Please see Sunday's Commercial for game stories. Friday night's scores are: Pine Bluff 57, Searcy 34; Watson Chapel 21, White Hall 20; Hamburg 35, Dollarway 8.
Pine Bluff hosting Searcy
One game back from the Pine Bluff Zebras (5-1, 3-0) are the Searcy Lions (5-1, 2-1), who’ll make their way into Jordan South Stadium tonight for a 6A East battle.
Searcy Head Coach Mark Kelley is in his third year with the Lions, and each year they’ve shown progression. This year the Lions returned 13 starters from a seven-win team, and they’re looking to make their mark in the 6A East.
On offense, the Lions have a balanced attack that is spearheaded by their senior quarterback Mason Schucker. For the season, Schucker has already thrown for 1,864 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Pine Bluff Head Coach Bobby Bolding has the utmost respect for Schucker, and he believes he can play at the next level. “Their quarterback is really good,” Bolding said. “He’s a division I quarterback. He’s 6’5 and he has a cannon. Along with that he’s extremely accurate.”
Senior running back Gabe Chapman lines up in the backfield with Schucker, and he’s the team’s leading rusher by far. Chapman has recorded 866 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 144 carries. The Lions’ biggest threat in the passing game is their senior wide receiver Eli Nevills.
Nevills isn’t one of the biggest receivers in the conference, but he leads Searcy with 639 yards on 29 receptions and nine touchdowns. Bolding will have his defense prepared to shutdown the balanced attack of the Lions. After giving up 34 points to Jonesboro last week, which is by far the most they’ve allowed this season, the Zebras’ defense should be stouter this week, according to coaches.
Last week, Zebras senior athlete Jyrimee Thompson had a field day, hauling in four touchdown passes, with three of them recorded in the first half.
Pine Bluff sophomore quarterback Tyler Foots has dual threat ability, and he has hurt teams on the ground and through the air all season. Although the Zebras had a solid night passing the ball against Jonesboro, Bolding prefers a more balanced attack with a mixture of passing and running the football.
“We hope we can be balanced,” Bolding said. “We were able to do a little on the edge, but they piled the box up on us. Searcy will do the same thing inside, and they’re very disciplined in the secondary.”
The offensive line for the Zebras was a question mark prior to the season, mainly because of inexperience. They may have had a tough time last week trying to open holes for junior running back Braylon Moody, senior Kylin Williams and sophomore Kerry Hadley, but Jonesboro has division one talent on their defensive line.
As the game unfolded, the Zebras were able to hit a few big play on the ground, and the pocket for Foots was clean. “We’re about like we’ve been up front,” Bolding said. “We’re not very big on the o-line, so we just have to chip away at it and wait on that opportunity to take a shot and execute like we did a couple times last week.”
The Searcy defense is led by juniors and seniors, so when it comes to experience, they have it. Senior linebacker Rainey Joyner leads the team with 49 tackles, and senior defensive lineman Ty Harelson leads the team with six tackles for loss.
Pine Bluff quarterback Foots was able to connect on a number of big plays last week that helped the Zebras earn a win. One thing Bolding eluded to was how Foots was able to stay poised when Jonesboro tried to creep back in the game.
“On the big plays, he was able to connect,” Bolding said of Foots. “They were close to making it game, but we pulled it together and he was able to connect.”
The Zebras will catch a Searcy team that is hot, coming off of a 37-20 win over Marion. However, for Bolding and the Zebras it’ll be business as usual as they look to move one step closer to securing their third consecutive conference title.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
White Hall at Watson Chapel
Last season, only five points separated the Watson Chapel Wildcats and the White Hall Bulldogs in a 41-36 finish.
The Wildcats took down the Bulldogs, and that would prove to be White Hall’s only loss of the regular season. That game is still fresh on the minds of both head coaches, their staffs and their players.
Tonight at Wildcat Stadium, the two are set to square off once again. Watson Chapel Head Coach Jared Dutton knows that the Bulldogs will be prepared to play them no matter the circumstances. Dutton expects to get their best shot, but he believes that if they execute and do their jobs they won’t have much to worry about.
