EL DORADO — A lack of consistency had plagued El Dorado all season, yet the Wildcats were 5-1 heading into last week’s 6A-South clash with Lake Hamilton.

EL DORADO — A lack of consistency had plagued El Dorado all season, yet the Wildcats were 5-1 heading into last week’s 6A-South clash with Lake Hamilton.


As is often the case, things have a way of catching up, and Friday night the inconsistency caught up with the defending 6A state champions in a 42-27 loss.


The loss, more so the uneven play of his team, had coach Scott Reed struggling to characterize the Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 in 6A-South) at this juncture of the season.


"I’m kind of scratching my head after last Friday night," he said on Monday. "We’ve been very up and down. We don’t know how to put four quarters together.


"What’s so frustrating is that over the years we haven’t beaten ourselves, but this year we’ve turned it over way too many times. … It’s got to get better, because we’re now in the tough part of our schedule."


The difficult stretch for El Dorado began with the home defeat to Lake Hamilton and continues this week when it faces Pine Bluff at 7 p.m. Friday at Jordan Stadium.


Reed knows his team will need to play better if they are going to hang with the Zebras (5-2, 4-0), who beat the Wolves, 20-0, in a weather-shortened game earlier this season.


"We’ve got to be more consistent going up against the best team in our league," he said. "They’re doing things the right way and they’re impressive on film, they’re well coached, and they’re good in all three phases.


"They haven’t had a close game since they’ve started conference play."


Reed said his team would focus more on the basics this week in preparation for a state title game rematch.


"We’ve tried too much; we’ve got to go back to fundamentals," he said. "We botched a snap on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-inch line. Those are the kind of things great teams don’t do."


Some of the inconsistency likely comes from having to replace so many key players. Despite returning seven starters on both sides of the ball, the Wildcats lost their quarterback Clayton Waldrum, their top wide receiver (Ty Owens) and running back (Jaqualoyn Willis), and arguably the top defensive player in the state in Bijhon Jackson.


All four made big impacts in El Dorado’s 31-24 win over Pine Bluff in last year’s state championship game at War Memorial Stadium — the sixth win for the Wildcats in the teams’ last eight meetings. Waldrum, the game’s most valuable player, threw three scores — two to Owens — and ran for another.


Even with the loss of several key players, Reed expects, or at least hopes, Pine Bluff fans will see signs of past El Dorado teams on Friday night.


"I hope they see a team that reminds them of the past teams we’ve had," he said. "That we execute well, attack people and play well.


"I really just hope that we play with more consistency."