Leader everywhere: Ricebirds trusted in QB during 4A title run


STUTTGART — Senior quarterback Dontrell Brown did not shed a single tear after winning the 4A state championship on Dec. 8.

But he cried ‘like a baby’ the week before when Brown and the Stuttgart Ricebirds defeated Prairie Grove to punch their ticket to Little Rock.

“It was the game that got us there,” Brown said. “We played a good team and we beat them.

“It was the game that got us to the state championship. I got really emotional after the game.”

Brown, who was named the 2012 Southeast Arkansas Offensive Player of the Year by The Commercial, accounted for all five touchdowns against Prairie Grove.

“That’s when you know you are going to the state championship,” head coach Billy Elmore said. “We talked to the kids about that. Take some time to enjoy that moment.”

Elmore said as much as you will enjoy celebrating a state championship game, afterward, the season is over.

“In my opinion, the semifinal game is huge,” Elmore said. “Because it gives you the chance to go play in the big game.

“In the championship game, you are going to play well and play hard. You are going to give it everything you got. But just putting yourself in position to be in that game is a huge accomplishment.”

Heading into the state championship, Brown had 1,191 yards on 167 carries with 17 touchdowns. He also completed 88 of his 153 passes for 1,519 yards with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions.

But Elmore said it has been Brown’s leadership and confidence that has made all the difference for this team.

“He is one of our leaders in the locker room, he is one of our leaders in the classroom and he is also one of our leaders on a Friday or Saturday night,” Elmore said. “I think (those are) probably the most important things he brings to us.”

Elmore said when Brown jogs into a huddle, “our kids have confidence in him.”

“They know if we’ve got the ball with a minute left in the half or in the game, they know that he can take us down the field and make some positive things happen and put the ball in the end zone,” Elmore said.

“I think that was probably the biggest thing he brought to us,” Elmore said. “The confidence that put into the rest of our players.”

In the state championship, Brown earned MVP honors and accounted for 277 yards total offense and three touchdowns as Stuttgart beat Ozark 28-7 in Little Rock.

“We are basically like superstars in this town now,” Brown said. “It has been awesome. Everybody is coming up to you.

“They are still congratulating us every day.”

Brown said his nerves were calm during the championship.

“There is no reason to have nerves, because it’s just another ballgame,” Brown said. “I approached the game, the same way I approached every game.”

Elmore disagrees.

“I don’t know if I 100 percent believe that,” Elmore said. “I think that was probably the canned answer, that you would expect from somebody like that.

“I think that is a great thing for him to try to say that, but I am not buying it.”

Elmore said everything leading up to the state championship is on a much bigger scale than the regular season. It isn’t until a few minutes into the first quarter, that things seem ‘normal.’

“As far as the pregame, warmups, driving to the stadium, people tailgating out there, beating on the buses — that’s a lot bigger deal than a regular season game,” Elmore said. “But I think what he is trying to say, once things start rolling, it becomes just another game.

“It just happens to be more people in a bigger stadium.”

Stuttgart’s win over the Hillbillies earned the Ricebirds their first state championship since 2002 and their seventh in school history. Stuttgart will host a banquet on Jan. 11, which has already raised more than $15,000 for the athletic department.

Brown has received interest from in-state colleges such as Ouachita Baptist, Harding and Arkansas Tech. He hasn’t decided on a school yet because he wants to weigh his options.

Brown, who also plays baseball for the Ricebirds, knows he wants to go to college but he is unsure which sport he wants to continue.

“It wouldn’t hurt my feels if he chooses to play college baseball over college football, as long as he gets that piece of paper in four years,” Elmore said.

Offensive Player of the Year

Dontrell Brown

Quarterback, Stuttgart

• 1,577 yards, 16 TDs passing (only 2 interceptions)

• 1,420 yards, 20 TDs rushing

• 4A state champion