Friday scores: Pine Bluff 33, West Memphis 7; Watson Chapel 21, Hot Springs Lakeside 7; White Hall 51, Hope 14; Crossett 32, Dollarway 14. Please see our Sunday edition for full game details.
Zebras welcome in West Memphis
Taking things one week at a time, the Pine Bluff Zebras have gradually gotten better, and now they’re competing for another 6A East conference championship.
The two-time defending conference champion Zebras have a shot to make it three when they meet up with the West Memphis Blue Devils tonight at Jordan South Stadium. Pine Bluff Head Coach Bobby Bolding has seen the growth of his team from week to week, and now he relishes the chance of playing for a 6A East title.
“Thank goodness we’ve just kept getting a little better every week,” Bolding said. “We’ve played ourselves into this position, and I look forward to the opportunity.”
The Zebras have passed every test in conference play up to this point, but on paper this looks like the most challenging hurdle that they’ll have to jump. The Blue Devils haven’t missed a beat, as they bring an undefeated record into the house of the Zebras.
At quarterback, West Memphis starts senior Michael Troxler. Troxler stepped in for Amarius Stinnett who tore his ACL last year and has since converted to a wide receiver. Troxler provides the Blue Devils with a pro-style drop back threat from the pocket.
Troxler has managed the offense, completing 46/93 passes for 910 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Troxler is protected by an offensive line made up of juniors and seniors, and he has a speedy running back in senior Guren Holmes that he hands the ball off to. Holmes leads West Memphis with 825 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.
“They have a big physical offensive line,” Bolding said. “They have a big physical full back that they’ll run right at us. They’ll do some RPO’s and that’s pretty much what we’re looking at offensively.”
The most points that the Blue Devils’ defense has given up in a game this season was 27 to their rivals Marion. Bolding noted that they’re stout up front, and they’re athletic at linebacker and in the secondary.
“Their defensive line is really good,” Bolding said. “They have two big tackles inside and their defensive ends can run. They have very disciplined linebackers, and they’re always around the ball.”
Heading into this one, Bolding believes that they’re as prepared as they’re going to get, and now it’s up to them to go out and get it done on the field.
“We’re talking about a bunch of 17 year old’s,” Bolding said. “We’ve got as good of a game plan going in that we’ve had since I’ve been here. We still have to go out and execute.”
Watson Chapel, HS Lakeside set to battle
Sitting atop the 5A South standings with unblemished conference records are the Watson Chapel Wildcats and the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams. Something has to give tonight as the two meet up for a match up that will determine this season’s 5A South conference champion.
Watson Chapel Head Coach Jared Dutton has set the goal to win a conference championship since he took over in 2014, and now it’s sitting right in front of them.
“This is what we started talking about last January as soon as we started off-season,” Dutton said.
“Our goals around here don’t change, and now here we are a week away from it I think our focus has gotten better. I think we really came out focused against Magnolia and got that game out of reach in the first half. I challenged them after that to have the best week of preparation and they’ve responded. I think we’re ready for Friday night.”
The Wildcats haven’t looked back since they dropped a close one to Warren in non-conference play. The 21-20 rivalry game win over White Hall was the closest affair that the Wildcats have had since.
In conference play, the Wildcats are averaging 42 points per game while giving up 14 points per game. Watson Chapel starting quarterback sophomore Devin Curry has played in seven of their eight games.
The Wildcats have found their identity behind the first year starter Curry, and on offense they’ve put up big numbers weekly. Dutton agreed that early in the season the Wildcats had to find their identity with Curry leading the offense. Not only were the Wildcats implementing a new quarterback, except for a few skill guys everybody was new.
“Definitely so, early it was just trying to figure out exactly what he can do and handle,” Dutton said. “It’s not just him it’s all the pieces around him besides Omar Allen, Dedetron Parks, and Jalyn Williams everybody else is brand new. We had to find some things we trust and we’re finding them at the right times.”
The Rams have reeled off five straight games after losing all three of their non-conference games. Lakeside has found success riding their junior running back Dupree Swanson, who has accounted for 1,426 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns.
“He’s going to run it 25-30 times,” Dutton said of Swanson. “He’s going to touch it most of the time. He’s a good back, they play hard, they do things right, and they’re well coached.”
Counter to their offensive attack, Dutton believes that his defense has begun to really click as of late. Last week, they got a taste of playing against a Division I caliber running back in Kadyn Roach of Magnolia, and Dutton expects another good outing tonight.
“I think our defense is up for the challenge,” Dutton said. “They’re coming on strong here as of late. We’re only giving up 14 points in conference, and in these days that’s very good. Our secondary has really come along, and as a whole they’re really playing well. Our defensive line should have a good night.”