“They’re going come out and give us their best game,” Dutton said. “It’s always been a battle since I’ve been here. They seem to play a lot better against us than they do other people. We have to settle in and execute our game plan. We have to control our emotions and understand it’s just the next game on the schedule. They stand in our way of a conference championship, and that’s our focus around here.”
White Hall’s goal of winning a conference championship might not be attainable anymore, but getting a win over Watson Chapel will be huge for them going forward. The Bulldogs have been bitten by the injury bug, and it’s starting to show up.
Bulldogs Head Coach Mike Vaughn did say their quarterback Ollie Reddick is showing improvements, but they’re still missing a number of guys.
“We’re about where we were last week health-wise,” Vaughn said. “Ollie is getting better, and we have some others who’ll be out for quite a while. We have had some time to work, and we expect guys to come out and do their jobs.”
Although they’re coming off of two disappointing conference losses, according to Vaughn it’s been pleasing to see the guys still giving it their all in practice. “I’ve been real pleased,” Vaughn said. “They’ve practiced well and the work ethic has been there. We just have to keep fighting. We know that mistakes will cost you, and hopefully we can eliminate them and play better.”
The Wildcats are fresh off of a 68-0 whipping of the Hope Bobcats, so for Dutton it’s been more of keeping his guys level headed and making sure they stay focused.
“Our focus has been the same, and we’re taking it one week at a time,” Dutton said. “It feels good to be 3-0 in conference. Everyone understands you have to take it one game at a time. We’re keeping the same focus every week, just trying to get better.”
The Wildcats’ offense has picked up its pace from week-to-week. Last week, they rushed for 365 yards, which is the most in one game since Dutton took over the program four years ago.
“It’s been the young kids getting the experience they need, and even upperclassmen who hadn’t played as much,” Dutton said. “We’re jelling and figuring out what all we can do well. It’s been run heavy for the last couple of weeks, but also we’ve been able to throw it if needed. If we’re going to keep this thing going and compete for a conference title, we’re going to have to be balanced. The offensive line has stepped up and opened up holes. We ran for 365 last week, that’s the most by far since I’ve been here.”
On the other hand, the Bulldogs are just fighting to get back into the win column.
“When you’ve lost two in a row it’s a emotional deal for us,” Vaughn said. “We have to get back on the winning track. Of course the kids know each other and I think both teams will play hard and it’ll be an exciting ball game.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium
Dollarway at Hamburg
Hungry for their first win of the season, the Dollarway Cardinals got after it this week in practice. Dollarway will travel to face-off with the Hamburg Lions Friday night, and Cardinals Head Coach Lee Hardman said his guys are showing that they are ready to fight.
“Really, this probably has been our best week of practice in a long time,” Hardman said. “They were serious about it and came out and worked hard. They worked as if they want to win. This is the first time in a while that we actually saw the attitudes we need. We hope it’ll carry over.”
Like any team at this point of the season, the Cardinals are having to battle through injuries. However, the two main cogs on their offense, senior quarterback Xavier Frazier and senior running back Jarvis Hardnett, have been two that they just can’t afford to not have.
Frazier has been nursing a minor ankle injury, while Hardnett has been limited by a sore hamstring. The fact that they are hobbled and still showing up and giving effort everyday gives the younger guys examples of how it’s suppose to be done.
“I think Frazier and Hardnett are seniors who understand what are expected,” Hardman said. “They’ve been banged up a lot of the season. They’re still trying to work and it’s helping the young guys see how to do things. They’re still coming and working each and every day.”
Hardman has scouted out the Lions. He said he sees a team that likes to control the game up front on the line of scrimmage. “We’ll have to be physical up front,” Hardman said. “They might be the strongest team we’ll play all year up long. If we can match up a little with their offensive and defensive lines we’ll have a chance. That’s a big key.”
According to Hardman, Hamburg’s quarterback Jonathan Kelley does a good job of managing the offense. Also, Kelley has the ability to put the ball in the air when need be.
“Their quarterback, you have to start with him,” Hardman said.
“He’s big and he throws the ball well. The offensive line gives him time and they have a couple of tall receivers who are pretty active. We have to get pressure on the quarterback.”
The Lions and Cardinals are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at the Hamburg Football Stadium.