a run of excellence since it started playing football in 2006, but it pulled off a program first Saturday.
Junior tight end Errington McRae (6-3, 235 pounds), one of the state’s top 2021 prospects, played a key part as the Wildcats fought off five consecutive elimination games to win their first Southwest Elite Classic 7-on-7 Tournament championship.
Har-Ber (14-2 in the tournament) downed previously unbeaten Bixby, Okla., 22-19 and 26-14 to cap the comeback. The Wildcats played 16 games over two days.
McRae started in both football and basketball for Har-Ber last season as a sophomore after moving from Forrest City, where he had been a quarterback in junior high.
He caught 12 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown in 2018 as the Wildcats struggled during a 2-8 campaign (including three forfeits) and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
“I feel like I have developed running routes, my hands have gotten better and I have gotten stronger and faster,” McRae said. “But I still need to work on my speed and my route running.”
Har-Ber coach Chris Wood is happy with the development he has seen from McRae.
“Errington McRae has really taken the next step in his evaluation headed into his junior season,” Wood said. “He is sinking his hips and getting in and out of breaks. We kind of flexed him out. We don’t want him to be just an inline tight end with his hand on the ground. We want to be able to make sure people understand that you can play him out, you can play him as an H-back.
“He is a big-body guy that runs really good routes and catches the ball with his hands and away from his body. That just makes us a better football program for it.”
McRae has offers from Memphis and Bowling Green and is getting interest from Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, North Texas and UCLA.
“My thoughts on Arkansas is that it's my dream school, somewhere I have always wanted to play and somewhere I hope to play in the future,” McRae said.
Har-Ber downed Rejoice Christian 36-8 and Fayetteville 22-21 on Saturday morning before losing to Broken Arrow, Okla., 18-17 and facing elimination from that point on.
The Wildcats routed Glendale 34-13, went for two and defeated Bentonville 21-20 in overtime, then routed Broken Arrow 30-13 to set up its battles with Bixby, which won its first 12 games in the event.
“I think we played 16 games in two days coming off the dead period,” Har-Ber coach Chris Wood said. “I was really more proud of their resiliency than anything else. We really got banged up…but people just stepped up and started making plays for us.”
Har-Ber's defense played well during the tournament.
“I think overall during the week, in 16 games they gave up an average of 12 points or less,” Wood said. “That is really exceptional for 7-on-7 to do that. It speaks volumes about our defense. In all the years that I have done this, I have not seen our defense go out and average giving up 12 points or less.”
Har-Ber returns 16 starters, eight on each side of the ball, from last season and has added several newcomers.
“I feel like we can be a pretty good team, a team that can be a state championship contender,” McRae said.
Har-Ber finished its 7-on-7 summer with a 23-5 mark, with a semifinal loss to Texas power Southlake Carroll in Dallas, going 4-1 in an event in Memphis and capping it by winning the 27-team Southwest Elite.
“What a great job by the staff and a great job by the kids,” Wood said. “It was defensive kids helping offensive kids, offensive kids helping defensive kids - just a lot of two-way ball.”
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