MENA (KFSM) - Craig Bentley proved what he can do as a head coach after turning around a Mansfield program that reached the playoffs for the first time since 2011 during Bentley's third year with the team.
"If you ever questioned him, you look at what he did at Mansfield, and you know he's the real deal," Mena quarterback Max Montgomery explained. "He knows what's up."
Now, Craig Bentley is back in his hometown of Mena - a tough decision that he ultimately doesn't regret.
"This is my hometown," he mentioned. "I'm Bearcat born-and-bred. Coming back to my hometown, my family's hometown, my wife's hometown, it's been real exciting for me. Of course I know how special this place is."
He enters at a time where Mena is a serious playoff contender expected to make a deep run in the playoffs.
"The foundation was laid here and Coach Harper and Coach Weaver both did a fantastic job of building this program up. I'm walking in here and our focus now is cleaning up the little things," Coach Bentley said of how he's hoping to improve. "Doing the little things right every single day."
Coming back to his stomping grounds, Coach Bentley is bringing a hard-hitting coaching style to an already talent-packed roster.
"I feel like he's brought more intensity to the program and to everyone working. Just everything," linebacker Jayden Castillo said of the first-year coach. "I feel like he's brought a lot of fire to us, and I think it's going to work out real well."
"The whole atmosphere's changed," Montgomery added. "It's more tempo, faster pace, more serious, more discipline. That's the biggest thing. Discipline."
Coming in the pre-season ranked in the top ten of the 4A and returning weapons on both sides of the ball, it's hard not to compare this Mena football team to the 2014 state runner-up squad.
"I think we're just as talented or better," tight end Mason Brotherton said with confidence. "The only thing missing is in our head. We just gotta play hard, come out, and execute. I think we'll have a chance to be better than them, actually."
"This team has the potential to be really good," Coach Bentley explained. "Just like I've told them, potential and maximizing potential is two different things."
In order to reach the high expectation the team has set for itself, it's going to take more than just skill.
Coach Bentley mentioned his philosophy: "There's a very thin line that separates us from everyone else, and it's how do we do those little things right? How hard do we come out and practice every day? Are we putting in work both on and off the field and representing our program well?"
Questions that can only be answered from the second Mena takes the field in two weeks for the first time in the Coach Bentley era.
Mena opens up its season August 30th against DeQueen. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00PM.