Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Last game will be bittersweet for Bell
Arkansas Razorbacks defensive lineman Jamario Bell (86) reacts after sacking Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) during the third quarter of a football game, Saturday, September 28, 2019 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.
FAYETTEVILLE — Jamario Bell's high school football career joyously came to a close in the same stadium his college playing days will end in on Friday.
A former four-star standout at Junction City High School in south Arkansas, Bell capped a memorable run of three consecutive state championships with the Dragons in War Memorial Stadium in 2014. Junction City beat Hazen, 38-6, and Bell caught a touchdown pass in the game.
It is a moment and a game he vividly remembers and will never forget.
Arkansas is far from playing for a championship on Friday when it hosts Missouri at 1:30 p.m., but it does have the opportunity to snap a school-record 18-game losing streak in Southeastern Conference play. Bell, a fifth-year senior, hopes to make another memory in the stadium and close his Razorbacks career on a positive note against the Tigers, which have lost five games in a row.
"It's really a bittersweet moment. Last home game," Bell said Tuesday. "It's a big thing for us, and I'm just looking forward to my last real home game. It's big. ... It really has been easy for me to get motivated. It's my last year, it's my Senior Day, and coach (Barry Lunney Jr.) has really emphasized this being another Senior Day for us - a real Senior Day.
"I'm real excited about that. It's been easy for me to get ready to play this week."
The Razorbacks have lost three consecutive games to Missouri and four of the last five dating back to 2014 when the programs became permanent cross-division rivals. Bringing the Battle Line Rivalry trophy back to Fayetteville would mean a lot to Bell.
"The last couple of years we haven't just played the way we wanted to play, so I'm looking forward to just getting the bad taste out of our mouth and just trying to get a win," he added. "It'd really make my senior year and give the fans something to be proud about this year.
"I know it would mean a lot to the Arkansas faithful. It's a lot of people that kind of talk bad about us, but we know the real Arkansas fans, we're trying to do it for them."
Although Arkansas' defense has been subpar for a majority of the season - allowing league-worsts in points allowed (38.0) and rushing yards per game (228.5) - Bell has enjoyed a career year in several respects.
Entering this fall, Bell had only one tackle for loss to his credit in 13 career games. He is tied for third on the team in 2019 with 4.5 tackles for loss and second in sacks with 3.5 despite not playing in games against Ole Miss and Colorado State.
Bell does not have a tackle for lost yardage or a sack, though, since the Razorbacks' narrow loss to then-No. 23 Texas A&M in late September. That is something else he is eager to change on Friday.
"It's been a journey. It has not been easy," Bell said of his season. "It's been a lot of hard days coming back in here and getting after things, but it's just made me who I am and the person I am, just every day having to come back in here no matter what. You just have to come back in here and get better."
Bell has leaned on a couple of people throughout a trying fall - Lunney, and his mom, Helen. She has been with him every step of the way, he said.
"We’re really twins," added Bell, who will have 15-20 family members in attendance for the Missouri game. "A lot of times when I’m talking to her and we’re talking about things she’s thinking the same thing I’m thinking and vice versa. We’re really just like twins."
The defensive end is thankful for his relationship with his mother, his teammates and grateful he has one more game as a Razorback. Bell and senior defensive tackle TJ Smith talked recently about how time has flown since arriving on campus ahead of the 2015 season.
Bell is looking forward to Arkansas fans showing up and showing out one final time on Friday.
"I'm expecting the crowd to come out," he said. "Whoever comes out, I'm expecting them to be full of energy and bring that great football atmosphere, that great Razorbacks football fan atmosphere."
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