Henderson State puts the finishing touches on its 2021 spring practice schedule on Saturday, Apr. 10 at 11 a.m. when the Reddies play in the 19th annual Sporty Bowl at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium and Ruggles Field.
At halftime, head coach Scott Maxfield will present the 2021 Sporty Carpenter Award to this year's recipient, Craig Bentley, head coach at Mena High School.
The award is given in honor of Henderson State legend Sporty Carpenter, who served as the Reddies' head football coach from 1971-1989. During his time at Henderson, Carpenter compiled a school-record 119 wins and led the Reddies to five Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC) titles.
Each year, the award is presented to a former Reddie football player or Henderson State alum who has pursued a career in coaching football and has exemplified excellence on and off the field.
Bentley, a 2003 graduate of Mena High School and 2007 graduate of Henderson State, made a strong case for the award this season, as he led his alma mater to the 4-4A conference title — the program's first conference championship in 24 years. During their special 2020 run, the Bearcats won six games, including five-straight to end the regular season, and hosted a home playoff game.
The eighth conference title in program history earned Bentley 4-4A Conference Coach of the Year accolades and the second nomination of his career for Hooten's Arkansas Football Coach of the Year.
Prior to entering coaching, Bentley was a three-year letter-winner for Henderson at wide receiver from 2003-2005. Bentley graduated from HSU with a Bachelor's Degree in Education and was a Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll selection in 2005.
Bentley began his coaching career as an assistant at Pea Ridge in 2008 and then spent two years as an assistant at Springdale High School before returning to Mena in the fall of 2011. In 2013, Bentley became the Bearcats' defensive coordinator and the following season helped lead Mena to the 2014 4A state championship game — the program's first state title appearance since 1976.
The first head coaching opportunity for Bentley came in 2016, when he was named the head coach and athletic director at Mansfield High School. In 2018, Bentley led the Tigers to eight wins, their best start in school history, and the program's first playoff victory since 2010. Bentley spent three seasons at Mansfield before returning to his alma mater Mena in the fall of 2019.
Bentley and his wife Sarah have three children: Rylie (14), Harper (9) and Brey (1).