The Wildcats are off to their best start since Dutton took over four years ago.
Dutton always preaches that they’re striving for a conference championship along with the rest of their goals, and now that they’re this close they want to make sure that they make the most of it.
“We’re definitely off to our best start since I’ve been here,” Dutton said.
“We were so close last year, and that was our focus last week. We were in the same place we were a year ago, we had to get over that hump, and we did. We’ve have to beat everybody in order to be a conference champion, and it doesn’t change this week. Every game has been a big game for us. When you go on the road in the 5A south you have to be disciplined, focused, and you can’t give up anything. We’re trying not to leave any stones un-turned as a coaching staff. It should be a great atmosphere for high school football.”
White Hall set to host Hope
Last week, the White Hall Bulldogs broke a three-game losing streak to stay alive in the post-season hunt.
Bulldogs Head Coach Mike Vaughn and his guys know that they’re in a situation where they have to win out to advance their season after next week. Tonight serves as senior night for the Bulldogs, and as they host the Hope Bobcats they look to send this class out the right way.
“We have to win out without a doubt,” Vaughn said. “Without winning out we don’t have a shot. It’s been a real close race in the conference, and all the spots in the playoffs may hinge on the next two weeks, and that shows you how balanced the league is this year.”
The 5A South conference has proved to be tough once again, and the Bulldogs are currently the fifth team in the pecking order. However, they still control their own destiny, and practice has been as lively as it’s been all season.
“After a win you always have a better attitude,” Vaughn said. “Everybody’s a little more excited and showing intensity since we’re still in the hunt. We’ve really had some good practices, and I think we’re ready to play. Everyday is a challenge to make sure you get up and do something better at this point in the season.”
White Hall has around 20 seniors who will get acknowledged for all they’ve done during their time as Bulldogs. Vaughn expressed how instrumental this class has been to the recent success that they’ve had.
“Anytime you have an opportunity to have a senior class that’s this special and that’s contributed how they have it’s a good thing,” Vaughn said. “It’ll be a little chilly outside, but other than that it’ll be a great night.”
Even though the Bobcats haven’t been able to gain a win this season, Vaughn respects the program that Hope Head Coach Jay Turley has built.
“Coach Turley and his staff at hope do a great job,” Vaughn said. “They’ve had some situations with injuries this year that have really hurt them. They throw the ball a lot and that’s always a threat. When they run the football a lot you can gang up on them and stop their drives, but when they pass it a lot it can be a long football game. We’ll need to stop their momentum, and get up on them early.”
The Bobcats are going with sophomore quarterback Hunter Hellums.
Last week against Camden Fairview, Hellums completed 16/39 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. Hope is dealing with a number of costly injuries, but the Bulldogs have dealt with their fare share as well.
This week, senior quarterback Ollie Reddick hasn’t practiced and most likely will be held out tonight.
“Ollie hasn’t dressed out all week, and we’re trying to make sure he’s ready for next week,” Vaughn said. The Bulldogs’ senior night game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Dollarway traveling to Crossett
Due to a mix up, the Dollarway Cardinals will go on the road to face the Crossett Golden Eagles tonight instead of playing at home like the schedule initially implied. Another change made to the schedule is that the Cardinals will play Warren at home on Nov. 2 for senior night.
“The schedule says we have Crossett here, but on the contract we are suppose to play there,” Hardman said. “And since we went to Warren last year, they were courteous enough to move the game here.”
Thus far, no matter where the games have been played the outcome on the scoreboard at the end has been the same. The Cardinals haven’t won a game, but Hardman made it clear that football is more than a game, and he hopes his guys have learned life lessons.
“Football is about more than just winning and losing, it’s about life,” Hardman said. “Hopefully the players have gotten the message that in order to be a winner in life you have to work. There’s no gimmes in football.”
Along with Dollarway, Crossett is near the bottom of the 8-4A standings. The Golden Eagles have managed to win one game this year in a 15-12 overtime finish over DeWitt. Hardman and company aren’t to focused on how the Golden Eagles can hurt them as they’re busy working on themselves.
“We’re looking at it as a winnable game, but it’s not Crossett that we’re worried about, it’s ourselves,” Hardman said. “We have to make our minds up that we’re going to play good football.”
Hardman has coached football long enough to determine the problem, and from his perspective the guys are getting out-toughed.
“They have to be more physical and show that they want it a little more,” Hardman said.
The Golden Eagles haven’t passed for a touchdown all season, and that’s understandably so due to the fact that they look to ground-and-pound the football. Junior running back Amaru Gibbs leads Crossett with three rushing touchdowns.
“They’re going to try to run the ball on us,” Hardman said. “Several teams that we’ve played have had a lot of success running the ball, so I’m looking for them to try run the ball.”